The Council of Churches says that the PUP government is inconsiderate and disrespectful. The Council blasted off a press release on Tuesday when it made its position firm on the legalization of marijuana. The Council says that the Briceno Administration failed to consult during the drafting of the marijuana and hemp bill. The council also stated that the growth and distribution of marijuana create and enhance societal and moral ills already plaguing the country. Home Affairs Minister, Kareem Musa is not surprised that the churches don’t support the bill. Contrary to the no-consultation claim by the Council of Churches, Minister Musa says the Government did reach out to the Council earlier this year.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “If we did not get pushback from the church something would be radically wrong with Belize. Like I said to you on the last occasion they are our social conscience, they are our moral compass and so they will have an issue with this but as I keep saying it is all a matter of perspective and as politicians we have to look at perspective. Let us look at the consumer. The consumer see this as relief, the small farmer, the investor, the businessman they see this as a profit. The government sees this as only practical given the circumstances that we now face where we have something that is decriminalized but you have no way of obtaining it and so the government sees it as only practical that’s the government’s perspective.”
Reporter: The Council of Churches says that your government failed to consult and that was inconsiderate and disrespectful.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “I saw that and I had to laugh but I can tell you that we have reached out to various members of the council asking for a meeting as far back as January 8 to be precise but we never got an answer requesting that meeting but I’m so happy to hear now that they would like to have a sit down because that is the whole point. We want to have consultation. One the last occasion after the first reading there was a committee meeting as there normally is after a House Meeting I think the Wednesday following nobody came to make representations on behalf of the church and I was surprised by that.”
The no-consultation concern was not the only registered point of contention for the churches. As a matter of fact, Bishop Philip Wright indicated that the entire relationship between the Church and the State has deteriorated drastically. Minister Musa responded to the council’s statement.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “I don’t know what to make of it, I haven’t heard any input from the church on issues under the UDP, under the Dean Barrow government but certainly it does raise concerns as a member of parliament now because like I said we are open doors. We want to have these discussions and so if the church wants to engage with us like you saw today on our leadership intervention unit several pastors, priests are actually a part of our leadership intervention unit and that is very important moving forward in our fight against crime. And so we need the church in various capacities to serve in various capacities as we fight crime, as we deal with social issues in our country and so I would want to welcome that if it is that they want to engage I would want to welcome that because they have been fairly dormant in the last thirteen years.”