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Jun 30, 2004

P.M. appoints commission on governance

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Pundits may speculate on the relative popularity of the nation’s two political parties but one point on which both P.U.P. and U.D.P. may agree is that politicians and the process of government are today held in lower esteem then at any point in recent memory. How that situation has come to pass is another story…but today, in an effort to do something about it, government has done what governments often do: appointed a commission.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

To a roomful of government, diplomatic, and media representatives, this morning Prime Minister Said Musa presented letters of appointment to members of the newly established Belize Governance Improvement Commission.

Theirs is a difficult task: changing Belize?s culture of cynicism into a society with renewed faith in the government, built on the foundations of accountability, participation, transparency and predictability.

The members of the Belize Governance Improvement Commission are:

Chairperson: C.E.O. Dr. Carla Barnett

Minister of Human Development Sylvia Flores

Senator Godwin Hulse

Dylan Reneau

Abdallah Bedran

Mayor Anthony Chanona

Rt. Rev. Bishop Sylvestre Romero Palma

Luz Longsworth

Herbert Wiltshire

Michael Polonio

Pulcheria Teul

Dr. Jason Price

The opposition has yet to name their representative on the commission.

According to P.M. Musa, the commission is part of his government?s promise to be tough on corruption and on the causes of corruption.

Prime Minister Said Musa

?Well there is no doubt that over the years there?s been a growing disillusionment with politics, with politicians. People believe that every politician is on the take. This is not a phenomenon unique to Belize, this is all over the world. We have to instil confidence, and the only way to do this is by coming together, analyzing our problems, and taking measures–clear, concrete measures in addressing these things to improve not only the perception, but the reality of what governance is all about. The true, noble value of politics must be restored.?

Anthony Chanona, Member, B.G.I.C.

?If the people are ready, this thing could work. The commissioners will not be the end to the beginning of good governance; it has to be people. Are we ready as a country to govern ourselves to make a better Belize.?

Janelle Chanona

?And that would speak to the politicians in power as well??

Anthony Chanona

?Well, if you read the terms of reference, the commissioners are to advise the Cabinet. I guess the question is, is Cabinet ready to take advice? That is left to be seen.”

Luz Longsworth, Members, B.G.I.C.

?It?s very important that action be seen, that the public be involved in the discussions that the commission will have. It?s not going to be an overnight thing, it?s going to be years actually of building that confidence, building the sort of integrity that the commission is trying to put in place. And it?s a matter of gaining the trust of the public; we are expecting that with their involvement that that will become an easier process as we move along.?

Dr. Carla Barnett, Chairperson, B.G.I.C.

?But it can only have sustainable impact if people in general are willing to participate in the process, say what their needs are, say what their own vision for what good governance means, because it means different things for different people, and we all have to willing to listen and to learn from one another; that?s what it takes. So it?s the beginning, I think, of a long process. It?s not a transformation that we should expect to take place overnight, but what we will begin to see overnight is dedicated work towards that end. And once we keep on target I think eventually we will begin to see the general public seeing things a little differently, not because they are told that?s it?s different, but because they feel the difference and they see the difference.?

The commission begins its work in mid-July and will work closely with oversight officers like the Auditor General, the Contractor General, and the Ombudsman. Public consultations are also planned. P.M. Musa maintains this national effort will not be yet another ?talk shop?.

Prime Minister Said Musa

?Well I think that we should not fall prey to this feeling of cynicism, with all due respect. Because if you compare the openness of government today to let?s say, five years or ten years ago, this government is far more open than any government of our country, that?s the first comparative analysis you should do. Yes, and I was the first to admit it, we have much more to do. We have a long way to go to democratize our democracy, our parliamentary democracy, but it?s a process and we?re engaged in it. And all I can commit to do is that we will continue down this road, because I see it as important that in this day of universal freedom of information…because the truth is it?s out there whether the government or politicians likes it or not, people will find out. So there?s no point in trying to hide things from people, so you have to be very open and transparent and you have to be able to defend the decisions that you take. If I can be faulted, I would say we have not been doing enough of defending the positions that we take and coming forward to people, but I intend to do something about that now.?

The work of the Belize Governance Improvement Commission is funded through the United Kingdom’s DFID programme and Canada’s CIDA initiative.

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