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National Garifuna Council and Belize Progressive Party speaks on Constitution Commission

A robust exercise is underway to revisit and revamp the supreme laws of the country. The Ministry responsible for constitutional reform is leading the charge by first putting together a People’s Constitution Commission, which will be headed by former Belmopan Mayor Anthony Chanona. An alphabet soup of organisations from across the nation is participating in this exercise. One of those groups is the National Garifuna Council. Its assistant secretary, Ifasina Efunyemi told Love News that the council’s role will ensure that it vigorously defends everyone’s rights and freedoms. 

Ifasina Efunyemi, Assistant Secretary, National Garifuna Council: “We do have a seat at the table. The Constitution impacts everyone in Belize. You don’t even have to be a Belizean, as long as you are in these 8,867 sq. miles, you are impacted by the Constitution. So everybody needs to be at the table when we’re talking about our Constitution. We want to ensure that the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to us here in Belize, that those are maintained and that the laws come in alignment with the Constitution. It’s a very fundamental document there and so revising it is a bold move but we definitely need to be careful about that. We are a people tha have definitely suffered from discrimination and that is contrary to what the Constitution states. So we want to ensure that as a people, as afro-descendant and indigenous that we are able to maximise our potential in this country and be treated fairly before the law and the Constitution guarantees that. So we want to make sure that that is also maintained. Anything that protects the rights of our people and Belizeans at large, that is what we will defend while being a part of this Commission.”

While that is the NGC’s position, the Belize Progressive Party and the Belize People’s Front will have a shared representative. BPP Leader Wil Maheia is calling for the third parties to get more seats at the table. 

Wil Maheia, Leader, Belize Progressive Party (BPP): “We still feel that that is unfair because the UDP gets a seat. The PUP gets a seat, I think they got two seats. We contested. The BPP contested nationally and we contested. They’re saying they got two seats each because for the municipalities. Well we also competed in the municipalities. So we deserve our own seats and the Belize People’s Front deserve their own seats and really and truly, the BPP deserves two seats because we competed in the National Elections and Municipal elections. So we hope that whoever is hearing this does the right thing and gives us our seats.”

However, Prime Minister John Briceno feels that the number of organisations participating should be capped to where we are. Here’s how Maheia responded to that position.

Wil Maheia, Leader, Belize Progressive Party (BPP): “We cannot have too many seats at the table. This is like a serious thing that we are doing. Reforming, you know. We are looking at the Constitution that we will have to live with. Generations to come might have to live with it for a long long time so you can’t have too much seats at the table. That’s a cop out. They’re looking for excuses. Every village should be consulted during these consultations and we want to make sure that happens. So, if you want to have more seats at the table the more people will make sure that every corner of this country will be heard.”

In the interview last Wednesday with PM Briceno, he reiterated that even though everyone can’t be on the Commission, it should not preclude people from putting their positions, ideas and concerns.