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Oct 20, 2016

Finally, the 13th Senator – But B.N.T.U. Wants “Black and White”

There will finally be a thirteenth member appointed to the Upper House, the Senate. However, it will come twenty days into the New Year. With little fanfare, the Government Press Office announced that Prime Minister Dean Barrow today signed the commencement order to give effect to the provisions relating to the appointment of the thirteenth senator pursuant to the Belize Constitution Sixth Amendment Act. The order takes effect on January twentieth, 2017. In the intervening three months, Government says it will be consulting with the non-governmental organizations to work out the mechanism for selection of the thirteenth senator. The proposal had first been introduced eight years ago ahead of general elections and after winning a three-fourths majority the first Barrow administration amended the Constitution. The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations was appointed to meet and named then-executive director of Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, Greg Ch’oc, as its nominee. But then, the Prime Minister changed his mind claiming there would be “paralysis” as a result of the social partners seeming to side with the Opposition against the Government. Several N.G.O.s in 2011 brought a lawsuit demanding implementation, but it was struck out at the Supreme Court by then-Acting Chief Justice Samuel Awich. The People’s United Party under Francis Fonseca filed a claim to revive the issue in May of 2015, but before the matter could be heard later in September, Prime Minister Barrow called elections and Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin postponed hearing of the case. More recently, it was one of the banner demands of the Belize National Teachers’ Union, joined by other organizations, and the Prime Minister finally gave in last week Thursday following negotiations with the B.N.T.U.

 

Luke Palacio

Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

“We’ve seen the press release that the Prime Minister has signed the commencement order for the thirteenth senator; we have not received a copy.  What we are told is that it should be gazetted tomorrow. We need to get in touch with the Chief Executive Officer in his ministry to see if we can get a signed copy, but it is now public knowledge based on what’s come out that it has been done. So he has met that one deadline.”

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