By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Senior Counsel, Fred Lumor and Georgia Matute on Monday of this week used the media to call on the Government of Belize, specifically Prime Minister, Dean Barrow to cause the relevant departments in his government to honour a court ruling and pay Matute damages amounting to $2.5 million for a doctor’s malpractice while employed by the government.
The court had ruled in April of this year that Georgia’s daughter, Janae Matute, now 14, suffered a debilitating but preventable lifelong birth defect at the hands of Dr. Meenavalli Raju, who was employed by the government of Belize.
It ruled that Raju failed to act in accordance with professional standards, causing Janae to suffer from Cerebral Palsy. The child’s lungs were underdeveloped, restricting oxygen from adequately reaching her brain.
Lumor told reporters at a press conference on Monday that it has been a frustrating process for mother and child, as well as himself. He said the only alternative now is another round of litigation to ask the court to force the government to pay up.
“It is not possible for me to crowfoot any property of the Government of Belize, so the only thing I can do is to start another round of litigation this time taking a constitutional motion against the Government of Belize claiming that the refusal to pay the judgment debt is deprivation of property of the child and mother…that is going to take another three to four years or even more for that matter to be concluded.
Lumor, nonetheless, said he was using the media to “appeal to the government of Belize to be sensitive and be responsible and take steps to fulfill their obligation to the child.”
Lumor said that Nigel Hawke, the Solicitor General, had mentioned to him that the government had indicated that the proper approach to the matter is to workout installation payments over a period of time. This was something Lumor said he readily agreed to, but any payment arrangement has to be approved by the Supreme Court because a child is involved.
Meanwhile, Joseph Waight, the Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, had said that he “still needed some more clarity in respect to the payment”, according to Georgia, who said she questioned why.
“Why would he need more clarity and my attorney has written to him?” What else do they need?…The prime minister’s secretary told me that normally the prime minister would call me personally, I haven’t gotten any call from him. …Now my worse fear has now arrived and that fear is that I am kind of unable to carry Janae alone. I can barely lift her and take her around now and that is one of my biggest fears. I am appealing to the financial secretary, please we need the help and like my attorney had said about the Christmas cheer, I mean roll it this way.”
Prime Minister Barrow, who arrived from the US on Monday afternoon, was not available for comment to The Reporter before we made it to press this week, but on Tuesday told Channel 7 the following with reference to Janae’s case:
“There was a whole argument as to whether the doctor was really a servant of the government of Belize, but the court has so decided we need to pay them. It does go hard against us, but it goes even harder against the poor child and the family, so we need to pay them and so I will now try to find out why it is that there has been no movement with respect with the negotiations of the install payments. I see that Mr. Lumor says he is perfectly inclined, although he said that it would also have to be approved by the Supreme Court. Well whatever needs to be done, let’s get it done so these people can start being compensated as they should be.”
Janae turned 14 on Saturday. Despite her physical limitations, she is fully aware and is a second form student at the Belmopan Comprehensive High School.