When it comes to the UNCAC matter, our newsroom understands that the public and the media may have been misled by the previous administration when former Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that the implementation of UNCAC was stalled due to circumstances beyond his control. The UNCAC was acceded to in 2016 and officially signed onto in December 2019. Since then, very little has been done to adhere to the policies under the convention. With the John Briceno administration now in office the pressure has been mounting from the unions to get the UNCAC fully executed. Love News spoke with Attorney General Magali Marin-Young who explained that when she got into office there was no draft legislation in place and the previous administration had done little to nothing to get UNCAC enforced. She added that Belize had even gone as far as refuse help from Impact Justice in getting UNCAC in place.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General of Belize: “Impact Justice had volunteered to assist us to draft the legislation from 2019, we did not take up that offer. The Attorney General Ministry had crowns that attended meetings sponsored by Impact Justice but there was no political will to effect it. You have to have political will to push your legal drafting union to pursue a particular legislation, that didn’t happen. And so upon assuming office, we had no legislation or draft legislation we’ve had to draft legislation. I’m sure we can reach out to Impact Justice but the pressures in trying to get it done quicker we have asked the crowns to try their best to look at the various countries that have these legislation, and to come up with a draft that is compatible with our domestic framework, legal framework.
Reporter: How do you view the pressures though I mean the pressures by the unions in terms of this good government.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General of Belize: “We acceded from 2016 but there was no political will to see us enact legislation to fulfill our international obligation on UNCAC. I can tell you that the pressure for good governance is laudable and is to be commended every single Belizean wants good governance. This government won an election on the promotion and promise of good governance. So it’s something that we, that aspect is laudable and we fully intend to do that. What is a little bit, you know, of concern to us and I find it a bit unreasonable is to expect a newly elected government to overnight run with these pieces of legislation. We had nothing, I went to the ministry, there was nothing. No drafts, no workable drafts that we could run with. The the legal drafting unit has been working around the clock to draft the protective disclosures bill, and they are working right now on the Civil Asset Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Orders bill right now as we speak.”
Back in January of this year the Attorney General explained that her office had sought assistance from India. She explained that the Briceno administration has been looking at this matter long before the unions began clamouring for the full implementation of UNCAC.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General of Belize: “We are trying our best. I had explained we have a very small legal drafting unit and we have various legislative demands from various ministries so it’s juggling and the unit is very much under strain. I have reached out for technical help but in a time of COVID every country is under siege. I had reached out to the High Commission in India because they have legal drafts persons to ask them to send some to our ministry to help to get some of these reforms as quickly as possible. I made that request from I believe the High Commissioner visited in January but as you know India is under siege with COVID and so regrettably that country is suffering so I was hopeful I would get two additional legal drafts persons in place but understandably that country is under siege.”
Attorney General Marin-Young says some work has been done in legislation drafting but there is also the aspect of consultations that need to take place.
Magali Marin Young, Attorney General of Belize: “We have a protective disclosures bill that has already been drafted. We hope by this week to complete the Civil Asset Recovery and Unexplained Wealth Order Bill after that it’s a matter of consultations. We have to consult because we are changing certain remedies, legal frameworks so we have to consult with the stakeholders on this. We will definitely try to expedite things despite the COVIID limitations in terms of consultations and gatherings but we’ll have to try to expedite those.”