REPORT #65 April 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust
In replacing the old corrupt autocratic colonial imperialist Constitution of Belize with one that is orientated toward participatory democracy, we know certain changes in which we desire to change the way we govern ourselves. Some of these desires have been hashed out, in public debate in Belize, both in High Schools and on the Belize Culture List of the internet over the last 10 years.

Any Constitutional changes must be put to the public ballot. There are different ways that Constitutional changes can come before the voting public. Petition and Referendum, Legislation by the Parliament, Constitutional commissions, etc.

Constitutions should be updated to suit changing times about every 20 years, by constitutional rule review. This does not mean they cannot be amended in between these 20 year reviews.

We want of course, a system of checks and balances. Many different layers of checks and balances.

Also desired, is a system in which politicians are managers, and not dictating rulers when it comes to government policy.

Term limits for Prime Minister's, Cabinet Members, Elected Representatives, Commission or Council members are also desirable.

Staggered elected terms, with a proportion elected by ballot every single year, to prevent corruption and cliques, or political party mafia.

Protection of the public from the excesses of political party membership in the various segments of government. One simple rule for this elsewhere, is a law permitting non-partisan balloting and forbidding advertising on ballots.

A method of disagreement and the calling into account, any level of government, on policy making, by minorities, through petition, referendum and the public ballot box.

Two year limits for elected officials and representatives, seems to be norm and best method for political management.

A check on the law passing power, of a national government. Anything they propose, should have to wait for 120 days and give the district governments time to peruse the legislation. If they disagree, then object to the legislation in that 120 period, it is dead. A lot like the black balling at the Belize City Pickwick Country Club. Keeps a national government honest and fair. Encourages debate and confines national legislation to national affairs, not local district matters.

In order to implement de-centralization properly for the economic advantages to the nation, you require multiple layers of government. In Belize, this would be a National or Federal Government in the capital Belmopan District, for national standards and affairs. District governments for a District voice against each of the other five districts and to look after unincorporated parts of each district. Then lower down, Town and Village municipality governments. The cash flow comes down through the layers of multiple government, in the form of grants, matching funds and that sort of thing from the national level.

Political Parties and Elections
There is room for the political party organization in politics and participatory democracy; but it requires a new Belize Constitution to limit the excesses and corruption factors that come along with strong political party influence on the governing process. "Humans are imperfect, but individual liberty and diversity need to be protected from authoritarian political coercion by party doctrinaires." (J.Langford e-mail, San Pedro, April, 99.)

On any ballot for any election for a political post in government, it should be in the Constitution, that the party affiliation, if any, is not allowed to exist on the ballot, or advertising of said election campaigning. Party affiliation must be a private thing, and not part of a public advertising campaign. Non-partisan ballots should be part of the Belize Law.

The Prime Minister for instance, could be either elected by direct ballot from the general public, independent of known party affiliation; or elected from the House of Representatives, or selected from the Cabinet, by ballot, by lottery, or rotation schedule. Being an elected politician does not mean an individual has a superiority of intellect, or special leadership skills to be allowed sole discretionary power to make decisions for the populace.

The Prime Minister's position should be a ceremonial position, holding one vote in Cabinet Meetings. With a term limit of one year. The subject of repeated terms for Prime Minister's is a delicate one. But the size of population shows there are many individuals capable of filling this position and a no repeat rule for serving as a one year Prime Minister, is a good Constitutional rule.

District Governments are necessary, in order to handle the affairs of those unincorporated populations and lands, within a district, that are not covered by villages, towns and other style municipalities. District Government also provides the appeals court process for some village magistrate's decision that is not acceptable to the participants.

District Government can be a simple thing of volunteer Councillors, or Commissioners. Nine or seven members are elected to serve, but are not full time employees. They are volunteer, but receive compensation for travel costs and days lost from their own work, or business, while doing government business. Salaried managers handle the routine tasks of District Government. This type of District government should have a Home Rule Charter, which stipulates the autonomous aspects and responsibilities of the stated governmental functions.

The usual permanent employees of such a District Government, are ELECTED OFFICIALS; are Supervisor of elections,, District Police Chief (e.g.: Sheriff, Police Inspector, etc.), the Property appraiser for taxation and assessments and collections, and the Clerk of the District Court system.

Every citizen is allowed trial by jury. Criminal cases require a 12 person jury of peers and a civil case requires a six person jury. Court cases, if the calender is heavy, would occur every working week day. All citizens over 18 years are on a jury pool list, subject to subpeona for jury duty selection. A patriotic duty! Village, or town magistrates would judge non-criminal or non-civil cases, like littering, traffic fines, truancy.

Citizens would have the right to opt for a jury trial though. Municipalities, villages and towns may be created within a Belize District. These also are entitled to autonomous Home Rule Charters.

Both Municipalities and District government have corporate powers and proprietary powers to conduct local government, render public services and perform functions like water supply, sewage and garbage pickup.

Each governing body would be elected by the voters living in that geographical area.

District School Boards and perhaps with population growth, even Towns, will require School Boards, to monitor and provide school services, or the money flow from National Government, through District Government to Municipal government. School Boards are elected laypersons of the area in which they live. These functions are voluntary. Citizen management works better than a centralized bureaucracy, or religious bureaucracy handling public funds.

A ten mil cap on property taxation, or some such rule, should be the constitutional norm.

The right of any Home Rule government, be it municipality, village, town, District of National Government should each have the sovereign right of taxation. Said taxation though, must be approved by the voters at the ballot box. Usually 2/3's of a popular vote is required for new taxation.

There are likely to be other requirements for Boards, like Water Boards, Waste Disposal Boards, Sports Authorities, Water Navigation Boards and many others for each layer of governments. This enshrined in the Belize Constitution, delegates responsibility to the local voters by an area to form Boards.

Constitutional Amendments can be made at all different levels of governments by local voters in their local governments.

Referendums and Petitions can be filed at all levels of governments in the new Belize. For Village, Town, City and District governments, a petition with 2% of the voters signatures from the last number of voters that actually voted in the last election are required, to call for a ballot. A time limit of 90 days for such a ballot should be in the ACT, when filed with the appropriate Clerk of the local court system. At the national level, a petition would require 5% of the votes of the last recorded number of voters in the last election under a 90 day limit for the ballot. In a village, this would be the Village Council secretary.

A local judge, magistrate, would be elected ( NOT an appointed central government J.P.) for a two year term, to hear such cases as necessary. ( e.g. truancy, curfews, traffic fines, littering, disturbing the peace and so on. ) Civil and criminal cases would be by jury selection, when so desired by the plaintiff and defendent. In the small communities of rural Belize, the elected village magistrate would be a part time position, with only partial financial recompense for lost time.

At the National Level of Government, Elected Representatives should be limited to two year terms with a TERM LIMIT OF three consecutive terms. The elections should be staggered and half the representatives should be elected each year.

These ballots can be joined with other issues at village, town and district levels on the ballot paper, at the same voting time where necessary.

Cabinet Minister's should be elected at the National Level independently, or from the House of Representatives, or legislature. The usual Executive Cabinet for a country the size of Belize would be 6 persons, this would be a Secretary of State, Attorney General, a Comptroller, Treasurer, Education Minister, and Minister of Agriculture. There may be provision for broadening the number of cabinet posts, but some limit should be set Constitutionly on the number of such posts, to prevent cronyism, corruption and nepotism. Some Ministers then would wear several hats.

"History proves that 'negative liberties'-those rules that restrain the state, or government are more productive of economic success and human happiness." - Isiah Berlin - With a Cabinet and a Prime Minister independently elected, without party affiliation allowed in advertising, or on the ballot, a mix of views would be found for management of the governing system. The term limit would be for two years. Again, these cabinet posts can be split, or staggered, so that half are elected each year. The Prime Minister would be the tie breaker on the Cabinet. Ministers would be an even number, like 6 persons.

The Prime Minister has no Constitutional authority to interfer with an elected Cabinet Minister's portfolio. The Cabinet Minister is an independent person answerable only to the voters. Or impeachment by 2/3's of the legislature. Some places have a minimum age limit, such as 30 years old. They may be required to have lived in Belize for the past three years. Two terms are maximum allowed.

A Prime Minister may only serve one term, for one year. He/she also serves as Commander-in-chief fo the Belize Defense Force and any volunteer District Militia's that may be required by the new Belize Constitution. Signs extradition papers. Grants reprieves. Serve on various Boards and Commissions as required by the Constitution. Proclaim holidays.

The National Police Force is required to become a smaller specialist trained force, as a backup to District and Village and Town police forces run by two year term elected police chiefs. The National Police Force would run a National training school for local career police officers and elected chiefs. Police Forces would be controlled by the local voters at the ballot box through the two year election of the local police chief. All political power is inherent in the people. New large scale policy decisions must be put to the ballot, either nationally, or local, depending on the issue.

The people should have the right to petition to address their grievances. ( new amended Referendum Act)

Citizens of Belize should have the right to own and bear arms in defense of themselves, the nation, or their property. Licenses, training and laws can temper this right, but not remove it.

Introduction of the Grand Jury concept into Belize. No person shall be tried for a capital crime, a national crime, without an indictment by a Grand Jury.

While persons may be held for 72 hours in an investigation of a crime, they should, if not charged with that crime, be compensated for their lost time. There is considerable abuse of the 72 hour incarceration in Belize in rural areas.

Warrants for probable cause, to enter a private property are necessary by either the police, or Belize Defense Force. You should be able to sue the police for monetary damages, or BDF for improper entry on private property. We have to change Belize to a nation of laws, rather than a nation of political favors.

Public Records should be open to the public on demand. Yet, private lives and personal information should be protected from intrusion by government officials.

Minister's discretion should be abolished and rule of law required instead. To get rid of past corruption tendencies in the old existing system as of this writing.

Separation between the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government, both as to political party effects and other corrupt mechanisms.

In some places, lawyers cannot serve as Cabinet Ministers. They, as members of the Bar Association are part of the judicial branch. This is a conflict of interest.

The Belize Defense Force needs a charter in the Constitution outlining their functions. Defense of the country. Protecting the borders, civil unrest, training of District part time militia's of all persons over 18 years of age, chasing bandits.

Constitutions usually contain preambles. A declaration of rights is common. Definition of political power. This is inherent in the people through public balloting, something that does not exist in representative systems we currently have. A definition of Basic Rights. A declaration of religious freedoms. Freedoms of the press and free speech. The right to assemble peaceably. Bargaining rights for labor, both union and non- union. Protection of an individual through rule of law, as in a due process. Should people be imprisoned for debt? Or only fraud? Outline of habeas corpus. Definitions of detention and pretrial release. Rules on the prosecutions of crimes and the role of children. The definition of the rights of accused and victims. Some definition on types of punishments. Protections against unreasonable punishment and seizure of estate. Limits outlined for administrative penalities. A definition of costs in court cases. Free and fair access to the court system for everyone. The right of choosing a trial by jury, or magistrate. The right of privacy from intrusion by others, or government. Access to Publi

c Records, or government meetings. Prime Minister position is ceremonial but contains duties. Such as assuring that laws are faithfully executed. Top of the pyramid here. He/She (PM) also commissions all officers of the nation and perhaps some at District level also. Prepares a report for the public each year on the state of the nation of Belize. Also, fills positions vacant in the executive and judicial posts. The legislature and Senate can only be elected at the ballot box by voters. He/She (PM) can suspend officers from the government with the support of the Senate for justifiable cause. Serves as Commander in Chief of the Belize Defense Force and any mandatory/volunteer District militia companies. Can grant reprieves, or suspend fines. Signs off on extradition requests. Serves on Boards and Commissions. Can appoint many District Boards. Can proclaim holidays. Responsible for Hurricane Emergency programs and preparations.

Cabinet Members ( 6 limit )
The Attorney General must be a member of the Belize National Bar Association for at least three years. Can only be removed by impeachment, or natural expiration of term limit and the ballot box. Serves on different Boards and Commissions prescribed by law.

Secretary of State runs different departments. The Elections, archives, Records, Statutory Corporations, Library services, Administrative services and cultural affairs. This person keeps the records of the Executive and Legislature and Senate. Custodian of the Belize Seal and Flag. Handles the Government Printing and furnishies copies of official papers, etc. Proclaims, election timing and ballots at national level. Qualifies aspirants for District Commission/Councils and Legislative and Senate positions. Responsible for Government Registry and Lands, and Corporations, banks, etc. Responsible for copyright law, registered brands and trademarks, weights and measures and other standards at national level.

Attorney General provides all the government legal services to different government departments on demand by managers. Responsible for government legal team department. There should be offices in each district of Belize. Serves as legal advisor to the Prime Minister and individual elected Cabinet Ministers. Defends the public interest. Represents the government in court cases. Supplies the court reporter and record keeping for the Supreme Court. Carries out reviews of the judicial system at all different government levels, national, district and municipality. Makes recommendations to the legislature. Supplies legal opinions to any and all government departments at every level, district and municipality. Reports to the Prime Minister on laws that are not functioning as intended.

Comptroller heads the Central Bank, and all Banking and Finance. Should cover administration, account and auditing, banking, fiscal processing, regulations, and tax haven laws. Audits any claims against the national government. Issues vouchers for salaries and claims. Records revenues collected and annual department budgets, safeguards the treasury, reports on all monies spent and itemized by the national government, supervises financial laws, collects some taxes, issues money to Districts under programs outline by legislation, supervises Insurance companies, regulates insurance rates, collects taxes on insurance, handles motor vehicles, airports, traffic safety, regulates fire alarm and services, enforces safety regulations for butane, gasoline and other combustibles and explosives. In charge of harbors, airports and customs divisions. All these are run by professional fulltime managers, answerable to the Comptroller.

Minister of Education heads the National Board of Education of which the other members of cabinet belong, as also the Prime Minister. Sets standards for University, Community Colleges, High Schools, Vocational Schools, secondary education and Elementary Schools. Distributes and apportions Education Funds to District School Boards for re-distribution. Sets national exam standards. Prepares minimum standards for all schools. Requires records and reports. Issues National Teacher Certifications as set out by law, including permits and licenses by law. Can supervise District School Budgets and recommend changes. Assists District School Boards in meeting their educational goals.

The big difference between Belize today in a representative system and the Belize of tomorrow in a participatory government, is "rule of law", versus Ministerial discretion. The Ministers of tomorrow must follow the law and can be sued, either individually or as a representative of the government if they violate the laws of Belize. Discretion does not exist, it is a tool of oppression and corruption.

Commissioner of Agriculture covers administration, the animal industry, chemistry, chemicals, quality control, consumer services, dairy industry, forestry, fruits and vegetables, marketing, industry standards. Provides workshops and seminars for leadership in changing world markets oreintation. Protects farm workers health and product safety. Inspects fertilizers, feeds, seeds, petroleum products, frozen foods, pesticides and pests and plant diseases. Controls and eradicates contagious and infectious diseases, parasites, insects and pests. Disseminates agricultural information and creates and supports agricultural cooperatives.

The government is bi-cameral. A House of Representatives and a Senate. The House of Representatives are elected every two years, with half each year. The house districts are based on population census. This is reconfigued each ten years according to new census figures. The job of the House is to pass laws, that must then pass the Senate. The laws then have to wait for 90 days to give District Governments a chance to object. When no District Government objects, the law comes into effect. A District government objection cancels the legislation.

The Senate is comprised of one male and one female from each district and elected by popular vote. The Senate has line item veto over House Legislation and can send it back to the House for revamping. Senators are elected for four year terms. One senator from each district is elected every second year, so they are staggered in terms. Legislation would rotate between the Legislature and the Senate until there is sufficient compromise to find consensus.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will form committees to study new proposed legislation. Committee memberships are changed every two years. There are different types of committees. Joint committees of both House and Senate, sub committees to investigate specific problems, and temporary committees to attack special issues. Committees can call legislators who propose a bill, citizens and lobbyists, who favor or oppose a proposed legislation. The Senate must amend and return legislation to the House of Representatives until both parties agree in total. Until there is agreement, no legislation may be voted on.

A Committee on voting Rules and setting a Calendar is the final sieve before it passes to the legislature for a vote. Once the House of Representatives pass the Legislation and the Senate also approves, the legislation must sit for 90 days, during which time copies are sent to the six District Governments in Belize for perusal. If no objection is made within 90 days by any District Government, the legislation becomes law. District Governments must receive the legislation within 10 days of passing in the bi- cameral system.

The bi-cameral Legislature can pass laws that effect one specific area in the nation of Belize. Such as sports stadiums and even laws that effect just one individual.

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