BELIZE CITY, Fri. Nov. 13, 2015–Having been suspended with the announcement of early elections, the National Assembly has not met since September; but today, the recently elected parliamentarians, plus those appointees who will make up the Senate, converged for a ceremonial sitting of the 12th National Assembly in Belmopan.
Governor-General Sir Colville Young said: “While it marks the 5th administration of the United Democratic Party, it is also the 1st time in post-independent Belize that a political party has been elected to 3 consecutive terms in office.”
“The party banners are being lowered and the poster colors of red and blue and green will soon fade. And as we put away the paraphernalia of one ‘P,’ it is time to embrace that other ‘P.’ The ‘P’ we should value most: the “P” that stands for the people,” said the country’s first third-term Prime Minister, Dean Barrow.
Barrow pledged that his administration will address issues such as jobs, education, health, and infrastructure.
“We shall empower the young and honor the old. We shall grow the economy and increase business. We shall husband the nation’s wealth and steward its resources. Above all, we shall conduct the operation of government with integrity,” he said.
While the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) seeks a new leader, Francis Fonseca, who announced his resignation right after his party lost the elections, will continue to serve as Leader of the Opposition.
The parliamentarians of both the upper house of Parliament, the Senate, and the lower house of Parliament, the House of Representatives—42 in all—took their oath of office to serve in Parliament. Although all members of the House must be elected by registered voters, those in the Senate—who sometimes include persons from the leading parties who ran in elections but lost—are appointed to serve in the legislature from among five groups: the ruling party, the Opposition party, the private sector, the churches, and the unions/civil society.
Lee Mark Chang, who has previously filled in as president of the Senate, was formally appointed to that post – the first Asian to rise to such a position in Belize’s Parliament. In 2012, Chang unsuccessfully challenged Francis Fonseca in Freetown for the UDP.
“I shall do everything in my power to make sure that the proceedings of the House are carried out with dignity and impartiality,” said Chang, who commented that he would be spending the weeks ahead honing his parliamentary skills.
Dr. Carla Barnett, who challenged Fonseca in the most recent election but who lost, will serve as vice president of the Senate.
In all, there are 12 seats in the Senate. The other UDP Senators are: Godwin Hulse, Aldo Salazar, Francine Burns, Steve Duncan and Macario Coy.
The PUP has reappointed its three Senators: Lisa Shoman, Anthony Sylvestre, who lost to UDP leader Dean Barrow in Queen’s Square, and Patrick Andrews, who lost to the UDP’s John Saldivar in Belmopan.
Senator Mark Lizarraga has been reappointed to represent the private sector.
Pastor Ashley Rocke has been newly appointed as Senator for the churches, in place of Rev. Noel Leslie.
Meanwhile, the unions and civil society, which had in the past been represented by Senator Ray Davis, are yet to declare who will represent them at the Senate in future sittings.