Remember Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson? He’s the well-known gay rights activist from that country who started to sue the governments of Belize and
Trinidad and Tobago over the immigration laws which he claims is discriminatory to him and other LGBT persons living in the Caribbean Community. He
decided to take his case to the highest court in the land for both countries, the Caribbean Court of Justice.
For the past 2 days, officials from both countries have been at the CCJ headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad arguing against his claim in an attempt
to convince the judges that the discriminatory interpretation that Tomlinson has chosen to take is wrong since neither of these two countries has ever
prevented gay persons from entering before.
Tomlinson’s case is novel because it seeks to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Court, and he to get to this appeal case, he had to seek to be
heard as an individual because his country, Jamaica, refused to get involved on his behalf via the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
With video provided by the Caribbean Court of Justice we’ve prepared an excerpt of the hearing as it unfolded in yesterday’s session. In it,
Tomlinson’s attorney, Douglas Mendez, the former judge of the Belizean Court of Appeal, was cross-examining Acting Director of Immigration Maria Marin
on the Belizean Immigration law. He was making the point that homosexuals are classed as prohibited immigrants, while Maria Marin was explaining Belize
has never enforced the law because there is an unwritten policy not to stop or criminally prosecute visitors simply because of their sexual
Douglas Mendez – Attorney for Maurice Tomlinson
"Is it possible that, someone may enter Belize and you commit entry not knowing the person is gay, right. I'm asking if that person having entered and
you subsequently discover that the person who you allowed entry in is gay. And therefor possibly in violation of section 323, that i've just directed
your attention to. Is it the policy of your department not to prosecute that person under section 323?"
Maria Marin – Acting Director of Immigration, Belize
"Yes, we do not prosecute just on the basis of a person being gay."
"You don't prosecute?"
"We do not prosecute just on the basis of that person being gay."
"But as you said, that policy is not in writing? And you are only aware of it because it's simply hasn't happened."
"We do not. It's because as a matter of policy, the department does not."
"I know that, but you said, I asked you how are you aware of the policy. You said that you are aware of it because it does not happen."
"It has never happened'
Nigel Hawke – Deputy Solicitor General, Belize
"Are you aware, since you've been at the immigration department, of any situation in Belize where gay person came to Belize, were admitted to Belize
and never prosecuted?"
"What is that situation? What occurred? You recall any incident where gay persons were admitted into Belize and not prosecuted?"
"Yes, in 1998, a cruise ship of some 900 gay men and women docked at our port and all 700 of those gay persons who requested entry to Belize was
admitted into Belize. And gay persons consistently visit Belize."
"But of those 700 who were admitted into Belize, was there any prosecution in relation to those 700 plus person?"
"None sir, no prosecution.”
The Chief Immigration Officer of Trinidad & Tobago also explained that there is this unwritten policy in that country not to enforce the law as
Tomlinson is interpreting it. Tomlinson’s attorney, Douglas Mendez, also pointed to the precedent set in April 2007 in Trinidad when performer Elton
John, who is openly gay, had to get a special permit from the Immigration Department to enter the country for a concert. Tomorrow night, we’ll tell you
more about how the case unfolded.