REPORT #503 June 2002

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

So far, in Belize over the last twenty years, we have only persued amending the existing Belize Constitution.

The idea being to change a RULER exploitive governing system and modify it, to become more democratic, consensual and participatory. The reason for this choice was solely because the hotbed of Belize politics is the old colonial capital of the port Belize City. The citizenry are very conservative, relatively politically uneducated and provincial. Any change for the better to introduce real democracy to Belize, from the colonial model they were familiar with, was deemed to be too far out in left field for them to understand, much less comprehend the advantages of? Even today, in 2002, they still do not understand the advantages that a participatory democratic system would do for them individually and for the nation. Most of them rarely read and are more involved in material things and struggling to get a government job and survive.

But there are no new ideas under the Sun, that have not really been tried politically. One such idea has been resurrected in Afghanistan these days in June, 2002. Or the Loyal Jhirga. Which in English words means the Grand Council. Now the Grand Council governing system can be the same as a RULER system, like we currently use. And which the Afghans seem to be drifting towards, with one man run Ministry Cabinet positions; but the Grand Council governing system can be more democratic than any governing system currently employed in the Europe of today, if employed properly.

During the 13th, 14th and 15th Century, the City State of Florence was run by a five year elected RULER system, much like we have today. But the City State enjoyed profound PEACE and development during what was regarded as the renaissance. This governing change came about just after the time of the Evangelist Savanarola created a tumult in the affairs of the Christian church. Also Feudalism and Kings and aristocracies were starting to decay. The Roman Catholic Pope Sixtus, a greedy old man with a lot of mistresses, bastards and family nephews was intent on getting as much money as he could and setting up his large extended family with owning City States and the tax incomes from them as was custom during the period. He subsequently started expanding militarily toward Florence. But was stopped by Lorenzo Medici. Subsequently the old venal Catholic Pope excommunicated Lorenzo who was the defacto civilian ruler of Florence without a political title and also the City itself. Unless the government handed Lorenzo over to the Pope for killing. The situation went bad after some years and the government of Florence decided that it was necessary to change the governing system, so that Lorenzo Medici who was now old, would not be part of the system ruling elite and to get old Pope Sixtus to lift the religious ban.

This was a new changing period in Feudal Europe and people debated much about Humanism. The height of the Renaissance was already passed. The idea that an individual was politically independent and free, versus the Feudal concept of being owned by Royalty was humanism. The tyrannical rule of despots and Kings was being challenged.

The GRAND COUNCIL of Florence was formed in April, 1480. A new participatory, consensual method of Democracy as a governing system. It worked too!

Translated to Belizean terms as an alternative governing method, we probably could do no better? Indeed, the system is far superior to modifying the existing British RULER system. In essence, in Belize, we would elect 90 POOR people from around the country. The qualification for poor could be the same as what the Caribbean Development Bank used recently. How often your family eats and the dietary sufficiency of what you eat, as a poor qualification. Since you would elect 90 poor people, this would make 15 of them from each of the six districts and those 15 would be dispersed geographically within the district. You also elect 90 business people, with the same ratio. 15 business people from each district and again dispersed throughout the district. There would then be a further 90 people elected to the Grand Council who were not either poor qualified, or business qualified. Again 15 such people from each district.

We now have a GRAND COUNCIL government composed of one body, a legislature if you will. That numbers 270 people. Government in such a system is by LAW. Not by Ministerial Discretion, indeed not even by Cabinet Ministers.

The Ground Council approves appointments to the Public Service. They also elect among themselves Executive Committees, composed of 7 or 9 people, to look after what today we call Cabinet Ministries, or departments. The government is run by hired professionals for each department. With management oversight by the Executive Councils. These could be compared to our Co-operative Managing Committees. They observe, report, but have no power to control. Usually the Executive Councils are elected for only six months and then changed. The Grand Council on the other hand could serve either 3 or 5 year terms. Usually, the Executive Councils are concerned with abuses in the management of the public debt and the assessments and collection of the various taxes the government uses to get revenue. But each ministry would be so observed and reported on, by the small Executive Councils to the Grand Council. The Executive Councils can also prepare BILLS for passage into law and presentation to the Grand Council for debate and voting for passage.

In order to prepare a LAW, or BILL, any Executive Council reporting on a particular operating Ministry, has to have a quorum, which is two thirds of the 7 or 9 people elected to that Council. In turn, the Grand Council cannot pass any such BILL or law, without in turn having a quorum, or two thirds of the 270 people elected to the Grand Council being present to vote on it. In order to pass a LAW, or BILL the Grand Council has to have two thirds of the quorum, or if larger number, two thirds of the members present vote for it.

This is a fairly simple representative system and works like a charm. It avoids the pitfalls of our current RULER system, which allows political power to fall into the hands of short sighted, unscrupulous opportunists. It gets a very good cross section of society on the making of any laws.

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