A privilege is a special right or immunity granted or available only to a particular group or person, such as a right or immunity attached to a position or office. For example, parliamentary privilege is a legal immunity enjoyed by members of certain legislatures, in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties.
In contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or human beings from the moment of birth. Under the Belize Constitution, Belizeans only have privileges and have no rights.
Part II Section 3 of the revised Belize Constitution deals with fundamental rights and freedoms. The Belize Constitution lists four rights: “(a) life, liberty, security of the person, and the protection of the law; (b) freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association; (c) protection for his family life, his personal privacy, the privacy of his home and other property and recognition of his human dignity; and (d) protection from arbitrary deprivation of property.” These rights and freedoms are privileges that can be taken away arbitrarily in the “public interest”. At the end of Section 3, it states, “…does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.” It seems reasonable, but it gives the legislators (politicians) absolute power, because they can and do define many things as being “in the public interest.”
I will use as an example the recent declaration of a State of Emergency on the Southside of Belize City, which is arbitrary and capricious. Is our political directorate so incompetent that they cannot deal with crime with the usual legal framework? Do they need to dehumanize everyone on the Southside?
I live on the Southside, and I got scared of the police, who are agents of the state, when I heard a State of Emergency was declared, because I know that means that my protection under the law has been taken away.
This is dangerous. Many authorities have said that if you’re not breaking the law, you have nothing to worry about. This will only be true if you have perfect politicians and police that do not abuse their power.
I am not breaking the law, but I worry because I know that the state has absolute power and it is corrupt. The police are not the problem. They are instruments of the political directorate. Of course, many will abuse their powers, and it is unnecessary. Our political elites have lost control and now want more power.
The same knife that sticks sheep, sticks goats. If they can abuse the criminals, they can abuse me. I am not special.
This declaration of State of Emergency will work on curbing crime for at most 3 years, but it will have an effect of creating more brutal criminals. The longer it is used, the less effective it will become, because the criminals will adapt.
If their circumstances do not change, they will continue to commit crime and will have to be more brutal to survive the more restrictive sociopolitical environment.
It happened in Jamaica. When Jamaica started to use SOE’s to fight crime in January 2018, it had an over 90% approval rate, and crime went down by over 20%. Jamaica has been using the SOE for over 2 years now, and crime is going up now and many are criticizing it, even the politicians of the party in power.
I doubt Jamaica can go back to regular policing anytime soon, because they have created more savvy criminals. Belize is following suit.
Our Constitution was given to us by the British, although many say that our political leaders at the time of independence helped to craft it. Why is it more than 75% similar, verbatim, to the constitutions of Jamaica and Barbados, etc.?
I find the Constitution of Belize to be a con job, a sham and a deadly joke. The Belize Constitution makes me a subject, which means that I have no inherent rights, but privileges that can be taken away whimsically by our politicians.
Belizeans can never be free under our present Constitution.
Brian Ellis Plummer