Senate Approves Inquiry into Definitive Agreement

Senate Approves Inquiry into Definitive Agreement

A Senate Inquiry will take place over the infamous Definitive Agreement.  The approval for the inquiry was granted in the afternoon session of the Senate Sitting today in Belmopan.  NGO Senator, Janelle Chanona, after making her presentation on the inquiry, called for a division on the matter.  That division resulted in all 13 Senators in favor of the exercise.  In her presentation, Senator Chanona, spoke on what the members of the inquiry presented the request for a Senate Inquiry into the Definitive Agreement in this morning’s session.  In her presentation, Chanona laid out the terms of reference and the composition of the Senate Select Committee.

Janelle Chanona, NGO Senator: “Hold and conduct its sittings and meetings in public and broadcast live except for sittings which are held only for the purpose of deliberation of the matters which are subject of the committee, which sittings shall be held in private. That the committee shall hold its hearings with due urgency and expedition in accordance with standing order number 75 of the Senate standing orders, make a report to this honorable Senate as soon as may be practicable of the result of its inquiries with all such comments and recommendations as the committee may deem fit, furnishing this honorable Senate with a full statement of its proceedings and of the reasons leading to its conclusions and recommendations. That the report shall be tabled in this honorable Senate and become a public document. All committee members shall be allowed sufficient time and equal opportunity to question witnesses and shall be permitted to question each witness who attends a sitting. Each witness shall be afforded the opportunity pursuant to Standing Order Number 7213 of the Senate Standing Orders to review his or her evidence and findings of the report and shall have the opportunity to suggest corrections due to inaccurate reporting within 14 days from the date which the report was sent to the witness by the clerk. The committee shall be permitted to hire attorneys, accountants, and other such experts as required by the committee and the office of the Senate shall be the office of the secretariat of the committee. Composition of the special select committee. That the committee be appointed consisting of six senators as follows. One from those appointed on the advice of the prime minister, one from those appointed on the advice of the Leader of Opposition, the one appointed on the advice from the Belize Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association of Churches, the one appointed on the advice of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau, the one appointed on the advice of the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee, and the one appointed on the advice of the non-governmental organizations. The senators who are members of the committee shall, at first meeting of the committee, elect a chairman of the committee, and the quorum of the committee shall be four.”

Rising to comment on the Senate Inquiry composition was Lead Senator for the Government, Eamon Courtenay.  He noted his support for the inquiry, but did have some reservations and comments regarding the make-up of the committee members.

Eamon Courtenay, GOB Lead Senator: “The composition of the committee as proposed is not in compliance with the standing orders. And Madam President that standing order provides that committees of the Senate should reflect the balance of the Senate, which is six for the government, three for the opposition, four for social partners. Prior special select committees have been appointed because the parties have come to an understanding as to composition and no one took the position that the standing orders were not being complied with. I have sought to reach out to the proponent to propose a formula for us to comply with the standing orders. We propose, Madam President, that the committee should have to reflect the balance, three from the government, two from the social partners, and one from the opposition. We remain open, Madam President, at this late stage to discussing the composition of the committee with a view in committee at arriving.”

Also weighing in on the Senate Inquiry proposition was the Lead Opposition Senator, Michael Peyrefitte.  

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: We would like to see this inquiry be led and dominated by, for all intents and purposes, the private sector in the Senate and not the politicians in the Senate, who are and I say politicians mean if you’re appointed by a politician, you’re in politics. And politicians have appointed nine of us and we assume that the other four senators were appointed purely non-politically. So Madam President – I said we presume, I presume that. I have no evidence to the contrary. And so, Madam President, even with the adjustments to the motion we still on this side wholeheartedly support this private member’s motion for us to have a Senate select inquiry into the Portico Erwin Contreras agreement.”

Other issues discussed in today’s session was the HIV/AIDS criminal code repeal as well as the Loan Motion for the STEAM Academy, and the current energy woes at the Belize Electricity Limited.

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