Belize’s House Speaker to take over presidency of regional body

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Updated: January 20, 2017

Belize is poised to take over the Presidency of FOPREL which is an organization with representatives from the Legislative bodies in Central America and the Caribbean. Newly appointed House Speaker Laura Longsworth will become the President sometime next month. Today, Speaker Longsworth and President of the Senate, Lee Mark Chang met with Dr. Santiago Rivas Leclair, the Executive Secretary of the Organization.

Dr. Santiago Rivas Leclair

“The primary objective of FOPREL is to conduct legislative studies that would produce a harmonized legal framework for all countries. This is done with 15 inter-parliamentary commissions. Each commission has a deputy for each country, there are 10 parliaments, and there are 150 deputies within FOPREL working on issues such as citizen security as well as social security. We have 18 legal frameworks which are being approved in each country. Issues like food security, school nutrition, human rights, gender equality, migrants, cross border contraband, firearms, asset legitimization; money laundering are among the issues that each country receives and commits to make laws with their own legislation. That is our principal function.”

Longsworth and Chang shared the importance of Belize belonging to the organization.

Laura Longsworth – House Speaker

“It offers us an opportunity to collaborate with our Central and South American colleagues on common issues having to do with country development, border issues health issues gender issues and so on and I think that’s very important for us to look at ways that we can probably harmonize some of our situations, some of our laws and so on to work with our Central American colleagues so I think it is a great idea, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to take over as leader.”

Lee Mark Chang – President of the Senate

“We have been representing Belize at these functions also we have been gathering information and also meeting with the heads of Congress in all these countries so it’s about trading ideas and also bringing back information and new stuff to Belize. Last year when FOPREL came to Belize and they brought some experts in law and also I think it was security they were here last year and we had a press conference at the Biltmore where they came to do some information sharing and stuff like that.”

Belize continues to benefit from being a part of the regional grouping as explained by both Chang and Longsworth.

Lee Mark Chang – President of the Senate

“The thing with FORPEL is that the president of all heads of congress, the madam speaker here will be taking over as president, so that is a venue an opportunity, where we could all come together and we could discuss our differences, you commonalities as well so it’s a good forum where we could come and in an independent environment and we could just discuss and make sure that we settle our good and bad stuff.”

Laura Longsworth – House Speaker

“I think it’s important because you know we do a lot with CARICOM but we are situated in Central America so it’s a great opportunity for us to become more acquainted with our neighbors and for them to understand us.  It’s also a great opportunity and a great forum to really gain support for us with the Guatemalan issue to present those issues and to make sure that Central America and South America understand what our struggles are and maybe  sit down and speak with them in a calm environment to advance the whole issue of Belize as our country. Apart from that when you look at the work of FOPREL it also has the opportunity to address all the things we are ready doing, we’re looking at sustainable development goals and there are great committees that look at health, gender issues and so I think it’s definitely going to be a positive thing for Belize.”

The handing over of the presidency will take place in Nicaragua next month.