9th Constitutional Amendment Bill in consultation phase

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Public consultations regarding the proposed 9th Constitutional Amendment Bill have commenced. Currently, any constitutional amendments must be approved through a court system that assures that the amendment is consistent with our existing constitution. The 9th Amendment Bill eliminates court approval for such changes. The 9th Amendment Bill would also make it impossible to challenge Government’s ownership of the essential utility services such as electricity, telecommunications and water.

The consultations will provide valuable information to the public as well as afford them the opportunity to voice their opinions and views on the amendment. Should the majority speak against the Amendment, then the Prime Minister is expected to abide by the voice of the majority.

This amendment has been met with much opposition from groups such as Belizeans for Justice (BFJ), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Bar Association. In a press release issued by the Bar Association in July of this year, the lawyer association called on the Government to withdraw the amendment in its entirety, citing “The amendment to section 2 of the Constitution which attempts to “oust the jurisdiction of the Courts…undermines the Rule of Law…and violates the doctrine of Separation of Powers which are essential elements in our Constitution, the amendment to Section 69 is “in direct contravention of the intention of our founding fathers and of the fundamental principles upon which the Nation of Belize was founded.”

While the bodies objecting to the Proposed 9th Constitutional Amendment are many, the GOB (Government of Belize) recently garnered the support of two bodies that had previously objected the proposal. In a press release dated Monday August 22nd by GOB in regards to the support of the Evangelical Association of Churches and the Belize Council of Churches, they expressed their full support for the Ninth Constitution Amendment Bill. The release stated, “The decision of the Churches came after frank discussions in which Government clarified the Bill’s intentions and agreed to certain changes in order to allay publicly expressed fears and misconceptions. The changes will see the removal, before the Bill is brought back for passage through Parliament, of the specific language barring court enquiry into the validity of any law passed to alter the Constitution”.

In the same release, the Government assured the leaders that the Bill in its new form retained all the essential provisions. Therefore, it would still guarantee the impregnability of the utilities’ nationalization and pointed out that the official public consultation process is still ongoing and calls on the people of Belize to come out in support of the 9th Amendment Bill. It further reiterates that additional changes to further safeguard the Bill may still be made, depending on the outcome of the consultation process.

The Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives will be holding its public consultations on the Belize Constitution (Ninth Amendment) Bill, 2011 as follows:

August 24, 2011 – Corozal Town – Corozal Town Civic Center at 7:00 p.m
August 31, 2011 – Orange Walk Town – Sports Complex at 7:00 p.m
September 7, 2011 – Dangriga Town – Fr. Marin Parish Hall at 7:00 p.m

September 14, 2011 – San Pedro Town – 

R. Angel Nuñez Auditorium at 7:00 p.m

September 28, 2011 – Independence – Independence Primary School Auditorium at 7:00 p.m
October 5, 2011- Punta Gorda Town – Punta Gorda Sport Complex at 6:30 p.m
October 12, 2011 – San Ignacio/Santa Elena – ITVET Building at 7:00 p.m
October 19, 2011 – Maskall Village – Maskall Community Center at 7:00 p.m
November 2, 2011 – Belmopan – UB Auditorium at 6:30 p.m

Any persons, interested bodies or community-based organizations wishing to state their views and/or recommendation on the bill are invited to do so at the public consultation or in writing to the clerk of the National Assembly at P.O. Box 139, Belmopan or email at ClerkNA@bna.gov.bz

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