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Barrow, Finnegan, and son/nephew are catalysts for untimely full constitutional review

FeaturesBarrow, Finnegan, and son/nephew are catalysts for untimely full constitutional review

By Colin Hyde

   This wholesale reform of Belize’s Constitution is an intellectual heist, a hijacking of the agenda the people voted for. Opportunity came for them with the nepotistic decision of Dean Barrow and Michael Finnegan to give their son/nephew, Shyne, a safe UDP seat in the Mesopotamia Division, and the PUP response to correct that ambitious decision was the introduction of the 11th amendment in July of last year.

   Hmm, I’m having difficulty finding a soft spot here. Yes, I feel that the son/nephew has talent; yes, I am happy that the outcome of his meltdown in the US wasn’t the worst thing under heaven; yes, I feel that after the prescribed time he deserves every opportunity to pick up the pieces of his life, and no, I don’t believe that includes territory that makes him the poster boy of our people. I think his pa is acting like a dad when he says those who don’t like the arrangement are attacking poor, marginalized young people.

   Our Constitution wasn’t written in 1798; it was put together for independence in 1981. There is nothing perfect that is manmade, and it is natural for us to seek to improve our Constitution. There was a property thing in the old “one” back in 1798 that limited participation at the polls to people who were well-off. Slaves couldn’t vote, men who were poor couldn’t vote, women couldn’t vote. In the 1981 constitution, owning property wasn’t a requirement for voting.

   It is the great fortune of Belize – what they say, better to be lucky than good – that there were 14 men of color who had the prescribed quantity of property in 1798, and so could vote. Some Belizeans of Spanish lineage like to say, Spain, England, what’s the difference who was colonial master here. True, they are two great European cultures, but 1798 wasn’t directly about Spain and England, it was about Spain and an outcast set that had an alliance with the British. The short of this story is that the Maya who had left came back because of the special fabric that was woven here after 1798, and most everyone who came after, did so because of our special flavor.

   Pardon that little aside, the Blu Plan with all the reform promises didn’t drop out of the blue sky; it came about because of pressure from the people. Well, much is about to be scattered now, all because two UDP veterans are about holding on to power within the UDP.

   Bah, those bohgaz installed their son/nephew in the safe party seat in Mesop. They had groomed Zenaida, but she wasn’t compliant enough, and it’s too long a story to explain why they took it away from Mike Peyrefitte. Unfortunately for Belize, the son/nephew was just about the strangest political fit anywhere in the Commonwealth, maybe the world.

   Our Constitution, in Chapter 6, Section 57(d), speaks about individuals who cannot become members of the House of Representatives. The Constitution was hastily put together, much of it borrowed from the British, and it definitely needs patching in spots. The Section says that if you are under a sentence of death anywhere in the Commonwealth, or are in jail for a term that exceeds one year, you can’t be a member of the House.   

   The son/nephew had had a bad run-in with the law over in the States, and here enters the 11th amendment, which was introduced to the House last year. Getting some more facts into place, our Constitution doesn’t, can’t cover everything. Some things shouldn’t have to be said. The UK constitution doesn’t block people who have been convicted of violent crimes, because it doesn’t need to. They have great respect for honor and civility over there. The most recent UK leader just got booted from office, for frolicking on the job, and being soft on a pervert.

   There are those in Belize who say that at every level people have the right to choose who they want to lead them. That sounds so good until you realize that in a poor country with weak leaders, rich people can buy a lot of votes, even buy parties – the VIP and the BPP have said that both the PUP and UDP are paid for. The only real protection the people have is the Constitution. Those ones who think that democracy doesn’t need a little guidance should consider the 40% of Belizeans who generally don’t participate in elections. We have a responsibility to them to make sure that those in the leadership race have passed through a fine sieve.

   The UDP’s response to the proposed 11th amendment was incredible. The proposed 11th amendment would have led to the disqualification of the son/nephew, so a response was expected. Hmm, I guess the response had to be majorly imaginative. The son/nephew said the 11th was classicism, and if you enter that into the world of spin, somehow he gets portrayed as a poor black brother when the facts are that his family happens to be one of the wealthiest in our country. As for him, the money they say he passed through in his early years, well, no exaggeration, more than 50% of us won’t make as much in 20 lifetimes.

   The father, and some people who can only be described as innocents, take the defense of the Mesop choice even further. Continuing in the world of the unbelievable, the name of the son/nephew was linked with Mandela, Castro, Malcolm X, and our country’s greatest freedom fighter, Philip Goldson. The fact is that the son/nephew went to jail defending a couple American music and movie heroes. Did the Barrow/Finnegan entry actually call his music hero one of the most influential people in the world?

   Ah, the proposed 11th amendment was the opportunity the intellectuals needed to push their agenda for a full review of the Constitution. Thanks to all the spinning, the brother became a topic and the reason for us engaging in a complete review of our Constitution that, properly done, should take quite a while. Anybody remember that we should have already been deep into matters related to UNCAC? Is the PUP about using this Constitution thing to legitimize all their stalling on asset recovery?

   Barrow and Finnegan, the former has to answer for nepotism and corruption in the UDP, and the latter for his excesses in the House. Forget the son/nephew’s near total lack of interest in Belize and our heroes, and his devotion to a foreign songster/businessman, what we have here now is a full review of our Constitution that we are nowhere near prepared for.

    I say, if we continue along this misguided path, J. Briceño will get the title – Father of Belize’s Constitution. Who gets that feather is no real issue, what’s important is that such an exercise should yield an improved set of laws. For that to be attained, this thing must be done properly. For starters, we would need to embark on a six-month or year’s long program to teach our people about what is contained in our present Constitution. That wouldn’t have been necessary if students were taught about it in school, but that is not part of the prescribed curriculum. Some issues, like our relationship with the monarchy and our political system, aren’t overnight discussions.

   In these hard times, what a distraction from other serious issues this exercise will prove to be. Wa, Gays are at the table, but the UEF, the National Kriol Kongsyl, representatives of Belizeans abroad, many other important organizations, aren’t. We didn’t elect the PUP to rewrite the entire Constitution, we elected them to plug a few holes in it, and to make all of us win. As it stands right now, we are heading into a poorly thought out intellectual exercise, all because of a UDP power play and a fantastic spin section that completely twisted reality to suit their agenda.   

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