Today was a day of history in the House: There was a new leader of the opposition - and for only the third time in the country's independent history - the leader of the opposition is not the leader of the party.

But, in the other two cases - that's because the leader of the party was not elected; in this case Leader Patrick Faber is elected, but has been pushed to the far end of the opposition bench - one seat from the last. It's a weird configuration, and says a whole lot about the deeply divided state of the UDP.

But, that little political drama gathered only passing attention today - all eyes in the House were on the 11th Amendment which seeks to prevent any person who has served more than 12 months in any prison from being in parliament. The timing of the amendment - right after Shyne Barrow has ascended to Leader of the Opposition - has not been lost on him and he feels that it is a direct attack.

But not just on him - rather on all persons who for one reason or the other found themselves behind bars and has since turned over a new leaf. And it is no secret that most of those who have been to prison are marginalized - likely poor black and brown men.

And Barrow indicated his discontent with the bill today during an interview with the media, where he called it out for being discriminatory and also called out those who support it since, according to him, they have likely never been faced with poverty.

Hon. Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition
"Indeed it is targeted towards me, an entire class of people, certainly the targeting of the opposition leader and the opposition members is alarming and anti democratic but before I address that I have to address the classism, the --, the discrimination and inequality of such an amendment and the irony of the rich, powerful, wealthy minister Henry Charles who is the son of the Right Honorable Said Musa who's the only prime minister arrested and charged for stealing $40 million dollars that were supposed to go to the Belizean poor people for housing...he was arrested and charged and beat the charge. Whereas Shyne Barrow, 19 years old, paid his debt to society 22 years ago, I paid for what I did. So here we have rich and powerful people putting forward a legislation that will not just target the leader of the opposition but will impact who? The poor, the working class, who don't have the political connections, who don't have the finances to have top paid lawyers so that they could beat the system.so what happens to that 19 year old that due to economic hardships, due to immaturity, commits a crime and does two years in prison, so now are we saying that that young man or a young woman completely rehabilitates his or herself and turns their life around and that is demonstrated lets say for a ten period year, they should not be allowed to participate in representation of the people's act? A community from where that person comes from, they should be deprived to elect one of their own because that is what electoral politics Is, the people deciding who they want to elect them. So again I just feel that is an arbitrary amendment and that is why the social partners insist with the 9th amendment, the 10th amendment, and now the 11th amendments, that no amendments of the constitution should take place until there is a convening of constitution reform commission so that we can reform the entire constitution and reform it with by partisan participation."

And a correction on Shyne's remarks, Said Musa was charged for the theft of 10 million US dollars in public funds in 2008 - and he didn't "beat the charge" as Shyne suggested; in fact, the Chief Justice found that there was no evidence to substantiate the charge of theft.

But, back to the 11th Amendment, what would happen if it were to be passed? Barrow mused about it today and added that there were others in parliament before him who had served time - including national hero, Philip Goldson.

Hon. Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition
"Worse case scenario they would try to stop me from running again, it will not cope me to demit office now but the argument as to the reelection, it goes both ways because you could argue and grandfathered in and it should be applied to people who will now for the first time be attempting to run but even if that were the case I would still stand against such a legislation that is arbitrary and makes no room for redemption and rehabilitation and again, look at Philip Goldson, when Philip Goldson was fighting for this country, the governor general sent him to prison for 18 months. So if we had laws like that Philip Goldson would be disqualified....this is not something that is unprecedented where people have been convicted and committed crime and still allowed to redeem and rehabilitate."

He then questioned the motives behind the bill but was uncertain on whether he will challenge it before it returns to the House:

Hon. Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition
"They say we want better quality candidates but then the lawyers and the doctors and the master degree holders have proven to be the best white collared criminals ever. We have for forty years elected lawyers, and highly educated people and where are we? Still complaining about corruption, still haven't signed UNCAC, they should be strengthening the accountability laws, enforcing the accountability laws to get rid of the opportunity to commit crimes while in office and we don't see that. Where is the unlawful enrichment legislation? Why can't we pass a law so that every minister for the last forty years will have to go back to when they first started politics, show us their account and show us where their account is now and have to explain how they went from 10,000 dollars to 10 million dollars."

"My lawyers have not gotten to that determination, we're still researching and formulating our position but he will determine whether or not to wait for it to be enacted or preempt it. Because again we won't know, there is an outcry right now, again the social partners believe that there should be no amendment to the constitution without there being a properly constituted constitution commission comprised by partisan professionals and experts and after doing nationwide consultation, that is the position of the social partners. And many people, many activists, many regular people are outraged as to this legislation so we will se in the house committee it could very well be that we come to some types of resolution that would see a better bill put forward."

New UDP Leader of the Opp Stakes Out New Ground

But for now, Shyne remains in the House and on his first official day as Leader of the Opposition, he stood up briefly to give his comments on what he hopes to have his leadership represent.

He spoke about change and reform and the importance of the opposition to be held accountable, if they also expect the same from the government.

Hon. Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition
"I stand here before you today as leader of the opposition, not because of political ambitions. I stand here before you because I am serious about the reform agenda, I am serious about accountability and I am serious about restoring public trust and confidence. I am serious about being a safeguard of our democracy, I am serious about ensuring the best public policies for the people of Belize. As leader of the opposition, I will hold not only the government accountable for its policies, but I will hold myself and the opposition members accountable."

"This is a turning point in the history of governance in our country. I have the fortitude and the political will to be the engine that helps to drive change for the better in Belize. Change is never easy, but change is necessary. Reform is uncomfortable, reform makes some unsettled. However, to empower and uplift our people reform we must."

Channel 7