Letters — 08 October 2013 — by J.C. Arzu

Dear Editor,

Belize’s 32-year-old version of “taxation without representation” is imposed on Belizeans, residents and visitors by the Belize Constitution: Chapter 4, Part 5, Section 40, Subsection 2. The Executive/Ministers of Government.

And, I quote BelizeLaw.org: “(2) Appointments to the office of Minister shall be made by the
Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, from among members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate: Provided that persons holding the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives or President of the Senate may not be appointed to the office of Minister.”

This is why it’s taxation without representation. As you already know, area representatives are elected at each Belize general election. However, the above portion of the Constitution dictates that the Prime Minister promote some area reps to the office of Minister of Government. Those promoted area reps, for all intents, purposes, and practice, are no longer able representatives of taxpayers for the remainder of their term in office. Effectively, leaving all taxpayers unrepresented in the third branch (the Legislature) of a democratic three-branch form of government.

For taxpayers to be represented in government, area representatives, also known as law makers, must sit exclusively in the legislature. Their job is representing taxpayers in the legislature on standing and or temporary house committees. House Committee public hearings are where taxpayers get represented, and have their many questions asked of government Ministers, senior and junior public servants, professionals and non-professionals alike, about the pressing issues of the day. House Committee public hearings are also one of the ways taxpayers get to see, and hear their money at work, scrutinizing the performance and supervising the other two branches (the Executive and the Judiciary) of a democratic three-branch form of government.

Belize, formerly British Honduras as you and I know, has a history of undemocratic laws. Up to 27th April 1943, and, I quote Wikipedia.org “The law governing labour contracts, the Masters and Servants Act of 1883, made it a criminal offence for a labourer to breach a contract. The offence was punishable by twenty-eight days of imprisonment with hard labour”.

“Trade unions were legalised in 1941, but the laws did not require employers to recognise these unions.”

Antonio Soberanis Gómez (1897–1975) was jailed under a new sedition law in 1935.

“The governor also pressed for a semi-representative government. But when the new constitution was passed in April 1935, it included the restrictive franchise demanded by the appointed majority of the Legislative Council, which had no interest in furthering democracy. High voter-eligibility standards for property and income limited the electorate to the wealthiest 2 percent of the population. Poor people, therefore, could not vote; they could only support members of the Creole middle classes that opposed big-business candidates. The Citizens’ Political Party and the Labourers and Unemployed Association (LUA) endorsed Robert Turton and Arthur Balderamos, a Creole lawyer, who formed the chief opposition in the new council of 1936. Working-class agitation continued, and in 1939 all six seats on the Belize Town Board (the voting requirements allowed for a more representative electorate) went to middle-class Creoles who appeared more sympathetic to labour.”

Please note that equality before that law does not exist in a monarchial form of government. However, a truly representative legislature gets a nation a little closer to equality under the law.

So. On this Friday, 4th October 2013, the appointed majority is the Senate and, taxation without representation continues in Belize.

The revolution, is up ahead.

J.C. Arzu
[email protected]

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