There has been a major development concerning the utilities nationalization cases in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which were thought to be all but dead and buried following the back to back announcements of settlements with Fortis Energy, the BTL Employees Trust headed by Dean Boyce and the British Caribbean Bank. Members of the Bar Association of Belize, which met last night in Belize City, have given unanimous approval to a resolution of the association which reads, in short, as follows:
“Now be it resolved… (that) The Bar Association take such steps as are necessary to make application to the Caribbean Court of Justice [(CCJ)] in the pending consolidated appeals for leave to intervene in the proceedings as an interested party and make written representations as to why the consolidated appeals should not be stayed to the extent necessary to secure in the public interest decisions from the [CCJ] on the declarations sought in the appeal challenging the validity of the Eighth [Amendment to the Constitution] in particular and the Acquisition Acts or so much thereof as the Court might consider appropriate in the public interest.”
The appeals referred to are those of Dean Boyce, Trustees of the BTL Employees Trust, British Caribbean Bank Limited and Fortis Energy International (Belize) Inc. all against the Attorney General and Minister of Public Utilities, concerning both nationalizations of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and Belize Electricity Limited (BEL). PLUS News waited outside the Cahal Pech Room at the Radisson Hotel and when the meeting was over sought comment from Bar Association President Jacqueline Marshalleck but she declined, asking for time to check with her executive. Today, beyond confirming the basics of the meeting, she withheld further comment until the Association has perfected the application based on the resolution passed Wednesday night. Similarly, Government attorney on the appeals Senior Counsel Denys Barrow, whom we approached as well last night, deferred comment on the record until the Bar Association has had its say. He appeared non-committal when we asked him how Government would treat the application and whether it would hurt or harm a party seeking a third term on the strength of the settlements and nationalizations of both utility companies. The Bar says it is not interfering in the agreed upon settlements for both companies; it only seeks the Court’s judgment on the public law aspects of the case, particularly the validity of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which excludes amendments to the constitution from invalidity and seeks to enshrine the ownership of all public utilities in the Government and people of Belize. We await further comment from the Association.