People’s Constitution Commission to Submit Interim Report in October
The People’s Constitution Commission (PCC), the body charged with making recommendations for constitutional reform, is preparing to submit its interim report in October. Over the next months, the commission will be utilizing various means and platforms to educate Belizeans on the importance of the Constitution and possible changes to make it more inclusive. The commission, which represents 26 organizations from both the private and public sectors, has been tasked with gathering varying opinions from all sectors of society. The group will then present to the government a list of recommendations and findings from the consultation process. According to PCC Chairman, Anthony Chanona, the commission has been making great strides and is ensuring that all organizations are equally educated on the importance of the process.
Anthony Chanona, Chairman, PCC: “To even to begin this process, we had to, we had to be educated ourselves, you know? But we are producing a document with all the persons who have served this country and I say served because they have done seven months of heavy lifting, attending meetings without any consideration of allowances and they have basically at their expense. So we’re gonna shift gears on that and start to recognize now that we’re into the road show, how to encourage them along. It’s a sacrifice it shouldn’t be a burden. We launched the 14th as a group and as I explained we went into the orientation around the Constitution, brought in experts from the Caribbean, from UNDP, from America and from South America and we filtered these advice that we’ve gotten on constitutional matters into a core group of Belizean lawyers. So we say we Belizeanized this advice to suit our culture. They’re not writing the Constitution. The Constitution is written. What we have done in the seven months, we have tried to simplify this document which is 163 pages into four small documents, one written by Dickie Bradley, this is just a brief summary volume one of the Constitution and this is Dickie’s style of writing the way he speaks. So it’s really a nice version of it. We also did a bill of rights, the fundamental rights. We’re going to call it “Know your rights.” This is a very important document for Belizeans.”
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: You extracted the basic rights the Constitution gives us. So we understand. We don’t have to go digging all over the place to find it.
Anthony Chanona, Chairman, PCC: “And then what we did with this document is we took this 163 pages and broke it into 50 but we color coded it to be able to let the Belizean student, interested parties understand where the power lies. That before you start thinking about whether you want executive presidential system, if you understand where the power lies then you can start looking at is this going to be a ceremonial position? Is this going to be actual executive position? So this is 50 pages. Dickie’s book is 20 and these are the documents now that we have launched 21st June. So we are now into a second phase of the Commission. We are now what we call into public outreach education and we’ll be doing that for four months.”
Chairman Chanona further explained that the model for their education campaign was developed by the representatives to ensure the information can be easily disseminated by all Belizeans.
Anthony Chanona, Chairman, PCC: “We’ve broken the country into four zones and these books and the public outreach will happen simultaneously across the country. It won’t be like the ICJ exercise nor like the Dr. Vernon exercise that went district by district with caravans and tents and speakers and tamales in coolers, and then moving across the country. We’re setting up and have now put a footprint on the ground in four zones. The north, Belize, the west, south. The fifth zone is the diaspora. By law, we have to consult with the diaspora. And these leaders, we call them zone leaders and deputy zone leaders, they are the ones based on the culture, for example in Corozal, Orange Walk seventy percent of the people are more amenable to speaking Spanish, because if you go only speaking one language of English, a lot of people won’t understand what we’re saying. So we have left the zone leaders who live in that area to develop their strategies and we’re doing that across the country. And so that is what now rolls out between now and October, public education. Based on what we get that feedback we then go into what we call public consultation. That will happen October all the way into February. But just so -“
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: But you don’t have a lot of time then.
Anthony Chanona, Chairman, PCC: “We don’t have a lot of time and that’s why we have to use all the brains we have and all we can borrow, as what President Wilson said but what we have Ernesto, these 23 organizations, is a microcosm of our society.”
Chanona said that the goal is to move from 2 percent of Belizeans having knowledge of the constitution to 50 percent by the time the PCC makes its interim report in October.