On Friday the House of Representatives might have as well been billed as WWF Raw – because it was war on the Assembly Floor as insults were launched from one side to the other with little regard for the niceties of parliamentary procedure. And maybe that is as it should have been – after all – major pieces of legislation that have stirred controversy for months were being passed by the House. So what happened when it went to the Senate today? Well, as per tradition, the upper house was reserved, even demure when compared with their legislative counterparts in the House of Representatives. Jim McFadzean reports.

Jim McFadzean Reporting,
Unlike last Friday’s rambunctious meeting of the House of Representatives, the Senate conducted its business today in an almost subdued atmosphere and to an empty gallery.

The fanfare and the chants of hundreds of teachers marching in front of the National Assembly at last Friday’s meeting of the House was no where to be seen or heard. And, as if to take a swipe at the behaviour of some House members at last week’s meeting of the House, this is how PUP Senator Lisa Shoman coined the way in which parliament should conduct its business.

Senator Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator
“It is to my mind a practice much to be lamented that any member of the National Assembly, whether this Honorable House or the other House, use parliamentary privilege in such a way that we characterize our citizens by using language about them which they can neither respond to nor fight back. I think that I am very heartened by the fact that at least in this Honorable House we strive as much as possible to be very parliamentary in our language and to exercise our democratic right to speak in such a way that we do so in a spirit of collegiality and in the spirit of moving this country forward.”

The Senate went thru the order of business, dealing with some of the mundane and not so mundane. Three bills took center stage at today’s meeting: The Education and Training Bill, the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution Bill. But the one which got most of the attention was the 7th Amendment to the Constitution Bill which Senator Godwin Hulse says he took issue with.

Senator Godwin Hulse,
“And I have heard the Hon. Present Attorney General say in the House and I will paraphrase him, I will try and quote some aspects, that in fact that is an overworked Ministry where he has Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Trade and he went on to elaborate that indeed Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade presented a very steep learning curve for he had no experience therein, particularly in diplomacy. And so this amendment seems to be relieving him of some of his responsibilities. And then I wondered if I was really hearing correct because I was saying if he didn’t have experience in foreign affairs or foreign trade, the one place he has experience in is the legal profession which is what the Attorney General is, because he was former judge of the Supreme Court, former Magistrate, Crown Counsel, Senior Counsel, and Senior Attorney. That would be the one job that he would want to retain or for that matter that the government would seek for him to retain which would be the Attorney General. And therefore I don’t see any reason during the term of this government why you would want to change the Attorney General.”

Senator Shoman says she had several reservations about the Attorney General not being a member of the House, and used familiar language to describe such feelings.

Senator Lisa Shoman,
“One of the things that I am concerned about is the lacuna of any good reason being advanced in the House or anywhere else for that matter as to not having the Attorney General being a member of either House. In addition to everything else, it is the very hurly burly of politics, whether it be the hurly burly that the House of Representatives so vigorously embodies or whether it be the more refined air of the gentile hurly burly that this Honourable House exercises. It is clear that accountability and answerability of any member of Cabinet is something that is not only to be desired but to be demanded and expected by the people of Belize.”

On the Education and Training Bill it came as no surprise when UDP Senator Omar Figueroa stood up to give his endorsement of Minister Faber’s controversial Education and Training bill claiming Belize had obligations to international conventions.

Senator Omar Figueroa,
“We must accept the global realities, we must accept our international obligations which demand that we move from this particular practice. In ratifying the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, we have taken on the obligation to implement the rights enshrined in the convention in particular Article 282 of the Convention states that school discipline methods should be consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present convention.”

PUP Senator Lisa Shoman cautioned her fellow Senators on the speed in which such amendments to the Constitution were being made. Making the point that in its 27 years as a young nation, there have been only 5 amendments made to the Belize Constitution. Shoman alluded to the proposed amendment by the Barrow administration for those Belizeans with dual citizenship to hold political office as an example of such reason for concern.

Senator Lisa Shoman,
“I would like first of all to hail the removal of section 4 of this bill as a triumph, a triumph of people power and I am very glad that we are not here today discussing this matter because it means that the people of Belize know and can have faith that when they speak loudly, governments must listen or pay the price of peril.”

As expected, this group of legislators of which the ruling United Democratic Party forms the majority, would endorse and vote in favour of the amendments that the House has already voted in favour of. Reporting from the Capital for Seven News, I’m Jim McFadzean.