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Jan 12, 2017

Why 13th Senator cannot join colleagues next week

Valerie Woods

President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, Osmany Salas, was elected on Tuesday by his peers as the thirteenth member of the Senate. He was expected to be sworn in by Tuesday, January seventeenth. The Commencement Order, however, signed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in October allows that the relevant sections of the amendment to the Constitution do not take effect until three days later, January twentieth.  On the day before, the Senate is scheduled to meet for the first time this year – but the Opposition is asking that have that meeting put on hold. The reason, according to Senator Valerie Woods, is that Salas will be at a disadvantage in not being present to discuss the amended Non-Governmental Organizations Act, which goes for second reading at Friday’s House of Representatives special sitting and is expected to be passed and move to the Senate thereafter. To postpone the meeting, Woods told News Five, is to avoid bad faith with the N.G.O. community.

 

Valerie Woods, P.U.P. Senator

“The Bill to amend the N.G.O. Act is on the agenda for the House meeting; tomorrow we will know if it actually remains on that agenda. But indeed if it is discussed at the House meeting – and given past experience, second reading Bills normally then go to the following Senate meeting – and if it were to then be on the January nineteenth Senate meeting [agenda], it would reek of bad faith that the Senate is discussing a Bill dealing with the N.G.O. community, that has an impact on the N.G.O. community, and the thirteenth Senator who represents that community is not present because the commencement order is one day after. We think good governance, transparency, respecting the will of the people – remember, this thirteenth Senator was a Constitutional amendment, duly passed, nine years ago. It took nine years to get us, get the country to where it is with the thirteenth Senator. Why continue delay by one day? Just reschedule the meeting, and allow the Senate to have its thirteen senators.”

 

According to Senator Woods, lead P.U.P. Senator Eamon Courtenay has officially written Senate President Lee Mark Chang to request the change of date. As of news time, the Opposition was still awaiting a response.

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