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#419500 - 10/22/11 02:25 PM 9th Amendment Bill passed
Marty Offline

Dean Barrow

Just after the four o’clock this afternoon, the ninth Amendment Bill to the constitution, which was touted around the country in a highly politicized road show, came to pass. The governments super majority in the House, all twenty-four voted yah, there were three no’s from the Opposition’s side, and one abstention from Orange Walk East Marcel Cardona who spoke against the ninth but did not vote against the bill for fear of losing his seat. There was flurry of activity outside parliament as thousands of U.D.P. supporters were bused in to show government’s muscle. We start our detailed coverage of today’s proceedings with the Prime Minister as he gave his reasons for the bill which has been rejected by numerous organizations.

Dean Barrow

“These changes have come about in response to concerns that came right at the start of public consultations. We are indebted to those who articulated the concerns; in particular we are grateful to the Belize Evangelical of Churches and the Belize Council of Churches. Their advocacy which we knew to be genuine and unbiased persuaded us early to agree to amendments. As the consultations and public debate continued, we became convinced that there should be a change additionally to the ones agreed to by the churches. The first is that all language in the bill that purported to oust the jurisdiction of the courts is removed. Thus in the new subsection nine of section sixty-nine which is in clause three of the bill; the house committee has deleted all of the following: “And the law passed by the National Assembly to alter any provisions of the constitution which is passed in conformity of this section shall not be open to challenge in any court of law on any grounds whatsoever.” All those words as the chairman of the constitution and foreign affairs committee detailed in his report—all those words have been removed. In subsection one of section one-forty-five and that is clause four of the bill; the committee is also deleting the words: “And no court shall inquire into constitutionality, legality and validity of the said acquisitions notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in section seventeen, section twenty or any other provision of this constitution or any other law or rule of practice.” And subsection two of one-forty-five is being deleted in its entirety. That is the subsection that said; “the bar on the jurisdiction of the court contained in subsection one above is absolute and no court shall assume jurisdiction on any ground whatsoever, including without limitation any alleged ground of lack of jurisdiction in the person making the said acquisition orders or any ground alleging breach of the role of natural justice.”

I had a discussion with one of the social grouping organizers and I said to him, you tell me how it is that the ninth constitution amendment bill will affect your rights sir. You tell me what is in there that will say that you can’t go to court to challenge any executive action, to challenge any law passed by the legislature on the basis that it is unconstitutional? You tell me how it will affect your business? You tell me how it will affect you from running up your long mouth? And Mister Speaker, he couldn’t answer. There is nothing in the bill to which he could point and say this will affect me individually.

Even the Ashcroft alliance, the previous owners of Telemedia, the bill provides for their full and proper compensation to be paid. They have no right not to have their property acquired. They have a right not to have their property acquired without provisions being made for compensation. So not even their rights are being affected by the bill. But leaving them aside, which Belizean will suffer as a consequence of this bill? And I am saying I here to tell you Mr. Speaker, there will be no other constitutional amendment that will trample on Belizeans’ rights. We in terms of the eighth constitutional amendment thought that a tradeoff was necessary given where we were in terms of crime. Well the people said to us, absolutely not and I am here to tell you, not a next constitutional amendment will be brought back to this house by this government.”

Barrow also alleged that members of the House were offered million dollar bribes to either abstain from voting or to vote no on the ninth. No specific person was named.


Said Musa says 9th takes away rights

Said Musa

The P.U.P. held a meeting at Independence Hall in Belize City in which it was decided that Fort George Area Representative Said Musa would appear as Leader of the Opposition for today’s House Meeting. But Musa did not receive a majority support from three of the elected parliamentarians and so today there was no Leader of the Opposition in the House. Mark Espat, Cordel Hyde and John Briceño, who did not support Musa, were all absent from today’s sitting. But the former prime minister sounded like the Leader of the Opposition in the House when he took PM Barrow to school on the purpose of the amendment and why he believes it takes away rights and freedoms from citizens.

Said Musa, Fort George Area Representative

“We should all note that the government has already taken over these public utilities even before these bills. The government already has majority ownership and control of B.T.L., B.E.L. and BWSL. What the bill seeks to do is amend the constitution to ensure that for all times, forever, the government in perpetuity will always have majority control and I believe that’s what the Prime Minister has emphasizing today. The question that must be asked is: Why is the government tampering with constitution to do this when they have not even settled compensation, which they will have to pay—whether that government or a future? Why is government doing this when their very first takeover of B.T.L. has been declared unlawful and invalid by Court of Appeal? And if they felt the court was wrong, the Court of Appeal—the highest Court in Belize, why did they not appeal the decision? Why instead did they use the force of the police and the army to take back control of B.T.L. in defiance of the judgment of the Court of Appeal? This I submit Mr. Speaker with yet another clear demonstration of this government’s arrogant abuse of power that they seem to believe that might make right. In fact that was not nationalization; it was expropriation of private property as the court found. In other words, in the view of the government it seems, the court can say what it wants, but it’s the Prime Minister and his supermajority in the house that runs things and can do whatsoever they want. To hell with the rule of law; that seems to be their attitude.

The ninth amendment Mr. Speaker is not only about nationalization, it’s about gutting the constitution of Belize, putting the supreme law of Belize in a state of total paralysis—incapable of rejecting any future change of the constitution; even if the change is a deliberate attempt to take away any of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Belize.”


Leader to be, Francis Fonseca, opposes 9th

Francis Fonseca

The new Leader of the P.U.P. will be Francis Fonseca. Fonseca will be officially installed on October twenty ninth. But the Freetown Area Representative, even though he only had the company of Said Musa and Florencio Marin Junior, rose to give his perspective on the ninth. Unlike the trashing that Barrow eventually gave to Musa, kindness was offered to Fonseca when Michael Finnegan offered words of advice.

Francis Fonseca, P.U.P. Leader (Designate)

“Belizeans from all walks of life have loudly proclaimed their opposition to the amendment. As others have pointed out on this side, prominent Belizean organizations have been united and vocal about their opposition to the amendment; including the Bar Association, the Belize Chamber of Commerce, B.N.T.U., Belizeans for Justice, COLA and just yesterday, APAMO. You can call all of them P.U.P.; eventually everybody will be P.U.P. COLA and APAMO have all strongly registered their opposition to this bill. This bill if enacted would critically reduce the essential safeguard of judicial scrutiny of constitutional changes. The bar association stated definitely that this amendment has the effect of removing constitutional supremacy which is the bedrock of our constitutional democracy and replacing it with parliamentary supremacy in direct contravention of the intention of our founding fathers as stated in section two and on the fundamental principles on which the nation of Belize was founded.”

Michael Finnegan, Minister of Housing

Michael Finnegan

“I want to congratulate my colleague from Freetown on his elevation to higher heights in his party. And my congratulations are sincere. This country, it is important that we have a strong opposition in this country to protect the interest of this people of this country. There was once a time where only three of us were across there and I can appreciate how you feel sitting across there, but Mister Speaker, I want to give one advice to my colleague on that side from Freetown Division. There is lot of fighting and rumbling within your party and your job is to put it afloat and to let it sail on quiet waters. For god almighty sake, don’t have that one there, the lunatic, join your band.”

Channel 5


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#419505 - 10/22/11 02:31 PM Re: 9th Amendment Bill passed [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The House Passes The Ninth

The Ninth Amendment went back to the House Of Representatives this morning to be passed by the lower House. It should have been automatic, but no piece of legislation has generated as much controversy as the ninth - and with that, the possibility arose that the government side might not get the requisite two thirds majority to pass it into law.

So the stakes were high: First the Prime Minister had to be on a countdown to make sure all 24 of his representatives turned up and would vote for it; second The Prime Minister also had to be waiting on a judgment from the Supreme Court to determine whether it could even be signed into law once it was passed; third dozens of busses with UDP supporters were streaming in from all across the country to cheer on their party in its most difficult, but also its most defining hour.

And maybe that's why the Prime Minister broke form his personal tradition and walked over from the Administration Building with an entourage of supporters in tow, all the party's parliamentarians, both Area Representatives and Senators. He walked with a spring in his step because all 24 parliamentarians had shown up and would vote for the amendment and news had just come down that the request for an injunction was dismissed.

First, Barrow went to greet the assembled crowds - which was in the hundreds - and pressed flesh with the ardent supporters - principally from the north, who dominated the frontline.

And Barrow also had to be confident because he knew that inside the house, the Opposition bench was decimated: three opposition seats were empty as John Briceno, Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde were absent, and John Briceno's position had the words "leader of the opposition" taped over after he resigned from that post earlier this week.

With the stage set in that way, the Prime Minister introduced the bill for the second reading, discussed the changes on the final version presented to the House and spoke about the broad aim of the bill. Here's what he said and some of the debate that ensued:..

Hon. Dean Barrow
"What should never be lost sight of though is the raise or death of this bill and its reason for being is of course the enshrinement in our constitution of public ownership of the essential utilities. Now our position on this has long since become none negotiable. It is a position that is both a physiological touchstone and a practical policy imperative. In the context on this government' pro poor and poor people creed public ownership of essential utilities is irresistible. The Ashcroft Alliance as the previous foreign majority owners of Telemedia have come to be called is of course against a constitutional change that would make impossible their quest to regain ownership of BTL. The extent to which they will go and have gone is outrageous. It includes attempting to traduce and seduce members of this House with million dollar bribes."

"They went to two members on our side and offered them a million dollars each to either vote against or abstain on the 9th Amendment Bill. But of course Mr. Speaker that did not work with the stout hearts and strong minds of our proud United Democratic Party."

"But as rich as these people are Mr. Speaker they have numerous paid agents and front organizations that have rallied to their banner. They have also been able to infiltrate and ideologically manipulate even some legitimate social partners. My democratic convictions have obliged me to incline my head in the direction of those that genuinely still have reservations about the Bill. But if I bow I do not genuflect - they have had their say and we respect it. They must in turn but seed the day to the majority - the vast majority that supports and indeed rhapsodizes to victory symbolize by the 9th, for this ultimately Mr. Speaker a glorious hour and testament to it are the thousands of Belizeans out here at the steps of this National Assembly and overflowing Independence Plaza."

"They bear celebratory witness and ecstatic acclamation to foremost triumph nationalism. Light, Water and Electricity are ours. Ownership is now to be irreversible and indissoluble and this Mr. Speaker this will be emblazon forever on the scroll of our country's history."

"It is enshrining public ownership of the utilities, that it all it does. So if even if you don't agree that that enshrinement should not be subject to challenge. Explain to me how making it not liable to challenge takes away the right of any Belizean. The Bill speaks for nothing else at all. It was always a straw man of first argument - a stalking horse for the Ashcroft Alliance to say that the Bill is eroding Belizean rights. Forget what they say because the mass of the people know that we act today out of the purest of motives and in the noblest of causes."

Hon. Said Musa
"The question that must be asked is why is the government tampering with our constitution to do this when they have not even settle the issue of compensation which they will have to pay whether it's that government or future government. Why?"

Speaker of the House
"Members of the gallery, I will expect that you remain silence. I need to hear what the Honorable is saying. Please proceed."

Hon. Said Musa
"Secondly Mr. Speaker, why is the government doing this? When their very first takeover of BTL has been declared unlawful and invalid by the Court of Appeal and if they felt that the court was wrong - the Court of Appeal, the highest court in Belize. If they felt that that court was wrong - why did they not appeal the decision? Why instead did they use the force of the police and the army to take back control of BTL in defiance of the judgment for the Court of Appeal? This I submit Mr. Speaker with yet another clear demonstration of this government arrogant abuse of power that they seem to believe that might makes right. In fact that was not nationalization - it was expropriation of private property as the court found. In other words in the view of the government it seems the court can say what they want but it's the Prime Minister and the super majority in the House that run things and can do whatsoever they want. To hell with the rule of law - that seems to be the attitude of this government."

"In plain layman's language Mr. Speaker what the 9th Amendment is seeking to do is to empower the National Assembly - to make any changes they like to the constitution so long as they have the necessary majority vote in the House. By this stroke of the pen this UDP government will be converting our system of parliamentary democracy into a system of parliamentary supremacy. I ask myself why are we going down this path because it is a dangerous monstrosity that drives a state through the very heart of the constitution, through the very heart of our democracy when that cannot even defend the Belize Defence Force barracks - how can we expect them to defend 8,866 Sq. miles of country of Belize."

Speaker of the House
"Honorable member for Fort George, a member is raising a point of order."

Hon. Patrick Faber
"Mr. Speaker I am sure that the member is aware that this debate and this contribution should be on the 9th Amendment Bill, he has really gone off track now."

Hon. Said Musa
"Mr. Speaker that is the behavior of this government led by the Prime Minister, I am sorry to say. But instead of attacking the principle, instead of explaining their policy they resort to personal attacks, personal lies against prominent people in this House and outside of this House so when anybody disagree with them, when the President of the Chamber of Commerce disagree with them on the 9th Amendment what do they do? they attack the good lady. When the president of the Bar Association express disagreements with the government's' position on the 9th Amendment they attack the lady personally. When Senator Lisa Shoman spoke out on behalf of the referendum they attack Senator Lisa Shoman. In other words they can shout and scream as much as they want and try and accuse me of lies. It is time Mr. Speaker to put a halt to this stampede to chaos and anarchy in our country. We in the Opposition like the thousands of Belizeans say no to the 9th Amendment!"

Hon. Marcel Cardona
"I will not be a participant. I will not be painted. I will not go down in history as being one of those that supported the trumping upon the democratic rights of every citizen. Hence, I would need to abstain therefore. Thank you very much."

Hon. Francis Fonseca
"This is a dangerous road for Belize to travel Mr. Speaker. We can achieve and secure nationalization without shredding the fundamental rights and protections guaranteed in our constitution. Section 2 as others have pointed out of the constitution is the supreme law clause. The amendment to section 2 along with the propose amendment to section 69 of the constitution seek to change the very essence and the very core of the Belize constitution. This is why Belizeans from all over the country, from all walks of life have loudly proclaimed their opposition to this amendment. Leave our constitution alone Mr. Prime Minister! Leave our fundamental rights and freedoms alone. Our people are suffering Mr. Prime Minister, they want jobs, they want hope, they want a better life for their family. They want a better life for their children. Not the tyranny, they don't want the tyranny, the dictatorship that this 9th Amendment proposes. I say NO to the 9th Amendment Mr. Speaker!"

The Prime Minister responded to those criticisms when he wound up the debate and we'll have that for you later on in the newscast. But the bottom line on the day is that at about 3:30 this afternoon, it was passed by the house with 24 members on the UDP side each voting for its passage.

Which brings us to the injunction. Vaughan Gill and Ricardo Castillo, instrumentalized by the Ashcroft Alliance, went to the Supreme Court earlier this week asking the Chief Justice for an injunction to stop the Attorney General from passing the bill to the Governor General or presenting the GG form signing it into law.

As we told you earlier, that was denied by the CJ, and later in the news we'll have reaction from both sides.

Channel 7


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