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Electing the Attorney General

FeaturesElecting the Attorney General

The People’s Constitutional Commission (PCC) should consider electing Attorney Generals of Belize, rather than to keep appointing them.

by: Wellington C. Ramos

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Under the Constitution of Belize, the Prime Minister can appoint an elected representative or an unelected person to be the Attorney General of our country. Most of the unelected representatives that were appointed, were made senators so that they could be a part of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet because of the importance of this powerful and significant portfolio.

Under this arrangement, the Attorney General is mostly loyal to the Prime Minister or President and their political parties who employed him or her. Yet, his or her duties in the Constitution makes him or her the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the country to grant justice to all citizens. Also, to uphold the Constitution and to prosecute any citizen, including the Prime Minister, the President and members of the Cabinet, if they violate the Constitution and laws of the country.

He or she also serves at the pleasure of the Prime Minister or President, and can be asked to resign his or her office at any time. If the Prime Minister, President or members of their Cabinet break the law, it is highly unlikely that the Attorney General will bring any charges against them for fear of losing his or her employment.

This [allows] the Prime Minister, the President or members of his or her Cabinet to break the laws, commit crimes and violate the Constitution at will. No Attorney General in Belize or most countries has ever brought criminal charges against the Prime Minister or President who employed them.

Instead, they choose to resign from office when they suspect that the Prime Minister, the President or members of the Cabinet are breaking the laws or violating the Constitution. It is for this reason I ask that we the people of Belize ask our People’s Constitutional Commission (PCC) to consider electing our Attorney Generals for a four-year term.

The two major political parties like the system the way it is. Also, to have the National Assembly approve an annual budget for the office and have them be responsible for the management of our entire Judiciary System. This could be the gamechanger to end corruption in government, abuse of power and violation of our Constitution. If not, our Judiciary System will never be independent of the Prime Minister and his Executive Branch of our Government.

It is important to note that both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the decision to elect or appoint the Attorney General should be made based on the specific needs and circumstances of each country. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of both proposed models according to my research:

Advantages and Disadvantages of Appointing the Attorney General.

Advantages of Appointing the Attorney General

  1. Appointing the Attorney General can help ensure that the person appointed is qualified and experienced in the field of law.
  2. Appointing the Attorney General can help prevent the politicization of the office, as the person appointed is not beholden to any political party or interest group.
  3. Appointing the Attorney General can help ensure that the office is independent and free from political influence.

Disadvantages:

  1. Appointing the Attorney General can lead to a lack of accountability, as the person appointed is not directly accountable to the people.
  2. Appointing the Attorney General can lead to a lack of transparency, as the appointment process is often conducted behind closed doors.
  3. Appointing the Attorney General can lead to a lack of diversity, as the person appointed may not represent the interests of all groups in society.

Electing the Attorney General:

Advantages:

  1. Electing the Attorney General can help ensure that the person elected is accountable to the people.
  2. Electing the Attorney General can help ensure that the office is transparent, as the election process is open to the public.
  3. Electing the Attorney General can help ensure that the office is diverse, as the person elected may represent the interests of all groups in society.

Disadvantages:

  1. Electing the Attorney General can lead to the politicization of the office, as the person elected may be beholden to a particular political party or interest group.
  2. Electing the Attorney General can lead to a lack of qualifications, as the person elected may not have the necessary experience or expertise in the field of law.
  3. Electing the Attorney General can lead to a lack of independence, as the person elected may be influenced by political pressure or public opinion. I have written about this model in the past and have even brought this issue up at a Town Hall meeting that was held by Representatives of our government in New York City. They just said outrightly, without any explanation, that it cannot work in Belize. Yet, since Self-Government and Independence, both major political parties in our country of Belize, have been accusing each other of corruption, violating our Constitution and abuse of power with no end in sight.

I was reading about the lack of Belizean judges on the Supreme Court by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and our former Attorney General of Belize, Michael Peyrefitte. None of them mentioned the impact our Constitution has that has led to this situation. Maybe, both political parties believe that if they employ foreign judges, they will receive favorable rulings from the Supreme Court.

That is a political fantasy because most judges rule based on the law and the facts that are presented to them in court. I have noticed many rulings that the PUP have lost since they came to power in 2020 because they violated the Constitution on many of the decisions they made. If the judges rule against the government, they still will have their contracts. If the government terminates their contracts, they still will be paid, and it is to their benefit. Otherwise, the judges will sue the government.

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