Wednesday, May 6th, 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: Leader of the Opposition and of the People’s United Party (PUP) Francis Fonseca has filed a claim in the Supreme Court which asks the Court to declare unlawful Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s refusal to bring into force the sections of the Sixth Amendment Constitution Act that deal with implementing a thirteenth member of the Senate to represent non-governmental organizations.
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, who along with Senior Counsel Magali Marin-Young represents Fonseca, says that if they are successful the Court will order that the P.M. order sections 7 and 9, the sections in question, to come into force within 30 days of the court’s order.
The Supreme Court had entertained a claim from several NGO’s including Belizeans for Justice and Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) several years ago but dismissed it, saying it was a question for the National Assembly. Now, the PUP is jumping into the fray, but only after allowing time for civil society to consider trying again.
According to Courtenay, the delay in instituting the claim is due to alleged attempts by Government to interfere. He said that as soon as various civil society organizations had decided to take up the matter, the Government would convince their leaders to postpone the decision.
In his remarks the claimant, Fonseca, spoke of how the 13th Senator may have impacted recent attempts to find answers to allegations of Government corruption which the Senate is normally empowered to investigate, but which attempts to initiate such investigations were thwarted by the Government. Examples include a special Senate Select Committee to investigate the actions of former Minister of State for Immigration and Nationality Elvin Penner and his role in the Won Hong Kim affair and associated visa and immigration irregularities, and plans to look into the spending of Petrocaribe funds.
And Courtenay rubbished suggestions that no true change would result from a successful implementation of the 13th Senator, saying that its implementation would help end such cynicism from the electorate. For Fonseca, it is a matter of the Government making its case to the Senators, who can under the Constitution only delay money Bills (such as the Budget) for 30 days after which the House can send it to the Governor General for direct assent.
According to Fonseca civil society organizations are welcome to join the case as interested parties. No timeline has been set for hearing but Fonseca hopes that with elections looming the question will be dealt with sooner rather than later. The party plans to release other proposals for reform at a later date.
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