7 News Belize

Searching for Meaning In The Consultations
posted (August 11, 2011)
And while that captured the emotional tenor of the night, we've also extracted a few relevant portions of the presentations that dealt with the substance of the comments on the ninth amendment package.

Almost everyone agreed with the public ownership of utilities, but the sticking point is the proposed controversial addition to section 69, the proposed subsection 9 - which puts amendments beyond inquiry by the courts.

The Solicitor General Cheryl Krusen tried to dispel apprehension by pointing to the fact that other areas of the constitution - as it currently stands - also puts certain acts beyond judicial review - and yet they still go before the courts:

Cheryl Krusen - Solicitor General
"And that sub-section is a sub-section which is seeking to remove all doubts by declaring that there is no limitation, whether substantive or procedural, on the power of the National Assembly, which is the power given by the existing section 69, to alter any of the provisions of the Constitution. And once it is passed in conformity with section 69, then it shall not be open to challenge in court. Is this language used anywhere else in the Constitution? And yes, examples are here on the screen. We see that section 33, the actions of the Deputy Governor General shall not be questioned in a court of law. There they are. Section 55, the actions of the Belize Advisory Council shall not be questioned in a court of law. And if we go further, section 33:4, the actions of the Governor General shall not be questioned in a court of law."

Lisa Shoman - PUP Senator
"Earlier on, Mr. Chairman, this Solicitor General spoke about sections which had to do with ousting the courts. The Solicitor General spoke sections which are enumerated in section 96 of the Constitution. And if the Solicitor General wishes to be complete to the people of Belize, she must tell the people of Belize, that neither in section 33:2, 34:4, 54:18, 69:6, 84, or 123:3 do the words appear in there, which says the follow: 'on any ground whatsoever'. There is no section says that the court cannot inquire on any ground whatsoever. That is new language which is being added into this Constitution. Words, Mr. Chairman, have meaning. There is not one single Constitution that has ever sought to bar natural justice."

Member of the public #1
"You said that it can't happen. Somebody else said that it cannot happen, any at all. Somebody else said that it cannot happen none at all. Don't all of them mean the same thing, that it cannot happen?"

Cheryl Krusen
"If, for instance, in the full text of section 69, you see more than what you see, no court shall inquire whatsoever, it still does not take away from the ability to ensure that whatever acts are done, have to be in conformity with the Constitution."

Canon Leroy Flowers
"The Council of Churches fully supports Governments', in its wisdom to - if they feel in the national interest to nationalize any of its utilities. Our concern, however, is that when it is put beyond the courts, then it creates the fear and doubt - and does not engender the kind of democracy that we say, that we ascribe to."

Cheryl Krusen
"I will agree with him that the courts are necessary to adjudicate; that is what they are there for. At the same time, again, I will repeat - I think for maybe the 10th time tonight - that the courts have a role to play. There is absolutely no loss of rights to the courts. I have been practicing for the past 30 years, and I can tell you that if you are told otherwise, that is not true. You lose not one inch of any right you had before the amendment to the 9th Constitution."

John Saldivar - Chairman of the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee
"This is boiling down to how the Constitution is amended. And whether we want to give the power to the court to amend our Constitution, or whether we want that power to reside with Parliament. That, to my mind, is the fundamental question. And I believe that only Parliament is answerable to the people, and so only Parliament should be able to make and change our Constitution."

Member of the Public #3
"While we are looking as a Government, and as an Administration right now, to make changes to our Constitution, before approaching or before entering into that arena, why don't you first get the mandate of the people? In other words, make the Referendum Act something binding. Do that first, and then you know whether or not you have the will of the people."

John Saldivar
"People seem to forget that there was an election in 2008. That was when this Government received the mandate of the people. And this Government, not only received the mandate of the people, it received the three-fourths majority mandate of people."

Member of the Public #4
"The will of the people is an elastic term under which any amount of social falacies may be hidden. If you want to learn the will of the people, Mr. Chairman, I believe you should call an election, and you will see the will of the people."

John Saldivar
"These are some falacies that are being put about, that if you did not put something in your manifesto, that you means that you cannot address it when you are the government. That's a falsehood. The point has to be made that we would have put this in our manifesto, had we known about the Accomodation Agreement."

Member of the public #5
"Not because you have a mandate, means that you are the Supreme, my friend. I respect you, because you are elected. Okay, I respect your position, but sometimes, I don't respect the man itself."

Member of the Public #6
"The main aim and purpose of this amendment bill is the nationalization and giving it back to the people. I don't want any of my utilities in any foreign direct investments who are expropriate their funds back to their country."

John Saldivar
"Section 2 and 69 has to do with public utilities, is to put it out the reach of Michael Ashcroft."

Member of the Public #7
"It is important for the Belizean people not to be carried away by what this one or that one are saying, but listen to the law. Listen to what has happened to Belize previously in the law, in the cases. Let us look at our precendences. Let us look at the law."

John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition
"The problem that we have and why it is that we are against the 9th amendment to the Constitution is that: 1. it bars citizens in certain conditions from going to the court. I believe that citizens must always have access to the court."

The consultation started at a few minutes past seven and went until about five minutes past ten.

We counted 34 presenters from the audience: 19 opposed to the ninth amendment and fifteen in favour.

Of that 34, about four of them were persons who could be considered non-aligned politically.

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