Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2019. 2:47 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Dr. Gerald Zuniga:
Political Science Studies, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, Universidad Mariano Galvez, Guatemala City.
Belize’s House of Senate is not sovereign. You might ask yourself the question why? Here are two important reasons why our House of Senate is not sovereign. This doesn’t mean, however, that the insitution is illegal or illegitimate. The institution is legal because the members were legally appointed and they are legitimate because they are recognized as an institution. Though, legitimacy is a value given by the people. It is normally higher when they see or perceive that the institution is working or defending their best interest. So an institution could be legal and illegitimate. Likewise, could be legitimate but illegal. So going back to the topic, Our House of Senate is legally constituted. Nevertheless, it is not sovereign. As I said earlier, I will mention 2 important reasons why the House of Senate is not sovereign.
In a democracy, sovereignty lies in the hands of the people but the people delegate that sovereignty, that power, to their representatives in a general election. The people give that representative the mandate to represent them and to make decisions and take actions on their behalf. Hence, voting is powerful and should be the reason why we should all go out and vote always. But when that representative wins, he or she represents the constituency not the political party. Based on our political system, the political party is the vehicle to be able to get such mandate but the mandate was not given by the political party rather by the electorate through the voting process. He or she then is responsible to his or her constituency foremost but also to his or her political party because the government policies of the party should be carried out. They are carried out by making laws that are in the best interest of the electorates and the party’s ideology. Hence, it is also important to know the ideology of the party in deciding who to vote. There is where must democracies fail because they are almost always captured by interest group or the economical powerful and legislate in their favour and in detriment of their voters or even forgetting about them especially in tax regimes but that is for another topic. So ideally all in the given constituency should benefit directly or indirectly from the work of his or her representative in that constituency, independent of their political affiliation and our Consititution vehemently prohibits discrimination base on political affiliation. Your political affiliation is your civicopolitical rights guaranteed by our Constitution and should always be protected or you should demand that it is protected. All this is ideal. The reality is a different story. Hope some day with some statesman or stateswoman, we see political maturity and see different practices respecting and honouring our Constitution.
This being said, considering that our House of Senate does not have sovereignty, that House neither can grant jurisdiction. They can’t grant jurisdiction to the ICJ because they don’t have the mandate of the people. They were not elected. Only the House of Representatives has such mandate. It is different in the United States of America where the senators are elected. They have the mandate of their electorates.
Belize has never in her history granted jurisdiction to the ICJ. So it is imperative that even before a no or yes vote, that is the referendum is held, the due process must be observed and the due process of sovereignty must be observed especially for a resolution that the yesers deem binding eventhough Art.19 Transitory is still in Guatemala’s Constitution and it says and I quote “The executive has the faculty to take all measures that tend to resolve the situation of the rights of Guatemala in respect to Belize, in conformity with the national interests. ALL DEFINITIVE AGREEMENTS SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO THE PROCEDURE OF A REFERENDUM BY THE CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC AS PROVIDED BY ART.173 OF THE CONSTITUTION.’ So the Guatemalan authorities violated their own Constitution. So Belize should demand that their Congress repeal or amend Art. 19 Transitory before even holding a referendum because if Belize decides to go to the ICJ whether the resolution of the ICJ be binding or not, new authorities in Guatemala could use Art. 19 Transitory to challenge the resolution of the ICJ especially if Guatemala is not favoured. As a matter of fact, the government of Jimmy Morales ends on January 14th, 2020 at 2:00p.m. not a minute later. The new authorities will bring new foreign policies and international relations strategies.
The Constituents who prepared Guatemala’s Constitution thought that their negotiators would have been capable of reaching an agreement with Belize’s negotiaors and the negotiated package would be submitted to a referendum in Guatemala. Not in Belize. Our Constitution says nothing about a referendum on Guatemala’s claims. As a matter of fact, our Constitution deemed ithe claim solved or doesn’t even exist. Interesting! Because Schedule 1 of our Constitution states clearly our borders and the treaties that support them. Going back to At. 19 Transitory in Guatemala’s Constitution, what would happen if the people of Guatemala would not approve the negotiated package in a referendum. Obviously, the negotiations would continue until the negotiated packaged would be approved in a referendum. That could mean many many years. However, all this speculation because the reality is different.
After expounding , I have said it in my previous articles and in my interview on Plus Tv’s Rise & Shine in November 2015 and I continue to say it again, that we need a deep constitutional reform to strengthen our democracy. We should make our democracy more participatory and representative with mark division of powers. This includes that our House of Senate should be an elected body and that our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister should be voted for nationally that gives legitimacy to the institution of prime ministership. That the Prime Minister should choose from his representatives if necessary but from the general public the most qualified man and woman to form his or her cabinet. In this way , changes in the cabinet could be easily made with less political implications and for technical reasons. That the representatives review and makes laws in the best interest of the nation and vigilate that the executive executes policies that help Belizeans achieve HAPPINESS as stated in our Constitution. That the senators approve or disapproved the laws. So such HAPPINESS would be in the hands of the senators and the judiciary executes our constitutional and ordinary laws with the observation of human rights and customary practices.
After reading this article, judge for yourself.
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