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January 13, 2021

Senate debates governance and holiday motions; budget supplementary, public health bill 

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Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2021. 11:35 am CST.

By Aaron Humes : “Do it.” 

That was the challenge that Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Michael Peyrefitte, laid down to the Government at the start of today’s meeting of the Senate in Belmopan. 

By “it” he meant following through on the resolution on good governance in Belize first laid before the House of Representatives and which opened today’s debate. 

Instead of simply resolving to, among other things, empower the Integrity Commission; enforce separation of powers in the three branches of Government; reducing the powers of Ministers; reconstituting the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and liberating the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) from political interference, Peyrefitte said, he would have liked to see certain legislation brought right away. 

The Contractor General already has wide-ranging powers with relation to investigating public contracts, so a Public Contracts Commission may be superfluous, he added. 

And he also pointed out that some of the Government’s positions, such as calling for EBC chair Estevan Perrera to stand down from a position he is constitutionally appointed to for the standard term, and placing the Comptroller of Customs under Section 107 of the Constitution concerning appointments, in fact subvert the very commitment they have made. 

Colleague Sheena Pitts says that the motion identifies in some detail some of the problems faced by Belize’s governance system without proposing specifics: speaking to the why or what, but not the how. “What we need to see is action; and what we need to see is how the action will be done,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Senator for Non-Governmental Organizations, Osmany Salas, promised the support of the NGO community for the proposed reforms but pointed out that for instance, the best way to strengthen the Integrity Commission is to empower and fill its secretariat; there was also no specific mention of the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) to which Belize signed on in 2016. 

Government Senator Isabel Bennett made note that the process started with the motion must be brought to and contributed to by all Belizeans, with which Pitts agreed. But she warned that Belize cannot be caught up in idealism and academia and forget how to make sure Belizeans benefit. 

The debate continues, to be followed by one on the motion for designating new holidays and special days and one of the two General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation (2020/2021) No. 5 Bill, 2021 and the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2021. 

We’ll have more as it happens. 

 

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