The case that was brought by the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) against the Government of Belize, was brought because both the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) have been violating the Constitution of Belize, as it relates to Section 6 of the Representation of the Peoples Act Section 90(1) by failing to conduct a redistricting of the political constituencies after a specified period of years based on the changes in the constituencies’ population.
The last time the Belize government conducted a redistricting exercise was in the year 2002. At that time the People’s United Party was in government and the Prime Minister of Belize was Said Musa. He replaced George Price as the party leader in October of 1996 and won his first election by a landslide in the general elections of 1998 by a margin of 26 to 3 over the United Democratic Party (UDP) and their leader Manuel Esquivel. After that election, Manuel Esquivel resigned as leader of his party and he was replaced by Dean Barrow.
General elections were held in Belize in 2003, and the People’s United Party (PUP) won 22 seats and the United Democratic Party won 7 seats. Musa then became the first Prime Minister of Belize to be elected for two consecutive terms after Belize became independent in 1981. In Musa’s second term, which was to last from 2003-2008, there was a rebellion by seven members of his Cabinet known as the G-7.
This rebellion occurred on Thursday, August 12, 2007 in Belmopan when seven Cabinet Ministers called for a “restraining order” on the then Minister of Finance, Hon. Ralph Fonseca, for the way he was spending government funds. These Ministers were Deputy Prime Minister John Briceño, who is now the Prime Minister; Joe Coye; Mark Espat, who left the party; Eamon Courtenay, now Minister of Foreign Affairs (Senator); Cordel Hyde, now Minister of Lands; Godfrey Smith, and Servulo Baeza.
Prime Minister Said Musa refused to honor their request, and eventually they rejoined the Cabinet, but their wounds were not healed. Municipal elections were held in 2006, and the United Democratic Party won by a landslide in the entire country. In Belize, this election is an indicator of which party will win the upcoming general election.
In 2008 the general elections were held in Belize and the United Democratic Party (UDP) defeated the People’s United Party in a landslide by a margin of 25 seats to 6 seats, making Dean Barrow the Prime Minister. Barrow and his United Democratic Party (UDP) were in office for three consecutive terms, from 2008 up until November of 2020 when his party was defeated by John Briceño and the People’s United Party by a margin of 26 seats to 5 seats.
From the time Dean Barrow became the Prime Minister of Belize, no redistricting was carried out. When the People’s United Party (PUP) was in the opposition, the indication was that they supported the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) in their legal efforts to get redistricting done. Now that they are the government of Belize, they are resisting all the efforts to conduct a redistricting exercise in accordance with our constitution of Belize.
They seem to be using the Election & Boundaries Commission to give the appearance that they will carry out the action and that there is no need for the Belize Peace Movement to go to court to resolve the matter. However, because both the PUP and the UDP have not complied with the constitutional mandate since 2003, the members of the Belize Peace Movement do not trust them and will continue their court action.
Knowing the Government of Belize, they will engage them with all sorts of inducement gestures to withdraw their case. It is not only the responsibility of the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) to make sure that our Belize government complies with our constitution, but it is also the responsibility of all of our Belizean citizens to ensure that they do.
In fact, when a Representative is elected to the Belize House of Representatives or appointed to our Senate, he or she must swear to an oath to abide by the Constitution and the laws of Belize. Failure for him or her to comply with his or her oath, is justification for the citizens to request that they leave office for being in violation of our constitution and laws. History has proven that governments who violate constitutions and laws lead to totalitarian regimes — repressive and undemocratic governments who violate their citizens’ rights.
I now call on the United Democratic Party, all the political parties in Belize, unions, stakeholders, religious institutions, our citizens living in Belize and abroad to join this movement to ensure that redistricting is done as is mandated by our constitution. From 2003 to 2022 is a total of 19 years of ongoing constitutional violation without any appeal or action coming from the citizens of Belize. We cannot expect our elected officials to take us seriously with this type of complacent behavior.
Today in Belize there is not even one elected Garifuna person in the Belize House of Representatives. Also, the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, where a majority of the Garifuna people have lived for centuries, even before they became a part of Belize in 1859, still only have two elected Representatives, each despite their significant growth in population. Plus, many immigrants have been brought into these districts, and granted citizenship and voting rights to make them the majority of people and future Representatives.
This is while some political districts in Belize City do not have enough voters to qualify their constituencies and all the other districts in Belize have had four or more seats since our country became independent in 1981. Yet, we boast of being a democratic nation and an upholder of basic fundamental human rights.
Another major infraction by the Belize government is its policy of denying natural- born Belizean Americans living in the United States who possess dual citizenship, their constitutional rights to vote in their country, to run for elected office and enjoy all their basic constitutional rights that are being granted to naturalized Guatemalans and other foreign citizens.
The time has now come to grant all the citizens of Belize justice by making sure that the populations of the political districts in Belize, reflect the same or similar amount of registered voters in all political constituencies nationwide.