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#412500 - 07/26/11 03:43 PM Belize constitution in jeopardy?
Marty Offline

Oscar Sabido

At Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Dean Barrow introduced a dangerous amendment to the constitution that is also being described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. On the heels of the nationalization of B.E.L. and the re-nationalization of Telemedia, the PM made it clear that measures would be implemented to enshrine in the constitution, the government’s control of public utilities. Last Friday, the bill was introduced but the wording used by Barrow allows for much more than barring challenges to government’s control of utilities. It extends to any challenge to any amendment to the constitution. The reaction has been swift and many members of the legal profession are coming forward against the proposal. According to attorney Oscar Sabido, it is a matter of national emergency to stop dead in its tracks the proposed amendment.

Oscar Sabido, Attorney

“Section two of the constitution is the section that declares that the constitution is the supreme law of the land and that any law which is inconsistent with the constitution is void. That section is now being amended to say that any amendment to the constitution cannot be deemed to being inconsistent with the constitution. An amendment to the constitution in this case is the amendment to constitution that provides for the entry into the constitution as new sections to the constitution that provide for the acquisition of public utilities in Belize. And the acquisition of public utilities in Belize is an amendment to the constitution cannot be questioned or deemed to be inconsistent with the constitution as set out in section two. Any other can be entered into the constitution and it could fall under this particular amendment to the constitution which says that whilst it is an amendment to the constitution, it is adding in acquisitions of any kind—be it oil, any other industry; you cannot question it. And your rights to go the court is now nonexistent in respect of that particular acquisition. It is an abrogation of the fundamental pillar of our democracy which is the rule of law and the supreme law of the land being the constitution. The constitution is the supreme law of the land because it has entrenched in the constitution set out in section 69 because the constitution provides the rights and freedoms and privileges; the rights to redress to the courts cannot be change except by going under section 69. But now because of the amendment, if you go ahead and change by amendment to the constitution, anything you wish to put in the constitution, preventive detention, then it can be said that that cannot be challenged in a court of law. That particular law will not be challenged because it will become part of the constitution itself. Now the constitution is being used to soak in anything the government wants to put in there. And then because of this ninth amendment, then it cannot be questioned. The right of redress, under section twenty is being taken away. You cannot go to a court of law and question it. Just like how this is saying you cannot question the right as to government’s acquisition of public utilities. It is absolute; it can’t be question. It’s final. You cannot bring up the question of natural justice.”

Jose Sanchez

“Is this something that the bar association should be considering as quickly as possible?”

Oscar Sabido

“It’s actually in my opinion a matter of emergency.”

Sabido says that the issue should be dealt with by all people who are concerned with the rights and liberties of the individuals, especially the rights of redress to the courts. This proposed amendment would erode the principles of the independence of the court to determine issues that are entrenched in the constitution.

Channel 5

#412501 - 07/26/11 03:44 PM Re: Belize constitution in jeopardy? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Amendment would give unyielding power to any ruling political party

Arthur Saldivar’s objections were heralded by Hubert Elrington, another attorney that often speaks out on constitutional issues. Elrington sat at his side in a joint interview and put the proposed amendment into further context. He said that if passed, the National Assembly is going to have power that will exceed that of the constitution. Whoever has the majority, whether the United Democratic Party or the People’s United Party, would be able to make any law that would go unchallenged while in power.

Hubert Elrington, Attorney

“Your liberties and freedoms are at stake. This particular amendment now puts the life, liberty and freedom of every single Belizean at stake—all of our freedoms, all of our lives, all of our liberties are now being put at stake. This absolute madness.”

Jose Sanchez

Hubert Elrington

“This is not about B.T.L., B.E.L., or WASA?”

Hubert Elrington

“This has nothing to do with anything beside removing constitutional government and creating government by the will of the people who control the national assembly. It is no longer the constitution that will be sovereign; it is whoever controls the national assembly that—you will have now parliamentary sovereignty.”

Jose Sanchez

“And we’ve known from the past that not all governments may have had or done things in the best interest of the people.”

Arthur Saldivar

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney

“And this is the thing Jose. In England there is parliamentary sovereignty, but when we talk about the English Westminster model and parliamentary sovereignty there, you have two houses—the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The way the debate is structured in England, it allows for mass participation and input on both sides. Here is Belize; you have an autocratic regime taking over every five years. Whoever is in the majority has no duty or responsibility to gain consensus from those in opposition. So this is the situation that basically allows for one side to put his position forward and to advance that with impunity. In this regard now, it is being taken a step further. We are not talking about subsidiary legislation, which comes under the constitution; we’re talking about creating a new animal within the constitution to render the constitution itself null and void by act of parliament. Nobody went to the polls with that in mind, nobody voted for that.”

Beginning on Wednesday, our morning show will be featuring a series of experts on the constitution and the proposed ninth amendment.

Channel 5

#412502 - 07/26/11 03:45 PM Re: Belize constitution in jeopardy? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Issues like preventative detention, offshore drilling could be unstoppable

Arthur Saldivar

The calls to put an end to the ninth amendment bill, does not start or stop with Oscar Sabido. Attorney Arthur Saldivar says although many Belizeans may find government control of utilities acceptable, how the bill seeks to bring about that control is appalling. The bill calls for amending sections two and sixty-nine of the Belize Constitution. Section Two is the portion of the constitution that establishes the supremacy and unshakable dominance of our constitution, and tampering with that section would corrupt all the ideals of justice that the architects of the constitution had envisioned within the framework of our democracy.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney

“The prime minister and the government are saying that a constitutional amendment is exempt from judicial challenge no matter how good or how bad it may be. It’s important. You have a ninety day period within which a bill can be introduced, ratified and become law. Within that ninety day period, there can be no challenge because it is premature—nothing exists—you cannot challenge a non-existing piece of legislation. So while we’re within that window, nothing can be done. The Court cannot hear it because it will be struck down on the principle of prematurity. We have to wait until it becomes law—when somebody can actually be subjected to it. Now as it relates to constitutional amendments, you don’t have that right anymore by virtue of what is being proposed in the 9th Amendment Bill. So now, most Belizeans may agree with public ownership or government ownership of utilities, but this amendment to section two does not only pertain to that—that’s only one thing. Let me give you some of the other things that may come through once this door is open to the government. We know that the Prime Minister has said due to opposition from the majority of people within our society; that preventive detention has been put in the refrigerator. Well we know why people put things in refrigerators, to preserve it and keep it fresh until such time as they do decide to eat it. Once this amendment goes through, the time to serve and eat will be there because preventive detention is coming by way of a constitutional challenge that cannot be challenged by virtue of what is being done by the 9th Amendment. Outside of that, we have the referendum presently ongoing by Oceana, by COLA and by other pressure groups within our society to block offshore drilling. Well, offshore drilling may be the subject of a constitutional amendment and that will not be challenged because this would have been put in place. We have the situation right now where there are certain wrongheaded people in our society calling themselves UNIBAM seeking to have the whole idea of sodomy be struck off the laws of Belize. Well, if they propose a civil union amendment to have civil unions being equated to marriage; that will be put in our constitution and it will go without challenged. This is what this does—this erases, eradicates, demolishes, destroys, strips away totally the citizen’s right to challenge anything that threatens his existence and existence of his freedoms. There is no democracy with this. Democracy would be dead.”

Channel 5


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