Posted: Thursday, July 1, 2021. 8:32 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: A proposed amendment to the Constitution that seeks “to provide additional grounds for the disqualification of a person as a member of the National Assembly” has been roundly condemned by the man whom some believe it targets.
Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and member for Mesopotamia, Moses “Shyne” Barrow, yesterday issued a broadside against the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, calling it “discriminatory, classist, inhumane and unconstitutional” and a “pathetic” attempt to “criminalize the poor and disadvantaged.”
The Constitution presently provides for disqualification to membership of any person who among other things is an undischarged bankrupt (as happened to Derek Aikman in 1992), or faces a death sentence or a penalty of imprisonment longer than one year for actions in Belize and any Commonwealth country.
Barrow was convicted of various charges related to the 1998 shooting at Club New York, New York City and served most of a ten-year concurrent prison sentence. Over some objection he was allowed to stand for Mesopotamia in November’s general election and kept the seat in Opposition hands.
According to Barrow, “Many of our youth get into trouble with the law however the only difference between them and the rich, powerful upper class, is they do not have the money and power to get away with their crimes.” He added that such an amendment is “an attempt to criminalize the poor in perpetuity” rather than work toward their rehabilitation and the “human right” of redemption.
To do otherwise, said Barrow, goes against the Constitution itself: “You cannot throw people away.”
Meanwhile, he continued, “Most of the white-collar criminals in Belize never face justice. The true criminals who steal the taxpayer’s money and enrich themselves never go to jail. Only the poor people suffer and get criminalized so they cannot evolve and succeed in life. The Government should be looking to restore people’s rights not make it harder for people to turn their lives around.” He claims that despite the Government’s promises to pass laws against unlawful enrichment, corruption and larceny of the public purse, many accused of doing so within the Government will not face justice.
And he vowed in conclusion on behalf of the prospective disenfranchised “to fight this unconstitutional 11th Amendment all the way to the CCJ [Caribbean Court of Justice].”
The amendment is expected to be tabled at this Friday’s meeting of the House of Representatives.
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