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LOO Writes to the Attorney General on Eleventh Amendment Bill

Meanwhile, the controversial Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution has made the news almost every night this week with Belizeans from all walks of life weighing in one way or another about this sweeping piece of legislation. Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow has already gone on record to say that there are parts of the Amendment he vehemently disagrees with. He took it one step further with a letter to Attorney General Magali Marin-Young. He explained why this was necessary.

Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “In particular to bring to the attention of the Attorney General the misrepresentations that she has been making in the media. I saw one interview that she did where she completely misrepresented the constitution and that is section 58 1 which says no person has been qualified to be a member of the House of Representatives who is under a sentence of death or serving a sentence more than twelve months. Now the framers of the constitution were very deliberate in using present tense and past tense and in the instance of the current constitution they were very clear that it is in the present tense. So for instance of the elections are called next week and you are under a sentence of death you’re disqualified, if you’re serving a sentence of more than twelve months you’re disqualified because the elections will happen you may win and then you’re incarcerated and you cannot serve. So that is what the framers envisioned in my view and not just in my view but it is clear, the language is clear because when the framers of the constitution wanted to speak in the past tense they did that. For instance in section fifty nine, three, the framers of the constitution says that anyone who was convicted – past tense – of an election related crime or offense. So when the framers of the constitution wanted to speak as far as disqualifying people who were convicted of elections crimes they said that. If they wanted to say anyone convicted of any crime regardless of the category is disqualified they would have said that. So the Attorney General is not being forthright with the public when she tries to down play the 180 almost complete reversal of what the framers of the constitution envisioned as far as disqualifications. So that really needs to be clarified because I see that her ministers and other members of the Cabinet are repeating the fallacy that the Attorney General has put forth in regards to the proposed 11th amendment that they have tabled now in the House.”

Also in his letter, he told the AG that he agrees with Senators Elena Smith, Osmany Salas, Kevin Herrera and Moses Benguche on putting together a Constitutional Assembly to allow people to have a say in how they are governed.

Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: In my letter to the learned Attorney General I associated myself with the Senators from the church, the union, the chamber and I completely support their recommendation that we should not approach the supreme law of our land in a piecemeal fashion where we are tinkering with the fundamental rights of Belizeans. The constitution has only been amended I believe ten times in forty years and already we see three amendments without proper consultation, without the bipartisan approach that would be consistent with good governance. As Senator Bradley said they are creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist where the problem that does exist they’re not creating a solution. There is no problem of rehabilitated, reformed individuals going to the National Assembly and engaging in corruption however there is a problem of lawyers, PhDs, highly educated people from the upper class, the oligarchs going to the National Assembly and committing the most heinous crimes against the Belizean people as far as breach of public trust and corruption. So this is what the government should be focused on and even then I completely associate myself with the senators and the chamber and Ambassador Gibson and Ambassador Dilon Vernon and all the learned people who are recommending that we compose a bipartisan constitutional assembly which will eliminate any room for political mischief and political victimization.”

In his letter, Barrow writes that the assembly would be able to do (quote) “a complete reform of the Constitution after widespread national consultations to aid in the development of our nation” (End quote).