By Hon. Gilroy Usher
“Get up, stand up. Stand up for your RIGHTS. Get up, stand up. Don’t give up the FIGHT.”- Bob Marley
The National Kriol Council (NKC) has been lobbying for a while to have a representative on the People’s Constitution Commission (PCC) which should begin its work shortly. The government, however, has not decided definitely whether or not NKC will be allowed representation on the committee.
The Constitution is the Supreme law of Belize. Protecting the contents of the Constitution is so sacred or important that a vote of three-fourths of the members of the House of Representatives is required for any change to be made to it. The importance of not tampering with the Constitution for any little desire is underscored by the fact that since independence 41 years ago on September 21st, 1981, only ten changes have been made to the Constitution.
The PCC, therefore, has a very important task. To avoid making changes to the supreme law of the land haphazardly, the Commission should hold consultations with the people throughout the country to hear their views on what should be included in the Constitution and what should be removed from it.
Following those consultations, the Commission should deliberate on the suggestions and make recommendations to the Cabinet on which suggestions they believed should be included in the new Constitution. They will also make recommendations on which suggestions should not be included in the new document for Belize to have the best possible Constitution for the benefit of the country and all its people.
The Constitution defines Belize’s borders. It outlines how the three branches of government, the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary, should be established and how they should function, including the maximum penalty for murder; it outlines individual rights and freedom and defines unlawful sexual activity and marriage.
The Constitution states, who is a Belizean, the criteria to be elected to local government or The National Assembly, and the criteria to be the Prime Minister or Governor-General. The new Constitution will state whether we recognize King Charles III, the head of the British monarch, as our head of state or whether we replace him with a Belizean hero. Among many other things, the Constitution defines which immigrants can become naturalized Belizeans and the terms under which an amnesty should be granted for immigrants to achieve that status.
Clearly, the Constitution affects the lives of all persons in Belize and should be fully respected by everyone regardless of their social standing, wealth, gender, or ethnicity in society.
Creole was the largest population in Belize until a few years before independence. Creoles are now the second-largest population in the country. Many Creoles have done well in the Jewel, especially those who are educated and of lighter complexion. On a whole, however, the Creole population of Belize has to contend with major challenges to uplift themselves.
The vast majority of the inmates at the Hattieville Prison are Creoles. While Creole is the largest population in Belize City, the Old Capital, the majority of those persons are marginalized citizens on the southside. For various reasons, Creoles own a very small percentage of the businesses in Belize City, which is the commercial center of the country.
That is partly responsible for very high unemployment and a cycle of poverty in several Creole neighborhoods. For decades gang violence has been worst in Belize City. In the old capital, the majority of the gang members are Creoles, and the vast majority of persons who are slain annually in gang murders over color, turf, and drugs are Creoles.
Quietly many Creoles talk about the adverse effect over forty thousand immigrants will have on their livelihood and other opportunities in Belize when they become naturalized Belizeans with the 2nd amnesty program for immigrants in which more than 90% of the applicants are from Central America.
Interestingly, whenever a number of Creoles try to stimulate serious discussion about the amnesty program that would reduce opportunities even more for their marginalized people, advocates for the program accused them of playing the race card, and those persons always try their best to “shoot down” as totally unnecessary any discussion about making Belize attractive to persons of African heritage who want to escape famine or civil war in countries in the Caribbean and Africa.
Concern for the welfare of Creoles in Belize was echoed by a senior Creole manager when he said, “The number of Creole employees in these offices is being eroded yearly, although the number of workers is relatively the same. That’s plain to be seen. Only God knows what will happen to Creoles in the long run.”
A major hindrance to upliftment in the Creole population in Belize is Creole persons, including some educated individuals, who spread the propaganda of the white man and others that Creole people, Black persons, and people of African heritage are lazy and dumb, so any step to increase their say or population to hear their concerns or maintain racial balance will be a waste of time and end in total failure.
That is totally wrong, unfair, and degrading view of persons of African heritage that’s held by some people explains why a number of persons in authority dismiss the legitimate concerns of Creoles in Belize as unimportant or deal with such concerns at snail pace in the hope that the affected Creoles will abandon their undertakings.
If the Creole, the second largest population in the country, and the ethnic group with major social challenges, is not given a seat with the Peoples Constitution Commission, others alone will decide what is best for the Creoles when the committee makes its recommendation to Cabinet for the new Constitution for Belize. Creole people are not dumb. Such a decision would be so unfair to their population of over 102,000 persons.
To ensure the support of Creoles in the referendum to decide whether the country should accept the new Constitution as recommended by the Commission and the Cabinet, this writer joins those who say the National Kriol Council deserves a seat on the People’s Constitution Commission.