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Aug 10, 2023

Briceño Administration Revisits 11th Amendment; Sayonara Shyne?

Has the People’s United Party purposely decided to rain on the Leader of the Opposition’s parade?  As we reported on Wednesday, Shyne Barrow is in the process of filming for a Disney documentary on his life.  He is also gearing up for an endorsement convention this weekend where his leadership of the United Democratic Party is being fully supported.  But two years ago, the Briceño administration sought to introduce a law that would essentially prohibit persons with criminal records, including felonies, from running for office.  Barrow, as it is widely known, served almost a decade in a U.S. prison, following a shooting inside a nightclub in New York.  Despite having turned his life around and entered electoral politics, the new law, once enacted, can adversely affect his political career.  This morning, the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee met to revisit the Eleventh Amendment.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The resurrection of a proposed piece of legislation threatens to undermine Shyne Barrow’s ambition to one day become the prime minister of this country.  The 11th Amendment remained dormant for almost two and a half years, ever since the upper house raised serious concerns that ultimately led to the bill being shelved.  Its timing also seems convenient, as the Leader of the Opposition is once again basking in the limelight of international exposure and is heading into a convention weekend that will see his leadership of the United Democratic Party being endorsed.


Shyne Barrow

Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“It’s clearly a weaponization of the Constitution of Belize to attack your political opponent.  I cannot describe it as anything other than what it clearly is.”


The 11th Amendment, a controversial bill that, once enacted, seeks to disqualify individuals with criminal convictions from running for public office as members of parliament.  It’s a motion that was tabled under the Briceño administration back in 2021.


Julius Espat

Julius Espat, Chair, Constitution House Committee

“As a responsible committee, we had to bring it back to the House.  That’s in the Standing Orders that a constitutional change takes ninety days.  After ninety days, then the House, if the committee does not call a meeting to address, then the House will have to make that decision to take it back, and they normally will.  So it has to go back.  And so, a decision was made that let’s do it through the committee, a meeting was held and the honorable Barrow gave his presentation.  We asked for a vote, it was unanimous that it goes back to the House.  It’s not that we are approving anything, we are taking back the amendment to the House for second reading.”


But why is the proposed change being revisited at this time, considering the fact that it had been turned down initially by the civil society senators in the upper house?


Shyne Barrow

“The last time this legislation was put forward, all of the senators wrote to the prime minister to complain that they did not appreciate the piecemeal approach, I quote, to amending our constitution and that they would prefer a holistic approach.  And so, that is what stayed the 11th Amendment because we had a House Committee meeting about it and it was debated and discussed and there were many members who said, yes, we understand that piecemeal is not the best way and we need to look at this in a comprehensive fashion.”


That all-inclusive approach would be led by the People’s Constitution Commission which is charged with reviewing the existing laws of Belize and provide recommendations for revision.  Nonetheless, the Constitution & Foreign Affairs Committee has taken it upon itself to reconsider the proposed amendment.


Isani Cayetano

“How would you respond to any critic who says, “Okay, well perhaps this is being done at this present moment, perhaps to respond in some political way to the no-confidence motion that has been brought by Mr. Barrow against the leadership of this administration?”


Julius Espat

“That is normal to come up in anybody’s mind.  That’s the first thing somebody would think of and, I think, if you’re a human being, it could be part of the formula.  At the end of the day, we are politicians.  It’s something that’s on the table, yoh heat up di table wah lot, then let’s deal with everything.”


For Barrow, whose rise to prominence in Belizean politics succeeds a lengthy prison sentence in the United States, for a criminal offense committed with a firearm at the age of nineteen, this is an attempt to derail his career.


Shyne Barrow

“Here we are now, two years later.  There has been no activity from someone who was convicted of more than a year, to suggest that the country is in grave danger if this constitutional amendment is not put forward. So, to me it is an endorsement.  I’m being endorsed by my party on Sunday, but it is also an endorsement by the PUP, if it counts for anything, because dehn and nothing da di same right now, kilich kalach, but it proves that I have the PUP, along with my party, we have them rattled, we have them shook, we have them frightened.  Why else would they be coming with this ad hominem legislation that does not address any of the current issues?”


Isani Cayetano

“In a case where, if we look at the Shyne Barrow situation, his record has been expunged.  He has served the time, the offense has been stricken from his record.  Why then would that be applicable in a situation like this, where this administration is seeking to put in place a certain piece of law would prohibit someone from running for the highest office, notwithstanding the record being cleared?”


Shyne Barrow

Julius Espat

“You served your time in the United States, yet you cannot live in the United States because after you served your time, they decided that you are not fit to remain in the country.  Right or wrong?  That’s a decision they made.  We are asking our people, is a convicted criminal fit to lead us.  We are not deciding on it, that’s a decision we have to make.  Would you, I’ll ask you this question, would you allow a convicted rapist to be the babysitter of your child, even though he has spent time?  Ask yourself that question.  Those are critical questions that we need to ask ourselves.”


Isani Cayetano 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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