A decision will be given on Monday, May 19 in the case of Trevor Vernon and Minister of State Edmond “Clear the Land” Castro, area representative for Belize Rural North. Vernon initiated proceedings against Minister Castro earlier this year charging that in his actions with regard to some 80 cheques that were distributed by the Belize Airports Authority in his name and those of others over a one-year period, totaling over $30,000, he violated the Code of Conduct enshrined in the Constitution and the Corruption in Public Life Act. But Edmund Castro’s attorneys want the case disposed of before it reaches trial stage because, they say, it cannot succeed and is an abuse of process. We spoke with Senior Counsel Denys Barrow after arguments.
“It is under the rules of court under which the case was brought. They brought it under a particular provision which deals with administrative law applications, constitutional relief, judicial review and claims for a declaration. But the particular rule is very clear as to when you can get a declaration, and it is you can get a declaration against the state, against a tribunal, against a court, or against another public body. Mr. Castro is not the state, he is not a tribunal, he is not a public body therefore this claim simply cannot be brought against him.”
Opposing attorney Philip Palacio told us that the case is more than the technical objections the other side presented.
Phillip Palacio – Attorney for Trevor Vernon
“What we essentially submitted to the court was that the points brought up by learned senior counsel, they were all technical objections and when you look at technical objections that would more to the form of the claim and not the substance of the claim. We were saying and we had used authorities actually coming out of Belize to say that this is a very important claim which needs to be heard. Whenever you hear of misconduct or malfeasants by public officers, specifically ministers, we are saying that this claim needs to proceed and what the Chief Justice should do is that he should amend the claim and allow it to proceed. That is the strategy that we had used, instead of striking out, for him to use all the alternatives available to him in order for this matter to be heard.”
We also heard from the litigants themselves. Hon. Castro, making his first public appearance since his spirited defense of his actions in the House of Representatives, was much briefer this time around.
“Mister Castro could you tell us your feelings on being in court this morning?”
“I guess the attorney said it all. We will have to wait and see on the nineteenth.”
“Sir there is also another matter which is pending. We have gotten hold of a police report…”
“We are talking about this…”
“Yes, but we have you now. We now have a lot of opportunities…”
“You ask me a question, I answer you. Thank you.”
His opponent, Trevor Vernon, told us what he hopes to accomplish with the case even if it does not proceed further on May 19.
“That’s really for the lawyers to answer. I don’t know. I just hope that from here onward, public officials pay more keener attention to Section 1  of the Constitution, which talks about not abusing public funds, not taking public funds for private use, keeping up the proper appearance of their office, and living by this code of conduct that they have, because as it stands right now, nobody is really paying, apparently, much attention to what the law says. Everybody would just get away on technicalities, but we all know it’s prima facie. The man got up and said, in the House of Representatives, that yes he used his monies to bury his mom. He didn’t see anything wrong with it.”
The case is the first instance we are aware of where a sitting area representative – or indeed any of them – have been challenged for their behavior under the Constitutional Code of Conduct. Former Ministers Florencio Marin and Jose Coye were sued under a tort of misfeasance relating to a land case in Mr Coye’s former constituency of Caribbean Shores.