14th July, 2014
Dear Mr. Publisher,
Your “From The Publisher” column of Sunday the 13th July, 2014 was read with great interest. Therein, you chronicled powerfully the grave injustices the existing gun law is having on Belizeans and how this law is further eroding the confidence our people have in the system and governance in our country. As pointed out, whatever may have been the intention of the law, it is now clear to all that this law is “an ass”.
The specific provisions of the law which have caused this draconian and dragnet cruel effect on our people is a combination of an amendment to Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act in 2008 (Act No. 5 of 2008 – enacted immediately after the UDP came to power) and an amendment to the Firearms Act in December, 2010 (Act No. 28 of 2010).
We wish to point out, however, that the record will show that the Opposition members at the time (both in 2008 and 2010) voted against these legislations and indeed, in December, 2010 when the most recent draconian of these legislations were debated in the House of Representatives, the present Leader of Opposition, Hon. Francis Fonseca, condemned the Amendment to the Firearms Act and cautioned the government of the negative adverse effect it would have on our people.
Indeed, the present Leader in February of this year on the adjournment of the House of Representatives, addressed the matter once more of the repressive effect of these laws were continuing to have on countless otherwise innocent Belizeans. At the time, the Government (through the Minister of National Security), had promised to look into the matter. Well, while they continue looking, the injustices that were foretold continue to exacerbate and be meted out to families like (most recently) the Smiths.
The Leader, however, did not only speak to the matter in the National Assembly, he promptly instructed the party’s attorneys to review the relevant laws and draft proposed amendments which would ameliorate the injustices visited on our people. This was done and on the Leader’s further instructions, these proposed amendments were submitted to the Minister of National Security as part of our serious contribution to an obvious national issue. Kindly find enclosed for your review and attention, correspondence sent to the Minister of National Security and draft amendments.
In an economic environment (as we are experiencing now) in which people are already burdened and feel beaten and spent, these draconian, asinine laws, as you point out, can only further erode people’s confidence in the system and governance. Such conditions are never good for a country. History teaches us this. The government does not seem to understand this.
We therefore, agree with you and the thousands of Belizeans who condemn these laws and again appeal to the Government to do the sensible, responsible and right thing – remove these laws.
We will continue as well to do our part to rid the country of these wretched laws, such as moving the motion in the House to introduce the PUP’S proposed amendments to the Firearms Act and Crime Control Justice Act.
There are, as well, other laws which also require review and change such as the “weed law” as you spoke in your column. These, I am authorized to say, will be part of a new PUP government’s entire reform of the justice system and governance in our country.
(Signed) Anthony Sylvester, Jr.
Legal Advisor, People’s United Party (PUP)