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10th Amendment deferred

The second reading of the Belize Constitution (Tenth Amendment) Bill, a piece of proposed legislation that the four social partner senators have labelled as “a departure from good and transparent governance“, has been deferred.

Freetown Area Representative Hon. Francis Fonseca announced the deferral “to a further date” during the Sitting of the House of Representatives held on Friday, September 3rd. While no explanation or timeline was given for the pause, the outcome is likely welcome by civil society, in particular the senators for the business community, the Churches, the unions, and the Belize Network of Non-governmental Organizations (BNN).

Freetown Area Representative Hon. Francis Fonseca announcing the Bill’s deferral to a later date.

As The Reporter had previously reported, the Bill seeks to change the tenure for the members appointed to four Constitutionally enshrined bodies: The Belize Advisory Council, the Election and Boundaries Commission, the Public Service Commission, and the Security Services Commission. The Bill seeks to change the tenure of appointees to the four institutions by inserting a proviso that calls for the posts to become vacant “at the next dissolution of the National Assembly, which, by law, must occur prior General Elections.

Regarding this, the social partner senators, in their June 28th, 2021, letter to the Prime Minister Hon John Briceño, wrote: “The Bill is a departure from the intent or the related provisions of the Constitution (Sections 54, 88, 105 and 110C), which currently enshrines the impartiality of the four affected bodies. Linking the tenure of all the members of the four affected bodies to election cycles removes any impartiality or the semblance thereof.”

Having expressed their disquiet on not only the Tenth Amendment, but also at the fact that the current Briceño Administration appeared to have been taking a “piecemeal” approach to making constitutional amendments, the senators had simultaneously called for a more comprehensive process via the likes of a Constitutional Assembly, a body that can revise or completely rewrite a country’s constitution.

“We strongly recommend that the Government appoint a Constitutional Assembly that would be broad-based in representation,” the senators wrote. “The Constitutional Assembly would be charged with conducting a comprehensive review of our Constitution and drafting a modern Constitution for Belize over a two-year period. This would give the Belizean people the opportunity to participate in preparing our Constitution, an opportunity that they did not have when we secured our Independence.”

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