Representatives from a number of organizations visited the National Assembly’s Committee Room on Monday morning to present their concerns and recommendations regarding the proposed People’s Constitutional Commission.
By Khaila Gentle
BELMOPAN, Mon. July 25, 2022
The People’s Constitutional Commission (PCC) was the main topic of discussion during Monday’s House Committee meeting at the National Assembly. Several organizations, including the Young Leaders Alliance of Belize (YLAB) and the UBAD Educational Foundation (UEF), were present at the meeting in the hopes of lobbying for the representation of those groups that are not on the list of entities that will be given the chance by GoB to select reps to sit on that committee.
This comes after a communique from the Clerk of the National Assembly announced that those wishing to give their views on the People’s Constitutional Commission Bill were welcome to do so either in writing (by Friday, July 22) or in person at the House Committee meeting.
Following the release of the list of entities to have representation on the People’s Constitutional Commission last week, several groups expressed concern at the lack of representation of certain societal groups and the over-representation of others.
The National Kriol Council on Friday expressed outrage at its exclusion from the PCC, stating that it is a “cause for alarm” and calling it a move that further marginalizes Belize’s Kriol. Similarly, UEF had written to the Minister of Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform, and Religious Affairs, Hon. Henry Charles Usher, in March to request that two Afro-Belizeans be included on the Commission, but they received no response.
Shortly after the Kriol Council made its statement, however, it was revealed in an article by The Reporter that a proposal had been drafted by the Government’s Good Governance Unit for African-descent Belizeans to have representation.
That and other proposed changes to the PCC were presented at Monday’s meeting when individuals representing various entities shared their views with the Committee on Constitution and Foreign Affairs, Including Privileges, Standing Orders & Regulations.
UEF’s chairperson, Yaya Marin Coleman, spoke on behalf of those Belizeans who are descendants of Africans. Marin Coleman vouched for UEF’s credibility in regard to matters related to the Constitution. She noted that UEF, believing it is “unfair and unethical” to ask people to discuss a bill that they know nothing about, launched an education campaign regarding the Constitution from as early as December 2020.
She also pointed out the fact that while the major political parties have two representatives each and the unions of Belize have three representatives, some key groups, particularly those that are already marginalized and under-represented, have none. The representative for the Belizean diaspora, Bilal Morris, echoed her sentiments. Marin Coleman also suggested that the commission’s decisions should require, not majority vote, but consensus.
The Young Leaders Alliance of Belize (YLAB) was represented by Regional Representative for the Commonwealth Youth Council, Dominique Noralez, and prominent Belizean athlete and morning talk show host Bryton Codd.
YLAB is a youth organization that was founded with the intention of increasing the participation of Belize’s youth in the country’s sustainable development journey. It is made up of some 200 Belizeans under the age of 35 who have a genuine interest in taking part in the country’s development process.
“Our actions today will impact several generations to come. It’s a disservice, therefore, to embark upon review of the document which will become [a] piece of our democracy and will therefore dictate the functioning of our society without engaging and involving the youngest within society,” said Bryton Codd.
The YLAB emphasized the need to amplify youth voices in democratic processes, stating that it is prepared to organize discussion forums, draft policy papers and reviews, and conduct polls to provide adequate representation for Belize’s youth.
“There is no valiant, there is no bold rebounding of Belize without its youth,” said Codd.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Kevin Bernard and area representative for the Collet constituency, Hon. Patrick Faber both agreed with YLAB’s stance that Belizean youth must have representation on the PCC, regardless of whether YLAB will be the organization to provide that.