BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 21, 2021– When interviewed by local reporters this week, UDP chairman, Michael Peyrefitte was asked to respond to the assertions of Cayo South representative, Julius Espat, that the proposed 11th amendment is in line with the aims of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), since the law would raise the standards of governance within the country.
Peyrefitte, who served as Attorney General under the previous UDP administration, replied that neither the UNCAC nor any other international convention mandates that persons who have served time in prison be barred from running for office. (The proposed 11th amendment to the Constitution seeks to bar convicted criminals from serving in our National Assembly.)
“Even though UNCAC talks about raising the bar on so many things, it definitely did not go so far as to say that anybody with any criminal record or who has spent a certain amount of years in prison cannot run for office,” he said.
He further stated that if the public is aware of a candidate’s past and chooses to have that person represent them, their will would override even the Constitution.
“No convention, in my view, can override the fundamental principle of our criminal justice system, which is reform. You know, when the Hon. Shyne Barrow put his name down to be elected for Mesopotamia, the people of Mesopotamia knew that he spent ten years in prison, you know. This is a matter where the people knew the circumstances of the candidates they had to choose from, and the people said, ‘we believe that a person can reform; we believe that a person can change and can serve us.’ And the will of the people of Mesopotamia has Shyne Barrow there, and even though the Constitution is the supreme law, I don’t think that it is more supreme than the will of the people,” Peyrefitte remarked.
Peyrefitte went on to say that the 11th amendment sends the message that there is no reform for a person who made mistakes during his/her youth but has redeemed himself/herself and become a positive member of society. He further commented that the passing of such an amendment would cause those persons to be perpetually punished for mistakes made during their formative years.
Next Monday, the House Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee will host a session during which members of the public will be able to present their views on the 11th amendment bill.