Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) connects parliamentarians from over one hundred and eighty territories across the commonwealth. Furthermore, it assists in guiding parliamentarians to identify the standard of good governance and to promote democracy. It is one of the oldest commonwealth organization having been around since 1911. At that time, it was known as the Empire Parliamentary Association, thereafter, the name was changed to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA, in 1948. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA, Secretary-General Akbar Khan is here in Belize to assist in strengthening parliamentary procedures. The Speaker of the House, Laura Tucker-Longsworth, spoke about how the country will benefit from the Secretary-General’s visit.
Laura Tucker-Longsworth – Speaker of the House: “Just prior to his visit through the Commonwealth Parliament Association the National Assembly Parliament conducted a benchmarking exercise to see against international standards developed by the Commonwealth Parliament Association to see how well we are doing and to see what areas we can select for improvement and so on. What stands out mostly after all the meetings with Parliamentarians and even today after speaking with the Honorable Foreign Minister and of course with other members of Parliament is that our Parliament needs to modernize, it needs to evolve and the rules that we operate on a need to be upgraded to suit these times. All our standing orders need better interpretations to suit these times and so those are the some of the reasons why we brought in the Secretary-General because Belize has to pay a membership and we need to see how we can use their resources and their expertise to help us to improve.
Tucker-Longsworth added that the Secretary-General will be visiting schools to educate the youths about the importance and workings of parliament. Khan said that the CPA promotes gender equality and parliament inclusiveness.
Akbar Khan – Secretary General of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association: “It is my first visit here, the Honorable Speaker Madam Laura Tucker-Longsworth has invited me with Mr. President to come and praise members of Parliament as to the programmatic work of the CPA and how they can help Parliamentarians and also Parliament as an institution to straighten democratic governance here in Belize, also to share and promote good practice around Parliamentarians. We have a specific tool kit of programs which support members to do their work more effectively and also to support parliament to be more effective. I think one of the more important parts that we do at the CPA is to recognize that the essence of democracy is that anybody can stand for Parliamentary offers subject to the constitutional requirements but of course new members are not prepared for Parliament. We don’t have qualification to become a Parliamentarian and therefore Parliamentarians who are new but also established Parliamentarians have to continue to upskill themselves to meet the needs of a very demanding society.”
Khan added that it is essential that parliament engage with the public by letting them know the crucial role they play in the democratic process.