Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2019. 11:25 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The upper chamber of the National Assembly meets today, welcoming two new members.
Following the resignation of President of the Senate Lee Mark Chang at the last meeting, former Mayor of Belize City Darrell Bradley was elected without opposition.
On taking the chair, Bradley spoke of his awe at being elected to one of the chambers he witnessed in younger years on television.
He noted that in one form or another, Belize’s legislature has met for three centuries and made important decisions and that this continues the national business in as dispassionate and considerate a manner as possible.
Also elected from the Opposition side is attorney Michel Chebat, succeeding Eamon Courtenay. In his main address, he promised to uphold the best practices and traditions of the Upper House, in which he has served temporarily before.
The Senate will take charge of the Customs and Excise Duties (Amendment); Tax Administration and Procedure; University of Belize (Amendment); and Court of Appeal (Amendment) Bills and four motions on multilateral air services; treaty establishing basic relations with the Russian Federation; IDB Multilateral Investment Fund III; and status of forces and defense cooperation between Belize and the United Kingdom.
The Senate’s debate, as always, is expected to be more gentle than the House, which descended into near chaos on the adjournment last Friday.
It started with Opposition Leader John Briceño, ahead of village council elections starting this past Sunday, accusing the Government of neglecting villages.
He cited the issue of water boards, which have appointed unto themselves the power to spend the monies they collect, with little oversight from the Ministry of Human Development.
One example was raised of UDP supporter Juan de Dios Moguel being called to answer concerning certain sums of monies he was in charge of.
More fireworks surrounded the controversial increase in Social Security contributions. Cayo South area rep Julius Espat said Government could not comfortably support such an increase with stagnant workers’ wages, bloated wages, and perks to members of the Board and C.E.O. Dr. Colin Young, and heavy Government involvement in the investment portfolio. He also suggested that Social Security take a greater interest in the health system, praising former Prime Minister Said Musa’s implementation, in part, of the National Health Insurance scheme.
But the Prime Minister focused on what he called Espat’s “hypocrisy,” lobbing charges that he is “bipolar…schizophrenic… you should be taking medication because I am telling you there is something wrong with you….I merely say sir in common parlance sir you are one sick puppy.”
The topic of education proved equally testy, as Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber responded to concerns raised by Freetown Area Rep and former Minister of Education Francis Fonseca. In responding to Fonseca, the Minister of Education mentioned assistance provided to students in the Fort George and Toledo West constituencies. It wasn’t long before area representatives Said Musa and Oscar Requeña hit back – Musa denying receiving proper response from the Ministry and Requeña that he had ever been invited to any Ministry award ceremony.
Faber for his part denied any political motive, as suggested by Fonseca, in the grant of subsidies to students going to high school.
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