BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 14, 2015–In view of recent comments made in the media regarding my position as Senator, particularly my attendance at the most recent Senate meeting, I consider it is necessary at this point to make the following statement. Hopefully, it will assist in sorting out the confusion regarding my tenure as Senator.
1. On 28th August 2015, I received by way of email from the General Secretary of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), a copy of a letter dated 25th August addressed to me and signed by the President of the NTUCB, Mr. Marvin Mora. The purpose of the letter was to inform me that I have been “removed as Senator for the NTUCB” and that “the Civil Society Steering Committee will also be informed of [the] decision and the Governor General will [be] subsequently notified”.
2.The letter was prefaced with a notice of the results of the votes at a meeting of the General Council of the NTUCB held on 22nd August 2015. I was informed that the majority of the Council had voted at the 22nd August meeting that the NTUCB was “not satisfied with [my] performance as Senator” and that “the Congress should replace [me] as a Senator”. The letter also referred to the “concerns” raised by the General Council regarding my performance, which I was invited to address at a meeting of the Council on 4th August 2015.
3.Prior to the said August 4th meeting I had invited every member of the General Council to send me all complaints/concerns they may have had regarding my performance as Senator so that, for accountability purposes I could respond in writing. As regards that request I received only the following responses:
a reply from President Mora wherein he primarily expressed his concern regarding my absence at the 1st July Senate meeting, and objections to my request from both the NTUCB Assistant General Secretary and the President of the Christian Workers Union.
4 At the said August 4th meeting of the General Council a single concern was raised and dealt with leaving me to deduce that this concern is the basis of the dissatisfaction with my Senate performance. That concern was the matter of my absence from a meeting of the Senate on 1st July 2015. This meeting occurred during a ten-day period when I was absent from Belize on a church mission trip and visiting my convalescing Father. No other concern was raised.
5. It was acknowledged at the August 4th meeting, albeit indirectly and reluctantly by some members of the Council, that I had emailed both the President and the General Secretary of the NTUCB informing them of my planned absence at the July 1st Senate meeting. In spite of that clarification there was an insistence by some vocal members that there was poor communication on my part regarding notice of my planned absence at the Senate meeting.
6. As aforesaid, I can only conclude that my absence from the Senate meeting of 1st July 2015 or at least the prior email notification of my absence from that meeting is being used by some members of the General Council as an opportunity to attempt to “remove” me as Senator. Perhaps those persons are simply unaware of the provisions in the Belize Constitution governing the tenure of the office of Senator or misunderstand these provisions. If they had obtained legal advice from the Attorney-General’s Ministry, as the legal advisor for Government affairs, the current confusion regarding my position as Senator may have been avoided. Doubtlessly, it is not too late for them to still seek such advice, including advice on the role and composition of the Civil Society Steering Committee, which those persons seeking to “remove” me seem to misunderstand as well.
7. The tenure of office of a Senator is governed by section 64 of the Constitution. According to subsection (1) of section 64, “Every Senator shall vacate his seat in the Senate at the next dissolution of the National Assembly after his appointment.” Subsection (2) of section 64 provides that a Senator shall also vacate his seat in the circumstances set out in that subsection. Six scenarios are set out in subsection (2) of section 64.
Paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of section 64 states that”(emphasis added), “A Senator shall also vacate his seat in the Senate if he is absent from the sittings of the Senate for such period and in such circumstances as may be prescribed in the Senate Standing Orders. Absence from the Senate as ground for a Senator to vacate his Senate seat is thus governed by section 64 (2)(a) of the Constitution read in conjunction with the Senate Standing Orders. The Standing Orders of the Senate, specifically paragraph 77(2), provides: “If, without the leave of the President obtained in writing before the end of the last of the sittings referred to in this paragraph, any Senator is absent from the Senate for more than ten consecutive sittings occurring during the same session, such Senator shall vacate his seat in the Senate under subsection (2)(a) of section 64 of the Belize Constitution Act.”
Accordingly, it cannot be the case that I can be “removed” as Senator on account of my absence from the July 1st Senate meeting.
Furthermore, I cannot be “removed” as Senator on account of the manner of the notification of my absence from the said Senate meeting. Paragraph 77(1) of the Senate Standing Orders provides: “Any Senator who is prevented from attending a meeting of the Senate shall acquaint the Clerk as early as possible of his inability to attend.”
Not only did I email the President and the General Secretary of the NTUCB notifying them in advance of my planned absence from the Senate meeting of July 1st, what is more, I had visited the Clerk of the Senate at his office to notify him of my absence in accordance with the legal requirement.
8. While I am disappointed with the controversy regarding my tenure as Senator I will remain in the Senate until my term comes to an end in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, and will be seeking legal advice in respect of all untrue and derogatory statements made about me in the media and in various other settings by those persons seeking to “remove” me from the Senate. I will continue to act in the office of Senator nominated by the NTUCB and Civil Society with utmost professionalism, and will continue to seek advice from all relevant and willing parties regarding the matters that I must debate and decide upon as Senator for the people of Belize.