Kriol Council reassured of inclusion on Constitution Comm. even after law is passed
The People’s Constitution Commission Bill passed the Lower House on Monday without adding the National Kriol Council (NKC), but the head of the Good Governance Unit Cesar Ross has, once again, reassured the NKC on Thursday that the change will be made via regulations.
“I write this short email, after meeting with the Minister, to confirm and reassure you and the Kriol Council that what we had mentioned before stands,” Ross wrote NKC President Marilyn Gentle Garvin Thursday evening, October 20, 2022. “The Kriol Council … will be part of the People’s Constitution Commission.”
Ross’s reference to earlier communication with the NKC has to do with a Tuesday, October 11th, correspondence with the NKC President, wherein he wrote:
“To follow up with our most recent conversation, I do want to re-state that the exclusion of the Kriol Council in the People's Constitution Commission Bill is an oversight of the Constitution and Foreign Affairs House Committee as the Cabinet had already agreed with the inclusion of the Kriol Council among others as stated by the Prime Minister on July 27th, 2022.”
In the earlier email, Ross also explained that the Council could be added even after the Bill becomes law.
“Changing it now would require it going back to the House Committee, and that would delay its passing another couple of months,” advised Ross in his email to the NKC president. “So, we are going to recommend it to go to the House … as is, as it allows the Minister, after passing [into law], to add or subtract from the Schedule list. The minister has committed to adding the Kriol Council, as should be.”
Ross’s recommendation is relying on section 4(6) of the Bill. That section authorizes Minister of Constitutional and Political Reform Hon. Henry Charles Usher to “amend the Schedule by Order published in the Gazette.” The referenced Schedule is the part of the Bill that lists the members of the Commission, and would not require a vote in the National Assembly to be amended.
The Council Accepts the Proposal
The Council’s Interim Board met Thursday night and has since informed The Reporter that they have decided to accept Ross’s commitment. “The council looks forward to participating in the exercise of democracy and also looks forward to the Government upholding its commitment to include the NKC,” they said.
This acceptance by the interim board follows Wednesday’s NKC press release in which the Council had expressed disappointment that they were not included on the Commission via an amendment in the House of Representatives.
“The Kriol Council has proactively sought out representation on the Commission and the refusal to grant representation is an insult to Kriol people everywhere. After all the assurances given to the NKC that we would be granted representation on the Commission for the Government now to walk back from such assurances can only be and is seen as an attempt to marginalize Kriol Communities,” stated the release.
Nevertheless, Thursday night’s decision by the interim board signals that the Council will take the government at its word and trust that the promised changes to the Schedule will follow, even after the law comes into force.
Representation and Membership
As the Council recently reminded, Belize has over 102,000 persons who identify as Kriols, a figure that represents just about 25 percent of the total population. According to data from the Statistical Institute of Belize, this makes the Kriol the second largest ethnic group in Belize, with Mestizo/Hispanic being the largest.
In their communication with The Reporter, the Council underscored that in the short time since moves have been made to revive the NKC, membership has grown by more than 600 percent and continues to grow rapidly.
The interim board invites persons interested in joining the council to email firstname.lastname@example.org.