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Senators Speak Out Against GOB’s Proposed Amendments to the Constitution

In tonight’s top story, we continue to follow the debate on the two Constitutional amendments the Government has tabled in the House of Representatives. In the Tenth Amendment, The government is proposing that members of the Security Services, Public Services, and the Election and Boundaries Commission, along with the Belize Advisory Council resigns from their posts before a general election. Not only are the four social partners concerned about the integrity and autonomy of these key bodies, but about the process in which the Government is trying to get these amendments through the Parliamentary system. Osmany Salas is one of the four Senators who wrote to Prime Minister John Briceno raising those concerns. He spoke to Love News on the basis of his concerns.

Osmany Salas, Senator, NGOs: “The four social partner senators believe, as stated in our letter to the Prime Minister that any amendments of constitution in particular where the changes will be substantive and substantial require carefully thought out, comprehensive review. It requires a comprehensive, well thought out review exercise. I just want to share a very quick historical perspective about the amendments to our constitution. Keep in mind that this year will mark forty years since we became independent and twenty years since the report of the political reform commission was analyzed and tabled. So we feel, as social partner senators, independent senators we feel that we have enough experience under our belt as Belizeans to be involved, to be engaged in a comprehensive review exercise.”

The Senators say that the Tenth Amendment is, quote, “a departure from good and transparent governance” and it is now time for a comprehensive review of the Constitution. Senator Salas also added that empaneling a Constitutional Assembly, similar to a process that started on Sunday in Chile is the best way to go. In other words, the Senators want the people to decide how they want to be governed.

Osmany Salas, Senator, NGOs: “We really ended our letter to the Prime Minister by recommending that the government considers to appoint a constitutional assembly with broad based representation and membership to conduct such a comprehensive exercise review of our constitution. Maybe give that assembly up to two years to engage in it’s deliberation processes and then take whatever recommendations come out of it with government and then to the people of Belize who of course should have the final say into what would effectively be a modern constitution for Belize. Forty years is more than enough time to get enough of an experience as a people to have a good sense of what we will want our constitution to count in.”

Expressing similar concerns as the Senators was the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). They sent a letter to the Chairman of the House Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee, Julius Espat, stating their position on the Tenth Amendment, calling it a counter to sound democratic principles, and asking that it be withdrawn. The letter basically says that instead of the government look to hinder political interference and manipulation in key departments, it is making moves to harness it. We will have more on the Chamber’s views in tomorrow’s newscast.