Oh BTL, just give up already… you technically aren’t “above the law”…
Conflict between the Administration and the Judiciary over developments with Belize Communications Limited has triggered widespread condemnation among Belize’s non-profit organisations.
A Chamber of Commerce release states:
“The Chamber condemns in the strongest manner any attempt by any member of society, corporate or other, to unilaterally decide to undermine, ignore, disregard or disrespect any order of the courts.
“The Chamber further feels that it is unacceptable to obstruct the administration of justice by barring access of a functionary of the court then relying on the pretense of ignorance caused by that improper action as a technical defence.
“Because the judiciary is one of the branches of our constitutional democracy, the Chamber believes that any unconventional attempt to challenge that authority has serious implications for the rule of law and order of civilized society.
“The Chamber strongly supports the institutions and functions of the Judiciary, and looks forward to the restoration of respect for this very important institution. Further the Chamber feels that respect and obedience must be demonstrated in fact and in appearance.
“If technically no laws were broken, then the Chamber expects that the Government will expeditiously make the necessary legislative amendments to prevent occurrence of this very ugly situation.”
The Orange Walk Business Association, the National Trade Union Congress, the Association of Concerned Belizeans, BACONGO and the United Democratic Party have likewise expressed their outrage at what appears to be a callous disregard for the order of the Supreme Court.
The National Trade Union Congress expressed “deep concern” about the “defiant actions” in its disrespect, disregard and defiance of the Court Order of the Hon. Chief Justice…”
“We regard these actions as a blatant disrespect of our country’s constitution, the office of the Hon. Chief Justice and the independent authority of the Judiciary and the rule of law.”
“We also condemn”, the statement says, the high-handed and disrespectful way in which many shareholders were treated, including the presidents of the B.N.T.U. and P.S.U. and also the Board’s disregard and refusal to allow Charles Humes, a bailiff of the Supreme Court, to enter an serve the injunction issued by the Supreme Court.
“The B.N.T.U. calls on all freedom-loving citizens and organisations in Belize, including the churches and the business sector to issue public condemnation of these actions and to be prepared to stand against these violations of our constitution and assault on our democratic institutions and way of life.”
An announcement from the Orange Walk Business Association views “with great alarm and dismay… the dangerous defiance and blatant disregard for the rule of law displayed by the Board of Directors of the Belize Telecommunications Limited.
“It is inconceivable,” the statement said, “than an entity which was involved in questionable operations in the parallel (black) market should defy the Court Order of the Honourable Chief Justice.
“This action of gross disrespect of our country’s constitution, the Office of the Chief Justice and the sanctity of the law of the land pushed our beloved country to the brink of chaos and anarchy.
“The Orange Walk Business Association calls on all freedom-loving citizens, organizations, churches and civil society at large to condemn these unlawful and contentious actions and be prepared to stand against these violations of our constitution and threats to our democratic institutions and Belizean way of life.”
In a stinging rebuke the Association of concerned Belizeans said it viewed “with disgust the collective behaviour of those grown men comprising the board of directors of the Belize Telecommunications Limited who, dressed up in their long-sleeved shirts and neckties, sought to dodge the Bailiff of the Supreme Court when he attempted to serve an injunction issued by the Court to restrain the holding of B.T.L.s 18th Annual General Meeting on Monday, September 25, 2006.
“For the Chairman of the B.T.L. board, Keith Arnold and his collaborators to collectively pretend that the proceedings of the meeting were in no way affected by the order of the Chief Justice made that very afternoon, and of which thy were all made aware, showed real time contempt for the Judiciary of Belize.”
The statement points out that Section 269 of the Criminal code makes it an offence, punishable on summary conviction with imprisonment for three months to wilfully neglect, without reasonable cause, to obey an order of any court.
Such behaviour, the statement adds, is damaging to Belize’s democracy and sets a bad precedent and example for ordinary folk compelled to obey the law.
The Belize Conservation of NGO (BACONGO), representing 12 mostly environmental organisations applauded Conteh for his independence and steadfastness and said:
“We urge Belizeans to look past the names of the people involved and focus on the underlying issue- that our legislative body cannot go against the law of the land, the constitution of Belize. The same politicians should base their decision-making on behalf of the people of Belize.”
“The Constitution,” the BACONGO Statement adds, “is the highest law of the land. No corporation, no interests, foreign or domestic, is above the Constitution.
“We have seen many things done of late hat give the appearance of putting other interests above the Constitution and the people of Belize.
“This decision reaffirms he sanctity of the rule of law- term that has been thrown about, but not understood, The rule of law means that no one is above the law, our Constitution.”
The announcement from the U.D.P. states:
The United Democratic Party expresses its anger over what it sees as the blow dealt to the Judiciary and the rule of law by the action of the Board of Directors of the Belize Telecommunications Limited in proceeding with its Annual General Meeting despite court order restraining that meeting.
“In the opinion of the U.D.P. they had a clear duty to respect that injunction and to call off the meeting.
“All right thinking Belizeans know the fundamental importance of respecting our courts and the rule of law. Those are twin pillars of our democracy. It is a sad day when B.T.L. can display such utter disregard for the very principles and institutions that help to create the environment in which all citizens, including corporate citizens, can freely and securely operate and prosper.”
The U.D.P. statement concludes:
“B.T.L.s board should immediately apologise publicly and in writing to the Chief Justice and the nation, and in the meantime its action must stand condemned.”
In an editorial on the subject the Reporter called for the resignation of Ralph Fonseca as Minister of Home Affairs in charge of the police department.