Keeping Democracy Alive!

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Friday, May 3, 2019

The Separation of Powers and its significance as a deterrent against tyranny is a familiar concept. Under the Westminster system, there does not exist a complete separation of powers. The legislature is in the form of parliaments; the executive in the form of the ministers and the government departments; and the judiciary are the judges and courts. The ministers or executive are drawn directly from and are responsible to the parliament or legislature. The separation of the judiciary is more distinct and therefore becomes even more vital in order to keep the desired checks and balances in place. The underlying motive is to keep democracy alive and to reduce the chances of a dictatorship forming.

How is it possible to distinguish if indeed there is a dictatorship brewing in Belize? According to Stephen M. Walt, International Affairs Professor at Harvard University, there are ten ways in which you can be sure. A few of the most blatantly obvious follow. First, is there a systematic effort to intimidate media? At this point many of us will have horrific flashbacks of Jules Vasquez being dragged out of the House of Representatives and of Marisol Amaya being roughed up at Tower Hill. Walt cites the politicizing of the civil service and the building of a friendly media network as telltale signs. Dictators in the making often use government power and funds to reward friendly corporate backers and the same to punish opponents. In Belize it is documented that infrastructure projects are habitually awarded to members of a select cadre of cronies. Another point Walt makes is that these tyrants consistently stack the Courts in their favour by appointing Justices that are friendly. This eases the severe and swift enforcement of the law against

Perhaps the most telling of the ways in which to discern if indeed there is a dictator in our midst are the last three points. Is the chaos at Vital Statistics, Election and Boundaries, and Immigration merely ineptitude or is this a more sinister and deliberate attempt at rigging the system and stacking the odds in their favour? Fear mongering and demonization of the Opposition are both equally rampant. The idea here is to create a scenario where we are doomed if we do not go to the ICJ. The UDP want to create panic and at the same time blame the PUP for everything from their maladroitness in managing the economy to their multiple botches in litigation both foreign and domestic.

If there still remains any uncertainty about our current situation, Farida Nabourema in her TED Talk 2018 also discussed the characteristics of a dictatorship. She speaks of the concentration of power in a political elite and the proliferation of the propaganda that only this elite can offer protection and deliverance from imagined or exaggerated impending disasters. This narcissistic messiah syndrome has certainly been in great evidence of late. Nabourema further explains that corruption, human rights violations and the use of the military to shut dissident voices are all symptomatic of dictatorship.

The Rule of Law and our Constitution must prevail above all else lest we continue to slip and slide into a dictatorship. We must safeguard our democracy, our freedoms and our territorial integrity. The ICJ must not be entered into haphazardly. We must ensure that all our citizens who are eligible to register can do so free of all encumbrances. Belizeans, we must resist this repressive UDP regime and its attempt to use terror tactics to impulse us into a situation we are ill equipped to handle. Lord Acton said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Belizeans take back the power, keep democracy alive!

On May 8th Vote NO to the ICJ!

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