Staying with sugar: in early December, viewers will remember seven senators voted against an amendment to the Sugar Industry Act. While it was rammed through the House of Representatives on December 3, three days later, a majority of Senators opposed the bill, saying that the particular clause that empowers the Minister of Agriculture to receive and deal with disputes and complaints was concerning. Opponents of the bill view this ministerial power to interfere in the business of associations as an overreach. The bill was stalled in the Senate for further consultations and Love News confirmed with Prime Minister John Briceno that the controversial clause would be removed.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “What is it they’re trying to accomplish. Simply that there can be a mechanism to ensure that all associations comply with the law. We have one association in particular in Corozal that has not had an annual general meeting and election of their directors since 2016 and because some members have been questioning them they have been kicked out of the association and then we have the other two associations which I feel strangely that they’re the ones that have already signed agreement with BSI that have not held their elections. They’re saying because of COVID protocols but these associations some of their branches only have 20 members so why is it that they can’t hold their elections? They need to hold their elections. Now maybe is the Ministry of Agriculture maybe overreaching in the sense of giving the ultimate power to the minister then that’s debatable and as I said in the House that if that is an issue then we can look at it and then see how to take it off completely and the Minister of Agriculture has already said well if that is an issue I have no problem removing that clause.”
One of the Senators, who opposed the amendment is Union Senator Elena Smith. She says they were informed that a sitting of the Senate would have been held before the month concludes in order to have the bill brought back before them. Smith says it seems that would be unlikely given the number of days left in the year.
Senator Elena Smith, President, BNTU: “We were told that they wanted to have a meeting before the end of the year to bring back that bill to the Senate however I don’t think that that’s going to happen, we haven’t gotten notice and so that may be prolonged a bit. I am hoping that during that period of time between the time that the bill comes back to us that there would have been some consultations with those persons who were involved so that they can hear from the various groupings what are the issues, what are the concerns and how is it that they can strengthen because we always say if you have an issue with one individual, with one group you shouldn’t go and do a bill just to fix one situation you should be t0 -again same thing like the Dr. Manzanero bill- sit down with those people and see how best we can work it out. If there is one group do you believe is the trouble maker then you sit and talk with those persons and see how you can work things out. So we are hoping that there’s going to be some serious consultations with those stakeholders between now and when that bill comes back to us.”