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Jan 20, 1998

Propaganda war intensifies as House meets on Friday

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It was a truce that was never meant to last…but the Christmas-New Year’s lull in Belize’s ongoing political wars has officially ended. With the House of Representative scheduled to meet on Friday and Speaker B.Q. Pitts ready to pass sentence on P.U.P. Leader Said Musa, government has cranked up its taxpayer funded propaganda machine and the opposition has responded in kind. Political observers have been puzzled at the government’s latest efforts to create a “hang’em high” atmosphere through the use of television advertisements. One school of thought believes that Belmopan is conditioning the public to condone a harsh sentence–like expulsion from the House. The other theorizes that by creating this expectation and then giving Musa only a reprimand it will appear that the speaker–and the party that appointed him–are both merciful and fair. All this of course presupposes that the speaker acts independently of government and that the U.D.P. has no idea of how Mr. Pitts will rule on Friday. Meanwhile, as with any really big show, the headliner is always preceded by a warm up act. In this case the undercard to Friday’s championship will take place on Thursday morning in the court of Justice George Meerabux. At ten a.m. he will give his ruling on Musa’s motion to declare the Speaker’s judgment null and void and restrain him from taking any action against him. Musa and the P.U.P.–with a good deal of law to back them up–have maintained that neither Belize’s constitution nor the standing orders of the House, give that body any power to find a member in contempt, much less punish him for any such real or imagined offense. The government has argued that such power flows to our legislature through common law from the British House of Commons. Justice Meerabux, who has had the benefit of written submissions only, will nonetheless make his ruling on Thursday. At that time he will tell the speaker to either proceed or halt…or he may choose a third alternative: the path of least political resistance…and declare that he has no jurisdiction to tell the legislature anything. If the good judge selects that option then the implications will go far beyond the fate of Said Musa. It would mean that the notion of checks and balances and separation of powers that we thought were part of our political system do not exist at all…which in itself is a pretty good argument for political reform.

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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