Every elected member of the House of Representatives and every appointed member of the Senate of Belize is required under the Constitution to subscribe to the Oath of Allegiance.
In the Senate the oath is administered by the President, or by the Vice President if the President is unable or unavailable. The form of the oath is set out precisely in Schedule 3 to the Constitution.
It declares that: “ I (Eamon Harrison Courtenay) do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Belize, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors and will uphold the Constitution and the Law, and that I will conscientiously, impartially and to the best of my ability discharge my duties as a Senator and will do right to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill will, so help me God”.
The question arises: Did the worthy Senator by virtue of his action in bringing a motion before the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of the Central Bank of Belize International Immunities Act, 2017 violate his Oath of Allegiance to Belize?
The Supreme Court of Belize has the authority to examine any law, ancient or modern, to see if it is in compliance with the Constitution of Belize. In seeking to move the Supreme Court to examine the law, Senator Courtenay can argue with some acuity that he is acting as the devil’s advocate, for the good of the country.
It is one thing to bring a new law to the attention of the Supreme Court for review. But to try to impugn a law which the Senator himself supported two weeks earlier, brings into question either his judgement or his ethics.
If Senator Courtenay is putting the good of his client, who is claiming a hundred million dollars from the Government, over the good of his country, the question of ethics comes into play.
The Caribbean Court of Justice has ruled, and as recently as last month confirmed, that the Ashcroft group of companies cannot legally mount a claim based on the 2007 Accommodation Agreement because that agreement was made in secret, without the knowledge and consent of the National Assembly and therefore has no standing before the court.
The Belize International Immunities Act has its roots in the judgement of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and places the reserves of the Belize Central Bank out of the reach of grasping hands; out of the reach of the Ashcroft clique.
If Senator Courtenay persists in promoting the interests of the Ashcroft Group in defiance of the law, he must be prepared to face criticism about conflict of interest as a Senator of Belize and as a Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Belize.
The Supreme Court of Belize does not require an Ethics Oath from persons being called to practice at the Bar, but every state in the United States has its own Ethics Oath which attorneys are required to take.
In the province of British Columbia, the Ethics Oath requires a positive affirmation to the question: “Do you sincerely promise and swear that you will diligently, faithfully and to the best of your ability execute the offices of Barrister and Solicitor, that you will not promote suits upon frivolous pretences; that you will not pervert the law to favour or prejudice anyone; but in all things conduct yourselves truly and with integrity; that you will uphold the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of all persons according to the laws of Canada and of the Province of British Columbia”.
The Governor General and his Advisory Council have the authority to look into questions of conflict of interest and dereliction of duty by officers of the Court and can invoke this authority if asked to do so by the National Assembly.
To this newspaper the strategy of the Ashcroft conglomerate is simple. It can be summed up in three words: Litigate, litigate, litigate! Litigate until the government is exhausted and begs him to stop. Then Mr. Ashcroft will graciously accept, as he has in the past, and agree to buy back BTL at a knock-down price.
The Barrow government has resolutely resisted Mr. Ashcroft, but Mr. Ashcroft has an inside man in the opposition, poised to strike if the government should change hands.
Will the PUP give back BTL to Mr. Ashcroft if and when it becomes the Government of the day? Will it do as Mr. Musa did, and yield in the face of unrelenting economic pressure?
Only time will tell! But in our view the Barrow Government is fully justified in taking the measures it has taken to do all it can to preserve the economic stability of Belize and in calling Senator Courtenay to task for any action which seeks to pervert the law to favour the Ashcroft clique which he serves with such devotion.