BELIZE: AN INDEPENDENT NATION
As an independent nation, Belizeans saw it necessary to have an identity. One way in which this was done was through the selection and use of the National Symbols.
THE BELIZEAN FLAG
The colors blue, white and red that appear on the Belizean flag are derived from the colors of the two major political parties in Belize. Red and white are the colors of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and blue and white are the colors of the People's United Party (PUP).
In the middle of the flag is a white circle with the Coat of Arms. There is a shield divided into 3 sections. The base section represents a ship sailing. A saw and an axe are on the top right. The top left has a paddle, and a malet. Two woodcutters, one with a paddle, and the other with an axe, stand on both sides of the shield. The mahogany rises high above the shield. Below the shield are the Latin words, SUB UMBRA FLOREO
. This means "Under the shade of the tree I flourish."
A wreath of 50 leaves encircle the Coat of Arms. It reminds us that the first political party, the PUP, started in 1950. THE NATIONAL ANTHEM - LAND OF THE FREEO, Land of the Free by the Carib Sea, Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty! No tyrants here linger, despots must flee this tranquil haven of democracy. The blood of our sires which hallows the sod brought freedom from slavery 's oppression 's rod. By the might of truth and the grace of God, no longer shall we be hewers of wood.
Arise! Ye sons of the Baymen's clan. Put on your armour, clear the land! Drive back the tyrants, let despots flee, Land of the Free by the Carib Sea!
Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold, O’er mountains and valleys where prairies roll; Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold, Drove back the invader; this heritage hold. From proud Rio Hondo to Old Sarstoon. Through coral isle, over blue lagoon; Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon: For freedom comes tomorrow’s noon.
When the national flag is raised, and/or the national anthem is sung, everyone should stand at attention. All talking should cease, and all faces should look in the direction of the flag.
Men who are wearing hats (and are not law enforcers or military officers) should take them off. When people are at an event where the Prime Minister or governor-general will be present, they are expected to stand on the arrival and departure of these two dignitaries.THE NATIONAL FLOWER - THE BLACK ORCHID
It grows on trees in damp areas, and blooms all year round. The petals are greenish-yellow with some purple near the base. THE NATIONAL BIRD - THE KEEL BILLED TOUCAN
It is mostly black with a bright yellow chest. The great canoe-shaped billed of the toucan is green, blue, red and orange. The bird is about 20 inches in length. It is noisy and can be found in open areas in the country which has large trees. The toucan eats fruits. THE NATIONAL TREE - THE MAHOGANY TREE
The Mahogany Tree forms part of the national Coat of Arms. Mahogany was exploited by the British Settlers and shipped to Britain. The tree can grow as tall as 100 feet. It is used for lumber and for making furniture. THE NATIONAL ANIMAL - THE TAPIR
The Tapir is the largest animal in the American tropics, and is locally known as the Mountain Cow. It has a dusty brown color, and is related to the horse and rhinoceros. Its weight can be as much as 600 pounds. The Tapir is a vegetarian and is protected under the Wildlife Act of Belize.
BELIZE: THE GOVERNMENT
When Belize was a colony of Britain, the Queen was the titular head, and her representative was an English governor. After Belize became independent, the Queen of England remained as the titular head of state, and the governor was replaced by a governor-general who must be a Belizean citizen. The Governor-General is recommended for the position by the prime minister.
Belize has a democratic government based on the British parliamentary system with some adaptations of its own. There are three branches of government.LEGISLATURE
The Legislative Branch is made up of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The members of the House of Representatives are elected every 5 years in a general election. The Laws are introduced in the House of Representatives. There are at present 29 Members of this House.SENATE
There are 12 Senators who are appointed every 5 years. Six are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, three on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, one on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association of Churches, one on the advice of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau, and one on the advice of the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee.
The main function of the Senate is to consider and pass Bills passed by the House of Representatives. Other functions include authorizing the ratification of treaties, approving the establishment of foreign military bases and approving the, appointment of Ambassadors, the Judges, the Contractor General and the Ombudsman.EXECUTIVE
The Executive Branch consists of the members of government who are appointed to make up the Cabinet. The Prime Minister decides the composition of the Cabinet. The Cabinet is the chief policy-making body in the government.JUDICIARY
The Constitution provides for a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeal. The highest Court for Belize is the Privy Council in London. There are now proposals to replace the Privy Council with a Caribbean Court of Justice.
Below the Supreme Court are the Magistrate's Courts which try less serious criminal cases and small civil cases.
The Supreme Court conducts more serious criminal trials by juries. It also hears important civil cases. An appeal from the Supreme Court can go to the Court of Appeal and then to the Privy Council.
The Judiciary is the guardian of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. It applies and interprets the law and ensures that all persons and bodies respect the Constitution and the Laws of Belize.LOCAL GOVERNMENT
For administrative purposes Belize is divided into six districts. There is a city council for Belize City, and town boards in the other five districts. Additionally, the villages are governed by a village council. The Alcalde system also operates in some Maya villages in the Toledo District.
BELIZE: THE CONSTITUTION
Before the present constitution came into being, there were laws from as far back as the 1700 that governed the British settlement. In 1765, Admiral William Burnaby drafted the Burnaby's code which has evolved to the present constitution. The Belize Constitution informs Belizeans about their rights and freedom as it relates to citizenship, the governor-general, the three branches of government and other miscellaneous national issues.
Chapter 2 of the constitution guarantees the Belizean people basic rights as human beings regardless of race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed or sex.
Here are some of these rights taken from Chapter 2 of the Belize Constitution.
Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
3. Fundamental rights and freedoms.
4. Protection of right to life.
5. Protection of right to personal liberty.
6. Protection of law.
7. Protection from inhuman treatment.
8. Protection from slavery and forced labour.
9. Protection from arbitrary, search or entry.
10. Protection of freedom of movement.
11. Protection of freedom of conscience.
12. Protection of freedom of expression.
13. Protection of freedom of assembly and association.
14. Protection of rights of privacy.
15. Protection of right to work.
16. Protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, etc.
17. Protection from deprivation of property.
18. Provisions for periods of public emergency.
19. Protection of persons detained under emergency law.
20. Enforcement of protective provisions.
21. Protection of existing laws.
22. Interpretation and savings.
*This information is taken of the Citizens Test from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Belmopan 18th November, 2004.