Today, the Senate met in Belmopan to consider a number of significant motions, and tonight we'll report on 3 of them. Those include the upper house giving authority for Belize to approve the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the ratification of the special agreement to submit Guatemala's territorial claim over Belize to the International Court of Justice, and The appointment the Integrity Commission. We start first with the robust debate on the UNCAC, and its ability to help in the fight against corruption in public life.
Here's what the Senators had to say about the Government's handling of the process to get the treaty enforced on Belizean soil:
Hon. Godwin Hulse- Leader of Gov't Business - Senate
"Now therefore be resolved that this Senate authorises the government of Belize to accede to the United Nations convention against corruption a full text of which is here to annex."
Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"Mr. President as you know the business community for many, many years now beginning way back when the leader of government business shared the very seat that I share today; we have been championing for these very things. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank those people in our society, those in the business community and especially those in the teaching community that stood up recently for these very same things that perhaps tip the scale and has us with this document today in front of us to consider. And most of this red tape and most of this harassment that business get in this country today is due to corruption; they rub you down, shake you down and find a million and one obstacles to prevent the legitimate business people from doing business properly but yet those who facilitate and grease the wheels could get anything and do anything; that is a reality, that is a fact, we know it."
"When we see through science the impact the mental capacity of people being affected because they live in poverty because they cannot have access to proper nutrition and proper health and proper housing and proper sleep because their roof leak or because 15 of them in a lee room. When we begin to look and analyse and contemplate these issues we realise how corruption is a key element in economic under performance and major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development."
Hon. Tanya Santos - PUP Senator
"In my view we are a failed people, we are a failed nation. Have we lost the values of a hard day's work for a fare day's pay? Have the lost the god given values of honesty, integrity, compassion, humility. What I see in our everyday behaviours, our attitudes and our actions leads me to believe so; yes we have failed. Mr. President one year into its third term the UDP administration will have you believe there is no corruption, only despicable acts; there is no nepotism because they are not normal people, the law wasn't broken because we amended it. Mr. President I'm reminded of the words of the French economic Frédéric Bastiat when plunders a way of life or a group of men in a society over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a morale code that glorifies it. Is this where we are Mr. President? Is this our new morale code Belize? While the UNCAC is not the cure all of anti-corruption for Belize it is a good start. It is expected to be far more effective than the corruption machete has proven to be."
Hon. Eamon Courtenay - PUP Senator
"We are not here as rubber stamps. We are not here to be taken for granted. This is not a circumstance where because we're all together in the fight against corruption that we can just go blindly and give our approval. Let me give you some examples of the reservations that have been entered. United States of America has a long reservation, Canada has a long reservation, this convention proposes criminalization of certain things and Canada is very clear. It says article 42:2 provides that a state party may establish jurisdiction based on nationality given that Canada has effective and broad territorial jurisdiction over corruption offences Canada does not intend to extend its jurisdiction in the case of an offence committed by a Canadian national beyond that existing territorial basis of jurisdiction. Canada is saying that even though the convention wants you to establish criminality on the basis of nationality regardless of where the crime is committed, Canada is not going to do that; it is going to confine it's criminality to its territory. What is the position of the government of Belize? When passports are being sold around the world illegally, what position will the government of Belize take?"
Hon. Paul Thompson - PUP Senator
"I salute the teachers and I salute all other entities and persons who made this signing. I salute Luke Palacio and the BNTU council of management and all the brave teachers of Belize who paid the price so we could be here today."
Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"There's a fair amount of what seems to me to be misunderstanding of what signing the UNCAC means. Sometimes I listen on the media and read what people write and sometimes it sounds as if people expect that there's some I describe as an airplane coming on the 9th that's going to bring all of the solutions to the problems and all of a sudden things are going to be better and we won't have to worry about corruption anymore; but that's not what is going to happen. So this is the beginning of a long process, it means we are going to be participating along with the other state parties to the UNCAC in its evolution because even this treaty in its implementation as it goes along countries have found issues and have been able to determine appropriate responses that may be suitable for one and not or the other so we are entering into an arena in which we'll also be able to lean."