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BNTU President says Constitutional Amendments Need Greater Stakeholder Approaches

Another issue of national concern is the Government’s proposed Constitutional Amendments. Yesterday, Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow issued a statement on how the House Committee meetings are going. He said that Minister Francis Fonseca suggested the House Committee consider taking a “structural” approach to those amendments. Barrow says his party is quote “encouraged by this bipartisan effort to heed the voices of the people who are calling for a structural approach to amending the Constitution rather than a piecemeal method” End quote. That revised approach is a constitutional assembly, a plan which the four social partner Senators subscribe to fully. As we reported a couple weeks ago, Senators Kevin Herrera, Osmany Salas, Moses Benguche and Elena Smith are urging the government not to amend the constitution in a piecemeal way. Instead, they are pushing for wholesale reforms, which includes people from all walks to life. Senator Smith discussed with our News Editor, Dale McDougall the need for this greater stakeholder approach.

Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “We don’t believe that if we are just doing these piecemeal approaches that we would do a good job of putting in place the necessary changes to our constitution. Having been in the union movement for all of these years I have seen where there are times when we try to make amendments to suit situations or to deal with individuals and every time we make changes for those reasons we end up in problems because I’m trying to make a change to fix Dale because of what Dale did but I’m not considering that down the road that change that I’m trying to fix for Dale is going to impact ten more persons or three other parts of my constitution because I wasn’t doing a thorough look at how that would be the ripple effect of that change. And so whenever we change to suit a particular situation or person we find ourselves in problem and so we are saying listen it is past time that we do a comprehensive review of the constitution and we make all of the changes that we need to make at this point in time rather than just picking at some parts and then we may have other more important areas that we need to change that we’re not focusing on.”

Senator Smith also weighed in on the idea that the Government is pushing for the Eleventh Amendment is to disallow Barrow from contesting the next elections. She says that reformation and rehabilitation is part of Belize’s Christian values.

Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “As a Christian nation and based on our constitution we all believe in second chances and we all believe that persons are able to change. Now if it is that we are focusing only on persons who have been to prison and say ‘okay because you have been to prison you were convicted of something you can’t hold office.’ what are we saying about those persons who have been or ware in office who have been involved in corrupt practices ? How different are those persons from the ones who were in jail ? Because I may have done something that landed me in jail because I deprived somebody of something, I deprived you of property, I deprived you of life, I deprived you of something. If I am involved in corrupt practices am I not depriving the people of this country of certain things as well ? And so the only difference then would be that this other person spent time in prison but because you were not convicted of misappropriation for example you were not convicted of using campaign financing for whatever you did with it, you were not convicted of grabbing lands for your entire family and so other persons can’t get a piece of land does it mean that because you are not convicted that you did not do something that deprived another person of something ? And so I think that is the angle we ought to be looking at in terms of what is the reason behind using just persons who have been imprisoned ? And I want to make it very clear that this is in no way in any way connected to Honorable Barrow how most persons believe that this is being done for. I am looking at this matter generally and how it would affect. So for example all of the persons from whichever side, people like to say southside – it doesn’t matter which side we have persons on all sides who have done wrong things in their lives who may have served time for that and who would have changed their lives and been a different person. We all make mistakes and so again we have to be very careful what it is we are trying to achieve with an amendment.”

The next Constitution House Committee is on July twenty-six at National Assembly Committee room.