BELMOPAN, Fri. Feb. 5, 2021– During the last sitting of the House of Representatives, Hon. Prime Minister John Briceño proposed that the standing orders be amended so that subsequent meetings of the House of Representatives and the Senate can take place virtually rather than in-person due to concerns about transmission of COVID-19 and the restricted movement of area representatives within the meeting room due to the retrofitting of the space in line with COVID-19 protocols.
Prime Minister Briceño, in explaining the move, said that “… it is expedient to amend the standing orders on the House of Representatives to allow, for the House to meet virtually in the interest of public health, public safety, national security or public emergency.”
“It is very difficult to be able to have House meetings here in the House because we are in small cramped quarters’’, the Prime Minister shared. He added, “Many people ask, ‘well, why don’t you just meet virtually, use Zooms or teams or whatever that you want to use?’ We then have to explain to them that standing orders never envisioned for a day that you can host House meetings virtually.”
Hon. John Briceño commented that the shift from in-person meetings of members of the legislature to virtual ones has actually already taken place in a number of countries. “This is something that is not new to Belize. They have been doing this in some countries, especially in the Caribbean. Basically, we are not inventing the wheel. We are just moving with the times and giving you, Madam Speaker, the proper tools to decide how best, we can hold meetings,” he said.
The Prime Minister concluded by saying that this is a move that would protect all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and, instead of forcing them into flexi-glass chambers, would allow them to attend meetings in the safety of their homes during this time of a global pandemic.