An Update on Redistricting Case
Tonight, there is an update on the Belize Peace Movement’s redistricting case. The case was before another judge on Monday. Now presiding over the matter is Justice Genevieve Chabot (sha-boe), who took over the matter now that Justice Michelle Arana is moving up to the Court of Appeal. On Monday, Justice Chabot was briefed on the status of the case. You’ll recall that the BPM filed a claim against the government, seeking to have the government engage in the constitutionally required exercise. The BPM is being represented by Attorney Arthur Saldivar, who spoke to Love News.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “You know this case has been before the court now for three years which is quite a long time for a matter is I would say as simple as this one to be before the court. I mean it’s not a situation where we’re asking for anything complicated. The constitution is clear it’s simply a matter for the government to allow the public servants to do what they’re supposed to do which is to inform the Elections and Boundaries Commission as to where the disparities exist in terms of the distribution of voters and have a proposal be made to parliament to have them be made equal as the constitution requires. This is not rocket science but we are where we are and what has happened was that there was following the failure to have the matter be struck out a proposal made by the defendants to have the matter be settled that proposal was rather comical so a counterproposal was sent and when I say comical there was nothing funny about it but certainly it was not a serious attempt to have the matter be resolved. We believe that the claimants in this matter have put forward a solid proposal to resolve that matter and we are awaiting the response of the defendants in that regard however failing that we are prepared to go forward to have the matter be resolved as has been initiated by this process. As you know there is an expert report regarding how the redistricting should be done, how it should look, in fact the expert gave I believe three or four different variations of how the redistricting could appear with reasoning behind it some more forward looking than others to account for reasonable growth in the population so at the next occasion the court has afforded the parties to formulate their questions so that it can be fielded to the expert and the expert can then answer those questions and with that I do believe that it would also inform the process in terms of how the court would view the arguments going forward if we reach that far.”
According to Saldivar, GOB’s attorneys requested fifteen days for consultation, one where a settlement would be agreed to. As for the Redistricting Task Force and its work, Saldivar says that the Constitutions does not provide for such a task force.
Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “What governs this process is section 90 91 of the constitution. I challenge anybody from the government’s side to show me where in those sections of the constitution it recognizes a task force to be set up. The task force is a blatant attempt to germander. It is a gerrymandering exercise and certainly we expect that politicians would want to take every advantage but in this process it’s not for that. This process is for the people of Belize and the voters of Belize to be afforded the ability to have their vote having equal weight and to be allowed the same level of representation of any other voter in any other constituency. It is a call for equality not for advantage or bias. The task force is set up with an agenda of bias because it is geared towards moving voters from areas where they predominantly vote for a particular party into another area for them to continue voting for that party and its preferred candidate. So this is not a constitution process that the task force is about and I’m saying this here, this matter of the task force was brought forth by the defendants in their strike out application. It was roundly put down because as I said it has no bearing or mooring in the constitution so it cannot be used a a basis to say that they’re complying with the constitution. What is is really it’s a wasteful exercise because it’s taking tax payers money to pay for something that public servants have been doing from time immemorial and for which again would not be necessary considering we just came out of a re registration exercise where voters were made to register in the constituencies that they live.”
The matter was adjourned to October 18.