Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Swoosh… faster than Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, the Belize Territorial Dispute Referendum Bill 2019 (BTDRB) is now law, given the Governor General’s signature. Even before Belize could take a sigh of relief that the Court of Appeal was confirming the righteousness of the Chief Justice’s Interim Injunction to the flawed April 10 writs of referendum, PM Barrow sloppily engineered another of his infamous ‘fixes.’ The problem, with these ‘fix’ legislations used to legalize something retroactively, is that in recent history–2015–one ‘fix’ has cost us half a billion dollars. In this occasion, the swiftness of the bill has onlookers befuddled. Why?
The theories as to why the reckless speed to legislate are as numerous and varied as the number of persons you ask. The first is what the United Democratic Party states: They want the people to have their say. Any foreigner would think that this answer is a no-brainer given that it is in the middle of their name—Democratic. But this theory is quickly debunked as untrue. At the last house meeting, the Prime Minister officially cast out the ICJ referendum for our families living abroad. One UDP minister hailed it as impossible since there was no ‘infrastructure’ for voting abroad. Maybe he meant that only in Belize could they benefit from infrastructure.
The UDP agreement to this BTDRB was eerily similar to the Budget debate in late March. The similarity is that they referred to the bill almost at no time. Could it be that they didn’t understand the details as straight forward as it might have been? Had they seen the bill before or they were just told to vote yes? They were nevertheless aiding and abetting their boss as he probably was asking them to agree to a bill not consistent with constitutional requirements. This will be left up to Sylvester, Courtney et al.
The People’s United Party were not offered the bill until a few hours before the House Sitting. They were expected to prepare this while skipping sleep. They nevertheless came prepared to defend Belize and standup against the wrath of the UDP. PUP presentations were met with jeers and heckling from UDP ministers and their gallery. The respect that they receive from the PUP is never reciprocal. The UDP are consistently in their opposition act. Belize would definitely benefit if the UDP would someday realize that they should be governing. The PUP is always poised to show them another example of people-centered governance.
So the BTDRB was passed in that one day with only one UDP rep absent and thus not voting. The PUP had an abstention which was absorbed with class by the PUP given the deep ramifications of the bill. So then this BTDRB bill was sent to the Senate to debate and vote on the following Monday April 15.
The Senate had the attorney general, as usual, incredulous that there was an opposition. How can the actions of his government be questioned? How dare the PUP stand for the Belizean people? Similar to the comments made at the House, the Senate UDP were a part of the lets hurry mode. They expected nobody to look at details since this was a simple bill. A UDP senator had an appointment for the afternoon since he felt that they should be out of there at 11:30am. A total disrespect for the Belizean citizens, who incidentally, are footing the bill.
The PUP senators were led by Senator Courtney who spared no words to condemn the UDP’s attempt to maybe railroad this BTDRB.
“We have an opportunity as Belizeans to renew our commitment on the Belize-Guatemala issue to a united and unified position. It is far too important an issue for us to continue. The Honorable Attorney General blames the PUP for politicizing it and the PUP blaming the UDP for politicizing it. Whoever is at fault, the time is opportune for us to put political differences aside and to approach this matter as Belizeans united to fight against Guatemala.
It is not without significance that we find ourselves here at the National Assembly debating a bill to allow a referendum to take place lawfully on a day after when the referendum should have been held. That should give us reason to pause… when is it that the government realized that a piece of legislation is required in order to lawfully hold this election? We were supposed to go April 10, 2019 without this bill. It means Mr. President that we were going to have a referendum that was not properly authorized by law that we are now going to consider this piece of legislation we need to get it right. And the appeal is for us as Belizeans is to join forces in a responsible way that we can return to the days when we dealt with this matter on a bipartisan basis. There was no need with a special purpose bill in order to have a referendum which begs the question is it designed to undermine the claim that is pending in the court? Is it designed to undermine the injunction by the Chief Justice? That us something that we should not countenance.”
In the end, the senate, as is not surprising, voted to rubber stamp the bill to now be sent to the Governor General. It was of note that the Non-governmental Organization’s Senator and the Church Senator both voted in favor in the Division that was called. Both these Senators seem to be beholden to something other than the people of Belize. The NGO senator had questions but still voted in favor the bill, this is not to be taken lightly.
Belizean are still left to wonder why the haste? Guatemalan elections? The UK/USA/EU circular? The OAS? Or is the UDP ego really that hurt?