BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 20, 2022
Disappointment and disbelief – those were the sentiments expressed by the National Kriol Council (NKC) in a press release issued yesterday after Prime Minister John Briceno stated publicly that the National Kriol Council would not be afforded representation on the People’s Constitutional Commission. The legislation that sets the stage for the formation of the commission was passed in the House of Representatives on Monday and goes to the Senate for final ratification next Monday.
While there is still an opportunity to pass the law with amendments to include the NKC, the council decided to make known publicly their objections to the way the government has responded to their efforts to ensure inclusion of their reps on the commission. The organization, which believes that it has received mixed messages from GoB, said that they reached out to the Director of the Good Governance Unit, Cesar Ross, who indicated to them that the exclusion was an oversight and that Cabinet had already agreed in July 2022 to include representatives of the council. In fact, on the 27th of that month, Prime Minister Briceno made public comments indicating the government’s commitment to have Kriol representation on the commission.
“Therefore, we receive the news of the exclusion of the National Kriol Council by Prime Minister John Briceno at the sitting of the House of Representatives on Monday, October 17, 2022, with disbelief,” the release from the council states. The council further noted in the release that Director Ross had relayed confirmation to them that Hon. Henry Charles Usher, the Minister of Public Service and Constitutional and Political Reform, had committed to adding the NKC to the list of groups to be represented on the commission.
The release from the council states that Ross explained that any amendment to the bill before it was passed would delay the passing for another couple of months, since it would require going back to the House Committee. He thus stated in an e-mail, according to the NKC, that they decided to go through with the three readings of the bill, “as is, as it allows the Minister, after passing to add/subtract from the scheduled list.”
The NKC goes on to state in its release, “There are approximately 102,000 persons who identify as Kriol living in Belize, and given the immense contributions of Belizeans of Kriol descent to the development of Belize, it is unconscionable that this group of Belizeans can be excluded from such an important democratic process.”
They called the apparent refusal to grant the council representation on the PCC “an insult to Kriol people everywhere” and noted that reneging now on a commitment to allow the NKC representation on the commission “can only be and is seen as an attempt to marginalize Kriol communities”.
Of note, the council had nominated attorney Anthony Sylvester and UB lecturer Adelia Young to be its representatives on the commission.
The council thus called on the Government of Belize to fulfill its commitments and to take immediate steps to ensure the inclusion of the NKC.
“To do so, would be the democratic thing to do…,” the organization stated.
This evening, the Director of the Good Governance Unit, Cesar Ross, who reportedly met with Minister Henry Charles Usher this afternoon, confirmed to Amandala that “the Kriol Council, as committed before, will be on the People’s Constitution Commission.”