Patrick Jones reporting...
“Freetown area representative Francis Fonseca made his parliamentary debut as Leader of the Opposition at today’s House Meeting. The new seating arrangement saw former leader John Briceño move two chairs down, while former Prime Minister Said Musa moved a seat up and is now seated next to Fonseca. Lake Independence representative Cordel Hyde, made a rare appearance today; but his Albert colleague Mark Espat was again a no-show. The business at today’s sitting was conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality that almost made it boring. One of the first Bills introduced today by Prime Minister Dean Barrow seeks to amend the Evidence Act.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“To provide for certain public officers in the Belize National Forensics Science Service and Scenes of Crimes Unit to be designated Government experts for the purpose of admissibility of reports as prima facie evidence.”

The bill was taken through all its stages at today’s sitting. Also pushed through at today’s sitting was a Bill to amend the Environmental Tax Act, removing import duties on CARICOM goods. Minister of Local Government Gabriel Martinez also asked for and got the House’s approval to amend the Intoxicating Liquor License Act. Then the Minister of Labor rose to introduce a Bill to amend the law to give more teeth to Trade Licensing Boards across the nation.

Gabriel Martinez - Minister of Labour
“Bill for an act to amend the Trade Licensing Act Chapter 66 of the substantive laws of Belize revised edition 2000 - 2003 to enlarge the category of offences, the conviction of which a Trade Licensing Board may forfeit a trade licence and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

That bill too was taken through all of its stages today. The House also approved the amendment of the Belize National Coast Guard Act, reducing the composition of the Services Board and bringing it on par with the Belize Defence Force counterpart. All of the Bills that were approved today will now go to the Senate for ratification. On adjournment, the Prime Minister congratulated the new leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca for his ascension to the post.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I believe certainly that the constitutional process will be well served. I believe our democracy will be well served as a consequence of his ascension to his new position. I would also Mr. Speaker like to thank him and the members of his party, I would particularly like to say to the immediate past leader of the PUP and member for Orange Walk Central as I say indeed to my own colleagues and all those in this country who have like the Leader of the Opposition, like the PUP, like those on this side of the House, expressed their solidarity with me, particularly with my wife who as all Belize now knows has been afflicted with cancer and is battling the disease.” He then wished the nation all the best for a blessed Christmas and a happy new year. In responding, Mr. Fonseca thanked the Prime Minister for his gracious words in welcoming him to the opposition leader’s chair.

Francis Fonseca – Leader of the Opposition
“There will be a lot of time for politics in the year ahead Mr., Speaker but today with your permission I would like to use this opportunity as well on my own behalf but also on behalf of the members of the Opposition bench and on behalf of our wider People’s United Party family to extend our sincere best wishes for a blessed and happy Christmas season and new year for all Belizeans. This is a time for us to open our hearts to each other, to be guided by the principles of respect, love and charity. We know that many of our brothers are going through very difficult times so let us not only remember them but let us reach out to them, share with time and care for them during these difficult times. On a personal note I want to join with the Prime Minister in extending my personal best wishes for the Christmas season to all members of this Honourable House, their families as well. To you Mr. Speaker, to your family, to your staff, the Clerk and his staff and their families as well and I want to assure the prime Minister that during this Christmas season we in the People’s United Party will be offering up our thoughts and prayers to you, your wife and your family as you go through this difficult time, I know your wife has also lost her father so we will be praying for all of you during this time. Thank you Mr. Speaker and may God continue to guide and bless our country.”