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Thursday, August 6, 2020
Home Editorial Our senators need some teeth

Our senators need some teeth

Some of the most brilliant minds Belize has produced have served in the Senate, and the debates in that arm of government testify to that. Most Belizeans would say that they learn more from the debates in the Senate than they do from debates in the House of Representatives, which are oftentimes given to grandstanding. The trouble for Belize is that where the more serious talk is, there is very limited power, and where the sometimes wasteful talk is, power is unfettered.

One of the longest serving senators in our country, present Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. Godwin Hulse, was the senator representing the business sector in May, 2007, when, speaking on a bill that would transfer millions of dollars in assets at BTL, to Telemedia, he expressed his frustration with the impotence of the body.

That bill, called the Vesting Bill, arrived from the House of Representatives with a package reportedly stamped “confidential”, and when the senators discussed it, none of the non-government senators had seen all the substance of the agreement. Hulse was shamed, furious, and he didn’t hide it.

Senator Hulse: “You talk of an agreement you do not show us … an agreement which sets out to transfer assets and liabilities on terms of what has been agreed between two parties that we were not a party to … Mr. President I find it incredible … You haven’t showed me this agreement … What do we look like¯real true rubber stamp? What do we look like? Silly people? Come on man, don’t do that to me.” (from 7News transcript)

We can’t say that this was the worst moment for our Senate, but you shouldn’t need another moment like this to realize that your mouth is all gum, and if you don’t get some teeth you are wasting your time discussing meaty issues.

At the time the “Vesting Bill” was debated in the Senate, the PUP government had increased the number of seats in the senate to 12. The six government senators voted yes for the bill, although only one of them had owned up to actually seeing the full agreement, and there were five votes against it. It was not explained why the senator for the churches did not turn up that day in 2007 for the Senate meeting.

Some of us thought teeth would come with a 13th senator. It won’t happen. The present government has already shown how easy it is for them to control an appointed senator, and how willing they are to do that. The record says that no government senator has ever voted against the government on a critical issue. We have seen some stirrings of intellectual integrity over party alliance. The elected politicians are too dishonorable and petty, however, to respect that kind of challenge.

If we are for better governance in our parliamentary democracy, we have to tweak the system. One way forward is to elect our senators, so that they will have some teeth.

Cheryl-Lynn spoke her truth

It was no revelation, but Belizeans were pleasantly surprised when Senior Counsel, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, the Director of Public Prosecutions, fresh off the successful prosecution of five persons accused of the murder of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas, told 7News journalist, Daniel Ortiz, that our justice system is not pure. DPP Vidal said that Cheryl-Lynn, the private citizen, has thought many times that “political influence, financial influence, even street influence” are factors in the delivery of justice in Belize.

Knowing/accepting the truth is important; acting on what we know is even more important. We know the reasons behind our frightening murder rate. Our economy is not working for many of our citizens, too many of our political leaders are corrupt, and there is no justice in our land.

If murder wasn’t such a grave crime, we could laugh at our ineptitude in court. You really have to be incompetent or dishonest to fail at delivering justice in more than 90% of cases. Such bungling or corruption would be funny in a movie or a book. On the ground it is causing our country to fall apart.

Amazingly, the lawyers are still stimulated by the details of the state’s cases as they unravel in the courtroom. It is the fodder for their discourse over high-quality Scotch whiskey and club sandwiches. The people are not excited by the failure of the system. We want justice. We demand justice in these murder cases. As the group led by Pastor Louis Wade said: We want our country back! One way to do that is to push back on influence.

BPM, NTUCB have had enough of GoB pussyfooting on UNCAC

It’s been three years since Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Patrick Faber, signed the UNCAC convention, making Belize the 184th country to agree to have the United Nations as a partner in the fight against corruption. Belize has progressed little with its implementation.

Bobby Lopez, the leader of the Belize Peace Movement (BPM), says he knows why. On 9th December, the day set to observe the passing of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), Lopez said our political leaders are “dragging their feet because a few of them are going to jail” when anti-corruption laws are fully in place.

The National Trade Union Conference of Belize (NTUCB) said in a recent press release that the government must move aggressively toward implementing the anti-corruption legislation. The NTUCB said its “delegates noted the stalled UNCAC process”, and it expects to see a serious response by February 28, 2020.

Corruption, as per the definition in the dictionary, is “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.” Our political leaders who have brought us to poverty by their incompetence and corruption need to understand that they cannot label us corrupt. There are other descriptions for the weakness, vulnerability of the poor. Corrupt is not one of them.

The major political parties have introduced no campaign financing laws. When the present Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, ran in the Collet Division some time ago, he flew banners across the streets telling voters to “tek dehn money an vote dem out.” Faber is now running for the leadership of his party, which is the one that has had control of the House of Representatives over eleven consecutive years. Is “tek dehn money and vote dem out” still the only answer we have to election bribery?

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