Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2022. 6:58 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: After its first few Constitutional amendment attempts found little favour, the Government hopes to make more sweeping and substantial changes to the Constitution using the People’s Constitution Commission.
Exactly a year after it was first proposed, and months after its first members began to be named, the Bill returned to the House for what proved to be a swift and non-rancorous debate.
Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition, called the bill and process “long overdue” and reiterated that the rights afforded to the people under the land’s supreme law cannot and should not be taken away: “…It is my hope that this People’s Constitution [Commission] will discharge its mandate efficiently and that the goal is to protect rights and expand rights. So, I hope that we don’t find ourselves in a position where rights are being taken away because we live in a democracy. We live in a nation of freedom, a nation where the rule of law trumps everything. And so, it really has to be that we are looking at how best we can protect the rights of all of our citizens, equal rights, all of their rights to end discrimination, to make access to justice…”
Prime Minister John Briceño vouched for Chairman-elect Anthony Chanona, a former Mayor of Belmopan who he said “would call a spade, a spade,” and would not let his membership of the People’s United Party override his neutrality.
But he also warned that representation on the Commission is in danger of becoming “unwieldy” and that he would have been inclined to reduce the numbers. As he emphasized, “The Commission is not going to decide what is going to be approved, they are just going to be the vessel for the process – they are going to be out there listening to the recommendations from various people.”
Organizations such as the National Kriol Council (NKC) and East Indian representative group which are not directly represented are still able to make their presentations when meetings are held: “You all have access to speak to the Committee, you can put in writing your proposals…” and within a year to 18 months the recommendations will be put together and the result would be put to a national referendum: “…at the end of the day, it is the Belizean people who will have the final say.
Minister of Political Reform, Constitutional Reform, and the Public Service and Religious Affairs, Henry Charles Usher, affirmed the history of the event and said the process will go a long way to reforming our occasional “colonial mindset:” “We are not governed by anybody; we are the governors of our destiny – so we have to embrace that; we have to learn that; we have to realize that this is what this Bill and the process and this exercise is intended to do.”
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