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Wild and lawless! Redistricting, or not?

EditorialWild and lawless! Redistricting, or not?

Sunday, May 26, 2024

When did we become this way as a nation? Old men assaulting young girls, babies, for goodness sake! Callous and selfish smart-alecks scamming trusting and gullible people out of their hard-earned life savings, knowing their earnest desire and dream of owning a piece of the Jewel, and a retirement home of their dreams; visitors in jubilation deliberately vandalizing the public infrastructure at a sporting event without a thought to the cost of repair or who will have to pay; 3 motorcycles with mounted crooks chasing down a delivery truck and brandishing a gun, trying to “hold up” the driver in broad daylight in the heart of Belize City, Southside; 4 men gang-raping a 14-year-old girl – do any of these youths stop to consider that they have a mother or a sister or a daughter? Madness!! Continuing 9:00 p.m. every night craziness on “the strip” at Mile 2 on the Philip Goldson Highway by a few “Evel Knievel” motorcyclists with their zooming exhaust noise, distressing and disturbing the peace of nearby “prayer soldiers” and early-to-bed residents of Buttonwood Bay and Belama – isn’t there a law against extreme noise pollution in residential areas during sleeping hours? It seems like lawlessness has become a fashion among some sections of our society, and it leads one to wonder if it is not a natural progression from the so-called leaders of society setting bad examples for regular folks, so that the prevailing attitude is that, if they can do it, we can too.

Bad examples, sad to say, are the easiest to follow; and unfortunately, there is even the temptation of governments to follow bad examples displayed by powerful nations, whose power has so corrupted them, that they now boldly declare themselves above international law. The unfortunate tragedies unfolding in Ukraine/Russia and Gaza/Israel, both conflicts which intimately involve our most powerful ally to the north, have exposed the fact, to those of us who didn’t realize, that, not only do some powerful nations try to influence the decisions of what the rest of us perceive as supreme world judicial bodies – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) – but the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, (USA, France, China, United Kingdom, and Russia), have a special “veto power”. According to Wikipedia, Article 27 of the United Nations Charter gives “the permanent members an absolute veto over all binding UN sanctions, UN peacekeeping operations, membership admissions, member expulsions, and Secretary-General selections”.

Now, the International Criminal Court (ICC), though it is an arm of the UN, only has 123 member-states signed up, and neither the USA, Israel or Russia have signed up to the ICC, whose jurisdiction only extends to the territories of those 123 member states; so, enforcement in the other countries is a problem.

Well, it was not too long ago when the ICC found Russian president Vladimir Putin in violation of international law and issued a warrant for his arrest, and with full support of US president Biden. On March 18, 2023, BBC reported, “The ICC accused President Putin of committing war crimes in Ukraine – something President Biden said the Russian leader had ‘clearly’ done. The claims focus on the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia since Moscow’s invasion in 2022. Moscow has denied the allegations and denounced the warrants as ‘outrageous’. It is highly unlikely that much will come of the move, as the ICC has no powers to arrest suspects without the co-operation of a country’s government.”

Fast forward to May 20, 2024, and this time BBC reports that, in regards to the Israeli-Hamas “war” in Gaza where over 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children have been killed, “The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes.” The report goes on to say that, “Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement that he rejected ‘with disgust The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas’.” And, it continues, “US President Joe Biden described the ICC prosecutor’s move as ‘outrageous’.”

Really?

The question for us as a small nation of people, and the problem for our whole world of nations, big and small, strong and weak, is whether we shall continue to be subject to the rule of “power” or by the rule of “law”. When “big” people get away “with murder”, or with stealing the nation’s assets with impunity, the message trickles down to the youths in the streets. The discipline and the enforcement has to start all the way at the top, before our agencies of enforcement can exert the moral authority to bring back our society to a consciousness of our duty to each other and to the nation as a whole. The Father of the Nation picking up litter off the street was not just for show; it was setting an example, trying to instill a sense of community pride and social responsibility to all our citizens.

What is happening at The Hague and in the Congress of the USA is important to us Belizeans, whose fate as a nation lies in the hands of that same ICJ which powerful leaders of “veto power” nations have snubbed when things are not going their way. At this time, as with accused persons seeking a “sentence indication”, it may be expedient for our leaders to canvass the policy position of our great northern ally on the possible outcome and repercussions of the verdict in our case at the ICJ, considering the persistent violations to our sovereignty already being endured in the south. Should, as some of us expect, the ICJ rule overwhelmingly in our favor, will the USA “have our back” against a disgruntled loser to the west, or must we begin exploring possible back-up security arrangements with others of our neighbors and allies? After all, we have been fore-warned and cautioned by national hero Philip Goldson.

And, in further reflecting on this “bully” mentality of “might makes right”, it is really disappointing that the non-partisan Belize Peace Movement (BPM) has to be still, in 2024, agitating with the very popularly elected PUP government to implement the long overdue redistricting exercise that is mandated by our Constitution. In the months preceding the 2020 general elections, when the BPM was earnest in their drive to get the redistricting done in time for November 2020, the then Chief Justice ruled that the time was too short. When the PUP won in a landslide, it had 5 long years to figure things out. Now, here we are in May 2024, and in a few months’ time the cry may again be that not enough time remains to get it done before elections.

Truly, it would be a crying shame if this very popular PUP administration, which is practically guaranteed a victory at the polls in 2025 in the face of an Opposition currently in shambles, if they should squander this opportunity to get the redistricting done, however unpalatable it may be to certain of their standard bearers. Come the next election cycle (2030), as night follows day, and the inevitable creeping arrogance of entrenched power begins to stimulate a slow swing in the tide of public opinion in favor of change, this issue, if left to fester, could become the seed that blooms into a negative smear on the ruling party, with wild comparisons to international megalomaniacs who want to hold on to power at all costs.

This little Jewel we call Belize does not need to be following the bad examples of those nations with immense military power who insist on doing what they want, regardless of what the vast majority of the nations of the Earth, the so-called United Nations General Assembly, say is right. Let’s show by example that we are a nation of laws, and a people who sincerely believe in freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless to race, creed, nationality or ethnicity. Power to the people!

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