The State of Emergency for Belize has been extended for an additional sixty days. The Senate met in session today in Belmopan to debate the motion for the extension. Like yesterday’s House Meeting, only the bare minimum representation was required for today’s sitting. Senator for Government Business presented the motion just after ten o’clock this morning. Weighing on the motion was PUP’s Lead Senator, Michel Chebat. Chebat presented several points including the opposition’s concerns over food distribution and the systems in place for citizens to get assistance.
Senator Michel Chebat, People’s United Party Lead Senator: “We are here to lock down for sixty more days yet this government has offered no plan on how it will restart the economy but then this is not surprising as in one of his latest pronouncements the Prime Minister said no money noh deh, one month in and no money noh deh. Thirty days of state of emergency and no more money deh. Now he wants us to extend for sixty more days, well where did the money go ? At the beginning of the state of emergency the Prime Minister spoke about a fund of a hundred million dollars plus all the other tens and tens of millions of dollars that were being donated or obtained through the IFIs. So again where is the money ? Where did the money go ? If these past thirty days, Mr.President, of state of emergency was terrible for thousands of Belizeans left without jobs and food what will the next sixty days be like if no money noh deh and no money left? What we have seen in the past thirty days is primarily a consequence of the mismanagement in the finances and institutions of the country. Lack of savings, resorting to more and more borrowed money used for mostly populist politics and UDP cronies while crumbs are being grudgingly given to the people in terms of boost and pantry programs. Tens of thousands of people are still waiting for their government to help and only a UDP can get you on that program. That is totally acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue. I say we must immediately take steps to calm the anxiety of all of our people. We are mandating that our people stay at home but that would mean Mr.President that the government must immediately stop playing games with the unemployment program. Get the money to all who need the money. Get the staff to vet if that is what you don’t have. Two, no more politics with the food packages, feed the people. For God’s sake Mr.President we’re talking about food.”
Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, rose this morning in the National Assembly building accusing the opposition of wanting to see the government fail in its efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that this is not the time for the PUP to be playing politics in this global pandemic. Peyrefitte drew a parallel with how the opposition handled the ICJ matter last year.
As we noted, the bare minimum of Senators were required for today’s sitting. Senator Elena Smith was in attendance as the representative for all the social partners. Senator Smith rose on the State of Emergency motion stressing on the importance of the safety of the people.
Elena Smith, Senator: We are in unprecedented times . This isn’t something we would have expected, it’s not something we have dealt with before so we are learning as we proceed through this pandemic and I believe Mr.President that as Belizeans going through this pandemic and looking at ways in which we can deal with or we can address the situation should have nothing to do with politics right now. This is not about red or blue. We are where we are because we want our people to be safe. If that wasn’t the greatest thing that we wanted right now, safety for our people, we wouldn’t be where we are. We wouldn’t be under the state of emergency; I truly believe that for us as a nation to help our people to be safe as much as possible to be free of further if you will contamination. We see Mr.President where yes we’ve only had eighteen cases that is true and we must commend our health people, those persons our nurses and our doctors who have been on the front line addressing this matter because it could be worse. It’s not over yet but it could be worse and we must say thank God that we only had eighteen cases so far and we must hope and pray that it remains that way. The effects Mr.President of this pandemic as I just said is great, we’re under a state of emergency, our people have lost a lot of their liberties which you hear them complaining about. We saw persons being arrested for going to the river, for going to the sea because people don’t want to or at the moment they think there is a break they want to make much of is. We’re not a people accustomed to being locked in and so even though I’m not the kind of person that walks everywhere and visits friends or that kind of thing I’m always home to work and work to home after a while it does take a toll on you but we must understand as a people that we must abide by the rules if we are going to continue to be safe and to be free of this disease we must continue to abide by the rules. And so yes we’ve lost some of our liberties but we have to understand that it is not going to be for long. It is better for us to be safe than to be sorry.”
The motion was passed in the Senate and now awaits an official sign off from the Governor General, His Excellency Sir Colville Young.