Enshrined: Forever ours!!! Print E-mail
( 2 Votes )
Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 20 October 2011 00:00

On Friday, October 21st, the people of Belize will make their way to Belmopan City to celebrate our strongest step towards economic independence. Thousands of Belizeans of various race, religion and socio-economic backgrounds- both on site and at home/work- will respond with a harmonic “AYE” when the Speaker of the House presents the request to read the Belize Constitution Ninth Amendment Bill for a second and third time.  

“Bill for an Act to amend the Belize Constitution, Chapter 4 of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000-2003, to provide that the Government shall at all times have majority ownership and control of public utilities; to clarify the provisions relating to the amendment of the Constitution and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

The Prime Minister of Belize, Hon Dean Barrow, has great hope for October 21st. He sees the passage of the Ninth Amendment as an occasion of great nationalistic pride and wished that it would be passed with a unified push. Unfortunately, that is not the case and still today we have opponents of the bill.  

Such opponents have changed their point of controversy as the debate evolved. At first they pointed to the addition of subsection 9 to section 69 as their reason for contest. The language they had trouble with is “a law passed by the National Assembly to alter any of the provisions of the Constitutions in conformity with this section shall not be open to challenge in any court of law on any ground whatsoever.” It sounds scary indeed, but it is no scarier than the beast which is the constitution itself. In truth, subsection 9 is not an introduction of legislation but a clarification of our Constitution written upon the achievement of Independence. The proposed subsection 9 of 69 pales in comparison to the wording of the enshrined subsection 8(a) of 69 which gives parliament power “to revoking it (the Constitution), with or without re-enactment thereof or the making of different provision in lieu thereof”. Nevertheless, in his attempt to achieve universal support for the bill or close thereto, Prime Minister Barrow decided to remove the “offensive” language on the advice of the Council of Churches.

Those who were genuinely concerned about the bill because of the proposed subsection 9 dropped their case and supported the bill. However, there are others who tried to find other areas to contest. They tried to raise concern on the part that says government may assume control of whatever it deems to be a public utility and charged that government could decide that your business is a public utility and take it away. That charge did not stick as supporters of the bill pointed out that the Constitution already explains what a public utility is. They then attempted a more philosophical approach. This was launched on the charge that government was trying to take away the power of the Court. This charge was argued mostly by executives of the Bar Association. Even their own legal expert, Peter Gerangelos, concluded that the Ninth Amendment would not be taking powers from the Court. In reality, the Bar Association is trying to give powers to the court which it doesn’t have. They are trying to give a judge the power to rule over the will of Parliament and People of Belize. That is not Democracy. In our Democracy, Democracy the way it should be practiced, the will of the People rules.

Opponents need to understand that the people have already expressed their will in a referendum. A petition supported by 21,000 people cannot trump a mandate presented by more than 66,000 on February 7, 2008. Individuals elected in General Elections are elected to govern. If they would argue that a referendum should be enshrined in section 69 of the Constitution as part of the process for amendment that would receive bi-partisan support. However, arguing that the Ninth Amendment should be subject to a referendum (not in the constitution) is ludicrous.

The challenges to the Ninth Amendment are based primarily on ignorance. People did not know or pretend to not know the power given to the legislature by the Constitution. After all, one who makes laws (writes constitution) is a legislature. The reality that a legislature consists of a super majority can pass any law it wishes is frightening. Opponents claim that they have no problem with nationalization of utilities. Therefore, they must have a problem with the Constitution itself because the only thing that is new in the Ninth Amendment is “the Government shall at all times have majority ownership and control of public utilities”.