PUP announces political reform package
The People's United Party (PUP) presented their proposals for
political reform on November 25th at Bliss Institute in Belize City. PUP
Party Leader the Honourable Said Musa, in introducing PUP Secretary
General Godfrey Smith, said that if his party formed the next
government, political reform legislation would be presented to the House
within 100 days of their taking office. He also said their proposals for
reform were the result of consultations they have performed around the
country and that recommendations for changes were welcome - these are
beginning proposals subject to revision.
PUP Secretary General Godfrey Smith, who read the proposals, said
that the PUP is willing to join with the National Assembly appointed
Joint Select Committee on Political Reform if the chairman of the
committee were from the private sector instead of a politician.
Here is what the PUP proposes:
Without a strong, well-respected Parliament perceived to express the
will of the people and to act on its behalf, there can be no lawful
state nor genuine liberties. The People's United Party offers the
That the National Assembly be made unicameral with the eight
Senators sitting and debating with the elected representatives but
without the right to vote.
That the Standing Orders be revised to ensure that more meaningful
debate can take place in the National Assembly and that motions of the
Opposition have a fair and speedy hearing. The Standing Committee system
should be made effective and subject to time limits for reporting back
to the Assembly.
That measures be taken to ensure that the Public Accounts Committee
be properly comprised and functioning.
That the Speaker be elected by a two thirds majority of the National
Assembly. A mechanism will be put in place to resolve a deadlock.
That Parliamentary Counsel be appointed to the staff of the National
Assembly to assist members with drafting of legislation and other
That parliamentary privilege be limited to prevent members from
slandering others with impunity.
That a Law Reform Commission responsible to the National Assembly be
established to undertake ongoing revision of the Laws of Belize.
That Crossing the floor by members of the Assembly be made
unconstitutional. Members wishing to change parties should be made to
resign and face a bye election.
That each constituency be allocated a budget to be used for
constituency projects presented by the representative to, and approved
by the Assembly. Each representative will be required to monitor and
report back to the Assembly on the implementation of such projects, and
the funds should be administered by a special public service mechanism
for fiscal implementation.
Increasing numbers of Belizeans view the Executive as too powerful, too
centralized, too large and too unaccountable. Our concept is of an
Executive that does not infringe on the pillars of other institutions,
of one that allows for citizens and organizations to exercise their
rights and obligations, of an Executive concerned with transparency and
responsible government. We make the following recommendations:
That the Head of State be a President elected by a two-thirds
majority of the National Assembly and with the powers and duties
currently exercised by the Governor-General. A mechanism will be put in
place to resolve deadlock. Belize shall remain as a member of the
Commonwealth of Nations.
That the Cabinet be comprised of not more than two-thirds of the
elected members of the party that has obtained the majority of seats in
the National Assembly.
That the Cabinet Secretary be required to hold press briefings after
Cabinet meetings to report on the decisions taken by Cabinet.
That a Finance Supervisory Committee comprised of non-partisan
persons be appointed to act as a watchdog over government's expenditure
programs and projects.
That Ministers and Public Officers be made legally liable for any
illegal or unconstitutional acts. That enforcement of judgements apply
against the state and that the Public Authorities Protection Act can be
A judicial system that dispenses justice in a manner that is both fair
and expeditious is an indispensable pillar for good governance and
democratic development. The prohibition of arbitrariness in any branch
of government and the submission of executive power to the rule of the
law are sine qua non to a healthy democracy. We offer the following
ELECTORAL FAIRNESS & TRANSPARENCY
That a litigant's access to the Courts be ensured, and not hindered
by ambiguous or onerous requirements or prohibitions, especially where
fundamental rights and freedoms of election petitions are involved.
That the independence of the Supreme Court and the Appeals Court be
assured by appointing competent judges ending the policy of contract
appointments and removing the salaries and benefits of judges from the
jurisdiction of the public service. The budget for the administration of
the judiciary should be submitted directly to the National Assembly and
voted on separately from the public service budgets.
That a separate and independent Judicial and Legal Services
Commission be established, with representation from the Bar Association
That separate and independent civil and criminal divisions of the
Supreme Court be established to speed up the disposal of cases.
That steps be taken to ensure quality and independence of the
Magistracy; they should not fall under the general jurisdiction for
public officers, but be appointed by and be subject to the Judicial and
Legal Services Commission.
Our democracy requires public participation, accountability and
transparency in the management of public institutions, especially the
Elections and Boundaries Commission. Public mistrust and suspicion
weaken the credibility of this institution. We make the following
That members of the Elections & Boundaries Commission be appointed
by the President upon nomination of all parties represented in the
National Assembly in such a way that each party is equally represented.
A chairperson should be appointed by the President with the approval of
the leaders of all parties represented in the Assembly. A mechanism will
be put in place to resolve deadlocks.
That the Commission submit its budget directly to the National
Assembly and that it be voted separately from the public service budget.
That campaign financing legislation be enacted to ensure disclosure
limits on financial contributions to political parties and candidates
for public office and to limit campaign expenditure.
Central government has treated village councils, town boards and the
Belize City Council as departments, undermining their capacity to
function and disrespecting their mandate. The People's United Party
makes the following proposals:
PREVENTION OF CORRUPTION
That the Belize City Council Act and the Local Government (District
Boards) Act be amended to give more independence, autonomy and
responsibility to local governments. The powers of the Minister over
these elected bodies should be severely curtailed.
That specific dates be fixed for local government elections.
That there be direct elections of Mayors.
That a Village Council Act be passed to give legal recognition,
independence and responsibility to village councils and to reduce the
power of the Minister over such bodies.
Corruption in public life has become pervasive. Citizens feel that
politicians and public officials use their public office for personal
enrichment and they demand immediate and practical solutions to restore
integrity in government. We offer the following suggestions:
That a contractor-general be appointed, along with an independent
board, to ensure the fair awarding and monitoring of government
That an Ombudsman be appointed, with powers and resources to act
efficiently and independently.
That the powers and independence of the Integrity Commission be
It is time that we end political tribalism and polarization in Belize.
Our children, our citizens and our voters must be given greater
responsibility for the affairs of their lives, their villages, their
towns and their relationships. Political education can assist in the
good governance of Belize. The People's United Party puts forth this
That a dynamic political education curriculum be designed with the
participation of civil society organization, such curriculum to include
history, social studies, civics and constitutional fundamentals.
Citizens' rights should not start and end in the polling booth. We
believe electoral reform can expand the rights and opportunities of
citizens and offer them alternative recourse in registering their
concerns and getting government to act on matters of vital public
importance. We offer the following recommendation:
That a Referendum Act be passed to enable citizens to petition for a
matter of national importance to be put to a referendum.
The process of consultation by the People's United Party has been long
but exciting and fruitful. Our Party is pleased with the number of
Belizeans who participate in our consultations across the country.
Belizeans had ready, definite and passionate ideas about political
reform. It is clear that our citizens believe that the time for
political reform is now.
In the spirit of solidarity and democracy, we have presented some
proposals for political reform, informed by dialogue and discussion. The
process does not end here. I invite you - now if you wish - to offer
your thoughts, your ideas as we enrich this exercise.
Over the coming months, our Party will be encouraging and soliciting
additional views from Belizeans and organizations. Inclusion, integrity,
accountability and transparency are a few of the building blocks to
initiate change and restore confidence in our political culture and
Thank you for coming, listening and participating.
Send comments to: Hon. Said Musa, P.U.P. Leader, 91 North Front
Street, P.O. Box 571, Belize City, Belize, Tel: 02-32940, Fax: 02-31149;
Hon. Jorge Espat, P.U.P. Chairman, 91 North Front Street, Belize City,
Belize, Tel: 02-30372, Fax: 02-31149; or Mr. Godfrey Smith, P.U.P.
Secretary General, 3 Queen Street, Belize City, Belize, Tel: 02-32428,
PUP announces political reform package
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