Weaponizing The State Of Emergency
At light speed the most depressed section of the ‘Old Capital’ is being forced on lockdown. This part of Belize City is where the most single mothers and impoverished families reside. It is despicable that Southside is the area where the most powerful United Democratic Party ministers, including Prime Minister Dean Barrow hold constituency representation for years. With six days of breathing space given to the citizens, the government acting on the provision of Section 18 of the Constitution of Belize has invoked a State of Emergency (SoE) on Southside Belize and conceded that they have no real long lasting answers to fight crime.
Michael Peyrefitte Attorney General and Minister of National Security told the nation that this resulted from two weekend murders and a string of arm robberies. Peyrefitte posits that “we had no choice but to ask the Governor General to enter us into another State of Emergency where we can detain these persons of interest to prevent further bloodshed.”
The provision of Section 18 of the Constitution empowers the Government to have the Governor General proclaim a period of public emergency only where:
“( a ) a state of war between Belize and another state is imminent or that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence, outbreak of infectious disease, or other similar calamity; or
“( b ) that action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and so extensive a scale as to be likely to endanger the public safety, or substantial portion of the community, supplies or services essential to life.”
However, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay made a scathing observation in the article named “The State of Emergency is illegal.” Courtenay postulated that “a state of emergency is to be used sparingly and in very exceptional circumstances. It is only where the objective facts reveal a grave and present danger to life and/ or property which cannot be managed by using measures contained in ordinary legislation that the extraordinary power can be [lawfully] exercised.”
Therefore, the invoking of another Southside SoE is garbed in a veil of suspicion. Numerous ordinary legislative mechanisms exist in the war against crime and violence. The question whether the SoE is the tool of convenience against gang activity is well placed.
It is the writer’s opinion that the state of emergency is being “weaponized” maliciously by the Barrow administration. Election is fast approaching and the UDPs is losing its grip on power. A state of emergency could be an undermining factor in the upcoming general election.
In early June, former Chief Medical Officer of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Patrick Martin, had accused the Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris of “weaponizing” the COVID-19 pandemic and unnecessarily continuing the state of emergency for political advantage. Addition to using the SoE as cover to suspend fundamental freedoms and protections during the election period, Martin said “this weaponization… includes fear-mongering at briefings and in addresses.” Concerns developed regarding handpicked electoral officers.
In the United States of America individuals are pre-empting that Trump is plotting to hijack the presidency using executive powers and the creation of a state of emergency. Philip Roth in his book The Plot Against America shows how an authoritarian president could grab control of the United States Government using emergency powers that no one could foresee.
Although, the UDP Government is attempting to sway the populace, the Belizean electorate that the weekend murders and the robberies are responsible for the proclamation of this now state of emergency on the Southside, it is not. Surreptitiously, there is an attempt manifesting to undermine the 2020 general election.
An indication by A.U. Brown saying that “… if they are willing to use the SoE to suppress the movement of citizens then you can expect anything from them including trying to rig elections.”
Nonetheless, a “Peoples firewall” is the solution, civil society, unions, and churches. Additionally, the right to vote allows the electorate to remove those who do not represent its values and replace them with leaders who will fight for its vision for the future.
Whenever elections are called the people will overwhelmingly get rid of this vindictive government comprised of ruthless, greedy, corrupt, nepotistic, and lawless people. Lock stock and barrel, they got to go!♪♪ – Voice of the Common Man By Hilly Bennett