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Home Features GoB amending the constitution on non-priority items

GoB amending the constitution on non-priority items

According to Belize Breaking News, the People’s United Party government in Belize is planning to amend the Belize Constitution again this coming Friday with Amendment No. 11. This amendment will reportedly disqualify Belizean citizens who have been convicted of certain crimes in Belize and other Commonwealth countries and who have served time in prison from serving in the House of Representatives in Belize. I do not know, until the Bill is presented, what other types of disqualifications will be added in this legislation.

Amending a constitution is a good thing for governments to do, but the governments doing so should always look at the most important, pressing issues affecting our people and nation before making the decision to amend the constitution. I do not see this amendment as an important issue at this time. The government has a 26-5 majority in the House and can amend the Constitution anytime within the next five years when the next election is constitutionally due.

Arresting, prosecuting and placing corrupt government ministers and civil servants on trial is a top priority item in Belize, because corruption is an ongoing problem in Belize and has led to substantial government revenue loss. For this (prosecution of corrupt officials) to happen in Belize, we should amend the constitution to change the way the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecution, Judges, Magistrates, Commissioner of Police and other key, top public servants are appointed.

These people are appointed by the Prime Minister and his government and are loyal to them. If the Prime Minister and his Ministers commit any crime or crimes, they will never be arrested, prosecuted and brought to trial for the crime or crimes they committed. This is the way things are in Belize and have been under the PUP and UDP administrations for decades. All they continue to do is to blame each other for the corruption taking place in our country when they are in the opposition. When they get elected, they end up doing the same things that were done by the other party that left office, while many Belizeans continue to live in a state of poverty and dependency. Improving the citizens’ living conditions should always be the focus of a good and caring government.

The Article-7 amendment that was proposed by the former Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, in June of 2009, which he suspended thereafter, was intended to grant Belizeans with dual citizenship all their rights as citizens of Belize to vote and run for office, as well as other rights afforded to Belizeans under the constitution — rights which have even been given to native Guatemalans and other citizens. That amendment is needed, long overdue and much-deserved. The People’s United Party should reintroduce and pass this amendment in the House of Representatives.

If they were to pass this amendment, it would gain the support of Belizeans living in the United States, who would likely get more involved in their country’s affairs and would more extensively assist our people and government financially in order to boost our foreign exchange reserves and develop our homeland. Before the Referendum was held in 2019, Representative Kareem Musa from the Caribbean Shores Division, had tabled a Bill to allow Belizeans living in the United States to vote in the Referendum. That referendum was to decide if the British-Guatemala Territorial Dispute over Belize, should be heard by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to seek a final resolution to the dispute.

Now that his PUP party is in power and they have the votes by a huge majority of 26 to 5 seats, he should resubmit his Bill to the National Assembly for passage. If not, many Belizeans, including myself, will classify his previous action as only a political strategy to gain traction at the time. Belizean citizens who were born in Belize have been denied of their rights because they have dual citizenship in Belize and the United States.

Guatemalans who are not supposed to be granted Belizean citizenship because of their country’s claim to ours, continue to receive Belizean citizenship and all the benefits that come with it. They can even run for political office while some native Belizeans cannot. Guatemala does not take away the rights of their citizens to their country when they become citizens of another country. Once you were born in Guatemala, you remain a citizen of Guatemala, because there is no revocation of their citizenship in their laws. If Guatemala can have these benefits for their citizens, then Belize should do the same, because we have a very small population compared to Guatemala, and we need the contributions of all of our citizens to develop our nation.

Most of the people who have migrated out of Belize to the United States, are Garifuna and Creoles who make up the majority of the Black population in Belize. The migration of the Mayas and the Mestizos from neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala since the 1980’s, is huge, and now the Blacks in Belize are in the minority. Political representation and power are now in the hands of the majority population. I urge all Belizeans to monitor the constitutional amendments that are being proposed by this current government and future governments of Belize.

These amendments can have a negative impact on our rights and way of living in our beloved country Belize, if we sit back and say and do nothing about them. There are several benefits that the Article-7 Amendment, if approved, will bring to our people and nation Belize as it relates to our finances, foreign exchange, human development, professionalism in various fields, military, economy, national security, education, sports and especially the Constitutional guarantee of Equal Opportunity for all Belizean citizens, despite their dual nationality with another country.

As long as this issue remains unresolved, Equal Constitutional protection will continue to be denied to our fellow Belizean brothers and sisters who live in America. I call on all Belizeans living in America to demand their rights from the government of Belize, despite their political party affiliations.

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