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Boots Sues Government Over Rejected Recall Signatures

Updated: May 11

Former Port Loyola Area Representative Anthony "Boots" Martinez is suing the Government of Belize over the recall petition of sitting Area Representative Gilroy Usher Sr.

Martinez announced his intention to file a claim in the High Court on Monday, May 6, following correspondence from Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Josephine Tamai. Represented by attorneys Dean Barrow (Senior Counsel) and Richard "Dickie" Bradley, Martinez stated he would finance the legal battle using his pension and Social Security benefits, without funding from the United Democratic Party (UDP).

The recall petition was initiated by Martinez on July 12, 2023, after reportedly being approached by over 900 Port Loyola residents dissatisfied with Usher. Under the Recall of Elected Representatives Act, at least 1,474 signatures, 30 percent of the 4,914 registered voters in Port Loyola, were required to activate the recall.

Martinez submitted 1,654 signatures to Governor General H.E. Dame Froyla Tzalam on January 16, 2024. According to Section 5 of the Act, the CEO "shall proceed with due expedition to verify the signatures on the petition."

However, Martinez received a response only on March 20, indicating that 265 of the 1,654 signatures were invalid. CEO Tamai highlighted that 188 of these signatures did not match the records at the Elections and Boundaries Department.

Martinez, aided by a justice of the peace, verified over 170 of these signatures himself. His attorney contacted Tamai on April 15, challenging the verification process of the disqualified signatures and urging a proper reevaluation by the Elections and Boundaries.

In the April 15 letter, Martinez's attorney stated, "I can find no section or sentence anywhere in the Act which speaks to signatures that do not match. Comparisons between signatures on individual petition forms and those on your department's records are convenient and helpful. However, they are not the only method available for your department to verify signatures."

On May 3, Tamai replied, citing advice from the Attorney General’s Ministry that the ACT does not require the CEO to conduct a second verification.

At the May 6 press conference, Martinez responded to Tamai, emphasizing that the dispute centers on the initial verification of the signatures. "Nothing was asked to redo any exercise; what was asked was to do your job, which is to verify the signatures as the law speculates," he said.

He also referenced a letter Tamai sent to the Governor General, noting that it is an offense under Section 9 of the ACT for a person to forge a signature or willfully sign the petition more than once. He argued this underscores a significant failure by Elections and Boundaries to conduct proper verification.

"Even with the 188 signatures that she says are mismatched, doesn't that necessitate some investigation into whether someone forged those signatures?" Martinez questioned.

Martinez underscored that his steadfast pursuit of Usher’s recall is driven by a commitment to protect Belize's democratic principles. "In my view, this tramples democracy...How can people legitimately trust the electoral system when [Elections and Boundaries] conducts affairs in such a manner?" he asked. "What I am fighting against is a dangerous trend in our democracy that allows individuals to thwart the will of the people."

He expressed concern that the Government of Belize is attempting to delay the process until it becomes moot with the forthcoming General Elections, expected in 2025. Nonetheless, Martinez remains confident that the High Court will address the issue before the elections are convened.

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