Politics derails political reform

In the past few years, agreement seemed to have been reached on only one aspect of political reform - that it is needed. In recent weeks, three different proposals have been advanced. On October 16th, the Joint Select Committee on Political Reform appointed by the National Assembly in 1995 held its first meeting. They agreed to solicit comments on the question of reform. These comments should be submitted within six weeks to the Clerk of the National Assembly. The committee also invited certain nonpolitical representatives, not as members, but as "resource persons." "The Committee has also agreed to invite the following organizations to designate representatives to serve as resource persons to the Committee:- The Bar Association, ANDA, CVSS, Trade Union Congress, Council of Churches, Chamber of Commerce

In their role as resource persons, they will be expected to attend all the Meetings of the Committee and to participate fully in all consultations of the Committee."

District meetings would then be held, final recommendations would be prepared and submitted to the National assembly. They envision the process as finishing by the middle of April, 1998.

Few agree with the above, however, especially the opposition party, the People's United Party (PUP). The PUP issued a press release on October 16th stating they refused to serve on what they called a "puppet committee." They said they were "appalled at Barrow's posturing, his government's refusal to include civil society at the highest level and his government's disinterest." The PUP said a nonpolitical respected Belizean should chair the reform committee and "There must be a broad-based representation on the Committee from NGO's, the private sector, the Churches, the trade unions and other civil society organizations, and, the Committee's canvassing should include nationwide consultation in as many villages, towns and districts as possible." The PUP said they would not serve on the United Democratic Party's committee, that they would present their party's platform on reform directly to the Belizean people.

At least one non-governmental organization has been very busy for many years suggesting political reform - and what shape it should take. Although they have been the most active, S.P.E.A.R. (Society for the Promotion of Education and Research) was not invited to become a "resource person" to the Joint Select Committee on Political Reform. They also issued a press release on the subject, dated October 22, 1997. They asked that the 1996 proposals by 16 NGO's and 90 civil society groups at the Summit of Civil Societies be considered. Equal political and civil representation was asked for; concern was expressed about the short time table. The withdrawal of the PUP made the Joint select Committee a "one party exercise" said SPEAR. They called for a new independent national committee with ten members, six from civil society and two from each party. They asked for a pledge of support from both parties and that the committee's work not be tied to an artificial deadline.

Whether any further progress will be made regarding reform before the 1998 General Elections remains to be seem.

Politics derails political reform

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