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Nov 24, 2022

Concerns Raised During First Session of People’s Constitution Commission Meeting

The inaugural meeting of the People’s Constitution Commission took place today at the House of Culture in Belize, but from the get-go, there were concerns raised by some of the representatives who make up the commission. The media was allowed to sit in on the morning session, which was spent mostly on introductions of those representatives. But as was picked up in the following report, commissioners are keenly in tuned and raised objections from pretty early in the process. Here’s Marion Ali with the details.


Anthony Chanona

Anthony Chanona, Chair, People’s Constitution Commission

“While there may arise occasions that may seek to divide us as a team, let us always try to remember that in this exercise, it is not about us but about our nation, our people.”


Marion Ali, Reporting

The first order of business for the twenty-three member groups that make up the People’s Constitution Commission is for all their representatives to sign an oath of office or an affirmation before a Commissioner of the Supreme Court, in order that their appointment is deemed valid. But even before that initial phase could be completed, there was a concern raised. One member raised issue with the last line of the oath, which read quote: “So help me, God,” unquote. Following the morning’s session, Commission Chairman, Anthony Chanona explained how this will be handled.


Anthony Chanona

“It’s such a beautiful Constitution. It provides for, if you do not want to say “So help me, God”, then you affirm your oath of office. So what we’ll be signing this afternoon or when we resume, for those who do not want to say “So help me God,” signs the affirmation of the oath.”


The commission’s duty is to make extensive amendments and revise, where necessary, the Constitution of Belize. Today, the twenty entities of the commission that were present, including the University of Belize, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Belize Kriol Council, the National Garifuna Council, the Mayas, and the Bar Association, began their first day of work. The Public Service Commission is represented by its, President, Dean Flowers


Dean Flowers

Dean Flowers, President, P.S.U.

“I’m hoping that coming out of this process we’ll see a constitution that of course protects citizens’ rights, and more importantly guards against government abuses and restore some balance of power and of course ensure that minority groups are protected.”


The media, also known as the Fourth Estate, is also on the Commission, represented by Pastor Louis Wade Junior.


Louis Wade Jr.

Louis Wade Jr.

“If our personal agendas supersede the will of the people, they will let us know in no uncertain terms. It has happened in many parts of the world where groups like this have met for periods of time like this and driven by personal agendas over time, the people have shut them down.”


But the oath that these commissioners take will hold them to a degree of silence, or in this case, confidentiality in the information they share with the media. So we asked Chanona how that should be interpreted.


Anthony Chanona

“There’s nothing secret about the people’s business. But the law prescribes for an oath of confidentiality and certainly in engaging the media and in engaging the Belizean people.”


Marion Ali

“The media does represent a large population – the wider public, so then what is withheld from the media would be, argumentatively speaking, withheld from those people.”


Anthony Chanona

“And we have no such intention, Marion, to withhold. In fact, going into this process, and looking at best practices in other parts of the world, to leave the media out is to invite problems of transparency and accountability. That’s why we invited the media to this session.”

The current Constitution has been in existence since September of 1981. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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