PUP & CHAMBER CONDEMN GOB FOR REFUSAL TO OBEY APPEAL COURT’S RULING

BELIZE CITY, June 28, 2011, The opposition People's United Party (PUP) on Tuesday afternoon called on the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow to respect the decision of the Belize Court of Appeals and give back the country's dominant telecom company to its original owners. On June 24, the Belize Court of Appeals ruled that the August 2009 expropriation of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) was unconstitutional and therefore null and void. While Prime Minister Dean Barrow had initially conceded a stunning defeat and offered no resistance when the original owner Lord Michael Ashcroft send his managers to retake the company on Friday evening; the government soon had a change of heart and used the police to eject new executive chairman Dean Boyce. The Prime Minister said he had changed his mind about giving back control of BTL because his legal advisers assured him that the judges of the Court of Appeals did not include an execution order with the judgment. Attorney for Boyce, Godfrey Smith, maintains that because the high court's ruling is that the takeover was unconstitutional, that no execution order is needed and that the government refusing to hand over control to the original owners is a continued violation of the constitutional rights of his client and openly flaunting the ruling of the Court of Appeal. The PUP on Tuesday expressed grave concerns at the current standoff where both the government of Belize and executives of Michael Ashcroft are both claiming ownership of the phone company and issuing orders to employees and creditors of the telecom company. "The PUP urges both the Government and the previous majority owners of BTL to arrive at a reasonable settlement to this crippling dispute and the endless series of lawsuits and countersuits with the utmost urgency," a statement from the PUP said on Tuesday afternoon. The PUP warns that "the spill-off of this on-going conflict has caused serious damage to the reputation of Belize with prospective and existing foreign investors." The opposition party has also expressed concern over the wellbeing of the close to 500 employees of BTL who as it now stands are not sure who is the rightful owner of the company. "The Government's flip-flop, to first surrender and then retake the company using military force in the wake of the Court's ruling has also brought into question once again its commitment to the rule of law and its respect for the Judiciary," said the PUP statement. On Monday evening, the group led by Dean Boyce issued a statement appointing Martha Molina as the new Chief Executive Officer, replacing Karen Bevans and says that “the government of Belize, through the police and Mr. Vasquez – the government appointed Executive Chairman - and his management team are now attempting to prevent the lawfully appointed board of BTL continuing the business of the company.” Such actions, the Boyce press statement goes on to say, “amount to a wholly arbitrary confiscation of the property of the shareholders of BTL, whose members include BTL employees and the ordinary Belizeans.” Meanwhile, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has joined in condemning the government’s refusal to obey the court ruling and return BTL to its original owner.

BCCI in a statement issued on Tuesday said that “it is understood that the decisions of the court to its highest order must be respected and abided by particularly when this applies to decisions against the executive or legislative arms of the state.” The Chamber called on Prime Minister to follow all the legal protocols to ensure that the Court of Appeal’s determination in the BTL case is followed while pursuing any further legal remedies it chooses to pursue. That call has fallen on deaf ears, as late Tuesday, Cabinet announced that the Prime Minister will go back to the House of Representatives next week to again acquire BTL for a public purpose. No detail on how that acquisition will be effected has been made public.