The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is expected to hand down its final decision on the nationalisation of incumbent telecoms operator Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) on 23 January 2015, following three days of arguments, the Reporter writes. The court proposed to accept additional written submissions on certain points by 17 December with three days allotted for the government’s reply.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2009 BTL was re-nationalised in a matter of just two days after Prime Minister Dean Barrow presented a surprise legal amendment to parliament, the ‘Bill to amend the Belize Telecommunications Act to allow for the public acquisition of Belize Telemedia’ (Act No. 9 of 2009, or ‘Acquisition Act’). On 24 June 2011 the Court of Appeal issued a surprise judgement, ruling that the renationalisation of BTL in August 2009 was unconstitutional, and handing a victory to ousted shareholders affiliated to Lord Michael Ashcroft. However, following a shock defeat in the appeal court, on 4 July 2011 the government took steps in parliament to introduce new legislation to enforce the re-acquisition of BTL. PM Barrow introduced a new ‘Bill for Act No.8/2011 to amend the Belize Telecommunications Act’ to ‘clarify and expand provisions relating to the assumption of control over BTL in the public interest’. Further, the administration also changed the Constitution with the so-called Eighth Constitutional Amendment (formerly the Ninth Amendment) in a bid to avoid new censure by the justices. In May 2014, meanwhile, the Belizean Court of Appeal ruled that the nationalisation process was constitutional and valid, but only from 4 July 2011.