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Belize Prime Minister (PM) John Briceño has signalled his intent to appoint Justice Louise Blenman the country’s next Chief Justice (CJ). In a letter, last Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow was informed as per Section 97 of the Constitution, which provides that the PM consults with him for the appointment, his advice on the decision is being sought.
However, the Opposition Leader raised objection to the choice. In an interview with Belize’s Love FM, Barrow said “we find it an injustice and terrible failure in discharge of duty that [the Prime Minister] feels it necessary to appoint a foreign national over our nation’s equally, if not more so capable, indigenous Garifuna woman who has been acting with distinction as Chief Justice for the past two years and served with equal distinction as Justice of the Supreme Court for 14 years.”
Justice Michelle Arana, an indigenous Belizean, has been acting CJ for the past two years. Former Prime Minister Dean Barrow, also weighing in on the matter said, whilst not questioning Justice Blenman’s ability to serve, he is questioning the PM’s decision and well understand how an expectation can be created in the mind of Justice Arana.
The former prime minister said the government needs to explain to the public why after acting for two years, if Justice Arana was good enough to act, isn’t she deserving of being confirmed, arguing she has every right and reason to be the CJ.
The Belizean public was informed CJ Arana (Ag.) will be elevated to the Court of Appeal whenever the new Chief Justice takes office. If Justice Blenman is appointed she will be both the first Guyanese woman and second Guyanese to hold the position consecutively, following substantive predecessor, Justice Kenneth Benjamin.