African-descent Belizeans still not represented on People’s Constitution
Neither the National Kriol Council nor UBAD Education Foundation (UEF) has been included on the People’s Constitution Commission, reports confirm.
The House Orders for the upcoming Friday, October 14th, Sitting of the House of Representatives show that the People’s Constitution Commission (PCC) Bill is returning to Parliament, and all indications are that only youth an
d student representatives have been included via the additions of the Youth Leaders Alliance of Belize (YLAB) and the National Student Union of Belize.
Hon. Patrick Faber, the United Democratic Party (UDP)’s representative on the Constitutional and Foreign Affairs (Standing) Committee (“The Committee”) informed The Reporter that when the Committee met in July, no deliberations were had; therefore, no formal decision was made regarding any group being added.
“As soon as the submissions from the public were concluded, the chair moved to close the meeting,” Faber recalled regarding the July 25th, 2022, Committee meeting. “I even remember when Hon. Tracy Panton asked if there will not be just a little discussion on the recommendations to the Committee. To her question, the answer was ‘No’”.
Nevertheless, Faber, citing the minutes of The Committee, accepted that the decision might have been made at subsequent meetings. He pointed to the fact that The Committee’s minutes made reference to at least one other meeting in September.
As to whether he supported the Kriol Council’s addition to the PCC, Faber said that he absolutely supports the call for the Council’s inclusion. “As a Kriol, myself, I feel offended at the Council’s exclusion.”
The Kriol Council and UEF
Kriol Council’s Interim Board Member Nigel Encalada explained to The Reporter that, while they did receive informal and verbal communication from the relevant authorities regarding being included, they never received any “formal response.”
Encalada explained that the Council held a meeting Thursday evening, October 6, to discuss what they will do in light of the Ministry's lack of a formal response to their nominations. According to Encalada, the Council had already nominated Anthony Sylvester and Adelia Young to represent the Kriol community. However, since making their submission, they have not heard back from the Good Governance Unit.
The Reporter also spoke to YaYa Marin Coleman, the chairperson of UEF, who likewise explained that since her organization’s letter in March this year, they have not heard back from the government.
Promised Inclusion of African-descent Belizeans
Readers may recall that in July, Good Governance Director Dr. Cesar Ross told The Reporter that groups representing the rights of African-descent Belizeans would obtain a joint seat on the People's Constitution Commission.
Ross had informed that several groups, including the Central American Black Organization (CABO), the UBAD Educational Foundation, and the National Kriol Council, had reached out to the Good Governance Unit for representation. In response, the director explained, then, that his unit is drafting proposals for their inclusion. Those proposals were to be taken to the Committee meeting held on Monday, July 25, when Hon. Faber says no deliberations were actually held after the public’s contributions were concluded.
"We are looking at how to get one representative to speak for all of them, in an umbrella type of way, as we did with the media," Ross had told The Reporter back in July.
The National Kriol Council had issued a statement calling on the Government of Belize to ensure that the Council is afforded a seat on the Commission, as, in their view, not doing so would diminish the value of the contributions made by Belizean Kriol people who have laid the foundation for an independent Belize.
In a letter dated March 14, 2022, UEF, for their part, had likewise argued their case as to why they should receive two seats, with one being held by a local Belizean of African descent and the other by a "Belizean American from the Diaspora."
Addressed to Minister of The Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform, and Religious Affairs, Hon. Henry Charles Usher, UEF wrote:
"As a group, people of Afrikan ancestry and heritage in Belize have been impacted negatively by a number of national policies that we did not contribute to prior to decisions being made that harmed Afrikan Belizeans disproportionately. Accordingly, UEF is adamant that we must have these 2 Afrikan Belizean community representatives who are trusted by Afrikan Belizeans to advocate in our best interest and have a record of independent thinking and actions on the Belize Constitutional Reform Commission. The 2 Afrikan Belizean Representatives are Belizean Diaspora/Bilal Morris (BREDAA) and YaYa Marin Coleman/Afrikan Heritage Communities in Belize/UEF Chairperson."
The People's Constitution Commission, which will take its mandate from the eponymously named Bill, is tasked with conducting "a comprehensive review of the Belize Constitution" and, after engaging in broad-based consultations with citizens, the Commission shall prepare and submit a report of their findings to the Prime Minister.