Turning now to legislative matters: the Tenth Amendment Bill is the constitutional change the government is hoping would provide an additional ground for vacating posts as members of the Belize Advisory Council, the Election and Boundaries Commission, the Public Services Commission and the Security Services Commission. The controversial amendment has attracted much criticism and the latest body to speak against it is the Public Service Union, PSU. President Dean Flowers told Love News that Union is not in support of the Tenth Amendment as proposed by the Government. Flowers referred to the PUP’s Plan Belize manifesto, specifically where oversight bodies were concerned. Flowers points out that in Plan Belize, the PUP pledged to make legislative changes so that these oversight bodies are free from political influence and interference. According to Flowers, the PSU rejects the amendment because it promotes corruption.
Dean Flowers, President, PSU: “What we see being proposed in the 10th amendment is just more of the same. As a matter of fact outside of clearly providing for the Public Service Union to nominate a representative on the Public Service Commission which has been a thing of practice it was simply not embedded in law, what the amendment does is simply further empower the government to continue to corrupt these commissions. And so we reject that and we will stand against the 10th amendment if it is not changed to ensure that the government does not control the appointment of the representatives on these commission. What is sad here is that we also see the continuous politicizing of the Belize Advisory Council, the Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Security Services Commission in addition to the Public Service Commission. These bodies perform very important functions in respect of elections and the electorate and employment of the service in government and the politicization of the continuous or greater politicizing of these bodies can lead to the disappearance of this democracy or of this apolitical and competent civil service- police department, Coast Guard, military that we expect which we’re already saying look our different institutions have been infiltrated politically. The public service is in a mess not because of the public servants but because of the politicians who now spend time administrating the public service instead of focusing on policy decisions and on policy in terms of how to improve this country.”
Flowers says that the Government should relinquish that power of control so that there is impartiality and inclusiveness while showing that Government is serious about its reform agenda. The PSU has written to the clerk of the National Assembly expressing its disapproval of the amendment.
Dean Flowers, President, PSU: “You have ministers now interfering in who gets hired who gets fired and these little petty things which should be the role of the administrative staff and perhaps the CEO. And so as part of our recommendation we are asking the government to give up that controlling power for it to ensure that all these commissions would at least have a semblance of impartiality, of inclusiveness. We’re asking for other players or institutions such as the tertiary level educational institutions we’re asking for them to be considered as well but in essence our submission to the clerk and to the house committee is that there needs to be more impartiality, greater inclusiveness and so that we can have a sense of restoration that going forward as part of government’s reform agenda people’s confidence in how we’re governed and in our oversight bodies can be restored. There is also a need to us to seriously add to this list the Judicial Services Commission even where the Judiciary is concerned the Belizean people have lost confidence in the Judiciary. I don’t know why they’re not included in here and I guess again only the government knows exactly the kind of games that they’re playing.”
As it pertains to the 10th amendment, former Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte says that if the Government succeeds in getting it passed into law, then there will a long time that will elapse between administrations where almost no work gets done.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “If you’re gonna do something like that then be consistent. I see them swear in the new Governor General, why not say well when the term of office of the current government ends or parliament is dissolved she is dissolved too ? And so for example she stays on long enough to appoint a new Prime Minister and then she leaves. Why not do it across the board ? Why not do it with the Judicial and Legal Services Commission ? Why only those particular ones and I think what the government is doing very immaturely is wherever they have an issue or a problem and they don’t feel like they have total control they want to pass laws now to have immediate control. People have to remember that when the parliament is dissolved the government still has to function. The Constitution says it very clearly when parliament is dissolved and elections are called for maybe thirty to forty five days after that ministers are still minister because the government still has to function. So what you’re saying then is that if you dissolve the Public Service Commission when the National Assembly dissolves you’re talking bout two, three months when no public servant can get assessed on their performance, nobody can be hired, nobody can be dismissed if they’re not performing well and everything is just on pause for three to four months until you elect a new government who has to then select a new Public Service Commission you’re talking about every five years there’s a six month lull in how we are governed and so I think that makes no sense. It was put in place for it to be staggered so even when you don’t have parliament in session you still have an executive and you still have a public service functioning even though you’re waiting for elections. What they’re proposing would put the country on pause until a new government is elected.”
While Peyrefitte agrees that politically-appointed individuals should leave with the government who put them there, he believes there should be a transitioning period to allow for smooth continuity.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “I’m a firm believer that if I’m appointed by a particular government and I am clearly a political appointment and my party loses I should resign that’s what I believe but you should have the option to stay for continuation.”
Rene Villanueva Sr, Host, The Morning Show: “Well you’ll stay until you’re asked to.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman: “Or you’re asked to leave but you have somebody in place, that’s just my personal opinion. That you know because it’s done traditionally I think by ambassadors or whatever you come and you say listen I am here the government has changed, the person who has appointed me is no longer here and won’t be returning I will remain at your pleasure and the minute that you want to select somebody new you just let me know and I shall take my leave. You give that option to whoever is coming in but in the mean time and any responsible government I think would say no what is it going to hurt to have you wait another month or two while we get our feet on the ground, while we get settled and we assess the situation and we may even keep the person who is there. I mean you give yourself some time to make sure that you can properly govern the country and then not only that too we’re humans you know. If I know that I’m appointed by a particular prime minister and I believe that that prime minister will not be in government again you tend to say well what’s the point of me putting any work in when I demit office in nine months anyway ? In ten months I go home you know so for the next ten months what will I do any work for ? Why will I do anything for ? All of these things you invite when you put a system like this into place.”