Monday, March 22, 2010

Will there be more litigations on land rights?

Sir Barry Bowen died tragically in a plane crash on February, twenty-six in the San Pablo area of La Isla Bonita. But this morning the written decision on a landmark case that he had taken before the courts was handed down by the Court of Appeal. It had to do with the Sixth Amendment Bill which the government had amended at a Sitting of the House.  Bowen and the Landowners Association first went to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled in their favor that an original proposal to amend the constitution would take away landowners’ rights to access the courts if government seizes their land. Government appealed the ruling, and on October twenty-sixth, the Court of Appeal dismissed that appeal.  Before the arguments concluded, the House amended the Bill and the Court of Appeal concluded that the appeal was academic.  Attorney for the respondents, Eamon Courtenay, thinks that because the appeal was not allowed to continue there will no doubt be more litigations of similar nature.

 Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Barry Bowen

“First of all it’s regrettable that Mr. Bowen passed before the decision was handed down.  Of course as you know what happened on the last occasion was that the appeal was dismissed because the Attorney General had amended the law before the appeal was finished and therefore the court said that the thing that the government had appealed against no longer existed and therefore the appeal was academic.  So this is the reason why they held that the appeal was academic.  As I said it’s very regrettable that Mr. Bowen has passed.  He fought for a very important point, the right of access to the court and the limitations of the powers of the legislature to pass laws which are on their face in contravention or at variance with the structure of the Constitution.  So I think this decision will be just one other thing that will last beyond his life.” 

Marion Ali
“What does it mean now for landowners who have similar concerns as Mr. Bowen, if you feel you have a legitimate cause to come to court and argue your point?”

 Eamon Courtenay
“I think that unfortunately, I would have wanted the appeal to go on because when government made the amendment to the Sixth Amendment Bill they only dealt with the question of royalties for petroleum, and there are other issues just as fundamental as the learned Chief Justice had dealt with. What it means now is that the decision that the Chief Justice gave is the law of the land and there are parts of the sixth amendment bill that are still unconstitutional in so far as the Chief Justice’s decision is concerned. So I think that there is going to be possible further litigation on this because I don’t see how the government is going to bring it in to force. The Chief Justice is already saying that portions of it are unconstitutional.

Source: Channel 5 News Belize 

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