by Glenn Tillett
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship."
"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage."
In a perverse way, such as in the context of the paradox that makes this life possible, I owe Prime Minister Dean Barrow a vote of thanks for provoking one of the farthest reaching discussions/debates on the Belize Constitution that I have ever experienced. Sure I know that was hardly his intention if only because he appears nonplussed at times by the continued erupting reaction, and if he is more Dean the Democrat, rather than Dean the Despot, he must have accepted by now that the proposed Ninth Belize (Constitution) Amendment Bill does not have the support of the majority of the electorate who have spoken up or offered an opinion, and is certainly not “overwhelmingly popular”.
In fact the evidence so far is that the amendment does NOT seem to “enjoy” the support of any other sector of our society other than the UDP, and Louis Wade, Jr., on Plus TV, and a scattering of people in the Diaspora.
Every one of the so-called social partners – the Chamber of Commerce, the National Trade Union Congress, the Council of Churches, have come out in opposition to the proposed amendment in its present form. They are joined by the Opposition PUP, and it appears the VIP, the PNP, as well as the social/political activist organizations, COLA, and Belizeans for Justice. And just recently the Belize Land Owners Association has officially weighed in as opposed to the passage and enactment of the Bill.
The singular fact is that the Bill cannot be deemed to have the majority support of the electorate at this time if only the United Democratic Party, a single non-partisan talk show host, and a scattering of persons who live abroad have offered public support when every other organization that have offered a public position are opposed.
It has been “reported” on social media that Prime Minister Dean Barrow has rejected the proposal that the matter be put to a plebiscite. I do not know this to be true. I had heard Acting Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs and Constitution Committee John Saldivar reject the recommendation during the first consultation saying that his government had been given a mandate at the last election. I was dismayed but not surprised that his is at best a very broad definition of the term “mandate.” I also know that if the political status quo were in the reverse, perversely his definition would be much narrower and he would be leading the chorus calling for a referendum.
In the context of this essay I take the textbook definition that a “mandate” is “A command or an authorization given by a political electorate to its representative” and is not so ambiguous as to suggest that even though you have been given a mandate to govern as you see fit for the greatest good of the greatest number, you can act without due consideration at any and all times.
My dad aIways insisted to me that “those who expect nothing can never be disappointed.” I hardly expected Chairman John to be impartial and even fair, but I was still disappointed by his blatant partisanship, arrogance, ignorance, and intolerant attitude towards those whose views he disagreed with.
The conduct of this public discussion/debate is making wonder if there is anything at all, that the partisans can ever agree on. I regard the recommendation that a constitutional commission be implemented as perhaps the best way forward. I agree that our constitution should evolve, as the nation evolves, but we have a duty to try and ensure as best as possible that it reflects as accurately as is humanly possible, the will of the Belizean people.
I have come to resent the “dog whistle” politics we practice seemingly as a cultural reflex in Belize where we line up along the partisan divide on almost every issue. Some of my wiser friends and acquaintances appear convinced that this is a “necessary evil” of the Westminster Parliamentary system, but the stark polarization that results cannot be good for our nation-state. We have to find a middle ground where there can be compromise and there must be attempts at consensus on national issues, rather than reflexive rejection of others positions due solely to partisanship.
It is time for a new discussion/debate on the relative merits and demerits of the Westminster Parliamentary system versus Republicanism and yes Colin bh, proportional representation.