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Sep 9, 1998

Opposition will boycott ceremonial opening of House

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While the government was busy announcing its new appointments, the Opposition had some announcements of it’s own. Appearing at a Belize City press conference this morning U.D.P. Leader Dean Barrow told journalists that the three opposition House members and two senators would not be taking part in Saturday’s outdoor ceremonial opening of the National Assembly in Belmopan. The reasons, he said, were a matter of law and tradition.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“In the view of the United Democratic Party, the government’s decision to hold the first sitting of the National Assembly on the day and at the time and place announced is contrary both to president and the law. In our view it is disrespectful of the functional as well as the symbolic role of the National Assembly to have its opening sitting in a place other than the National Assembly chambers.

The standing orders of the House require sitting of the House to take place only on Fridays and to begin only at ten a.m. unless the House otherwise decides. Naturally enough before the House can otherwise decide it must first meet in accordance with the standing orders. Then and only then can it vary those standing orders with respect to subsequent meetings. In these circumstances in our view the proposed sitting on Saturday and at nine a.m. is contrary to the standing orders and is therefore illegal.”

While Barrow cited the standing orders of the House as the controlling law on the subject, a P.U.P. spokesman pointed to the Constitution of Belize, the supreme law of the land, which specifically states in section eighty-three – one that the Governor General shall fix the time at which each session of the National Assembly shall begin. While defending his party’s absence from Belmopan on Saturday, Barrow did say that his team would be on hand when the legislature gets down to business at the next session. The official opposition swearing in will be done at that time by the clerk of the National Assembly.

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