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Jul 3, 2013

How to get politicians to agree to a national debate

Wouldn’t the 2008 elections have been a very dynamic time if the candidates did not give handouts and wear their colors and found a meaningful way to encourage citizens to vote? Perhaps a debate between the politicians would have shown what they really knew about issues that the country is facing. Currently on a visit are representatives from the Jamaica Debates Commission. The Commission has been in existence since 2002 and it has staged several debates over the years in numerous countries. The Commission has sent technical advisors to CARICOM member states as well as across the Atlantic, in Africa and in Latin America. Two representatives met with persons who can create a suitable environment for national debates including, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the media. News Five spoke to Doctor Eleanor Henry and Brian Saint Juste from the commission as they wrapped up a session with local media at the Radisson.


Dr. Eleanor HenryDr. Eleanor Henry, Resource Person, Jamaica Debates Commission

“We’re here at the invitation of the National Democratic Institute to share the expertise with the team in Belize to see if we can get debates going here as well. Once we leave here we do other six other CARICOM countries.”


Jose Sanchez

“Debates in Belize are almost non-existent; there had only been a couple in recent memory. What is it that you propose that can enhance that experience or even to make it happen?”


Dr. Eleanor Henry

“Well the idea is to share our experience with the folks here in Belize. And they knowing the circumstances and situation better than we do can customize it to suit their particular needs. As we pointed out all we are sharing is the model that we use and fining ways and working with the team here to determine how best to make it work here. So it’s really not about prescribing anything. It’s just sharing what we do and working with the team here to see how best way to get it to work here.”


Jose Sanchez

“What is fruitful with the discussion that you have had with them so far?”


Brian St. Juste, Resource Person, Jamaica Debates CommissionBrian St. Juste

“I think for me the energy and the spirit. The vibe I think everybody is interesting in getting debates done in Belize. I think there is a concern that they want the issues dealt with and spoken about on T.V. And it is just the way to find a mechanism and how to bring that forth you know.”


Jose Sanchez

“How has it worked to get debates off in your contry?”


Brian St. Juste

“Debates in any country is a difficult situation; because there is a whole feeling of mistrust with the politicians and any of the organizations. But the issue is that you shouldn’t be daunted by that fact. It’s a matter of first creating that credible institution. And once you create that solid rock institution in terms of its founding principle its code of ethics. I think from there it’s a matter of using contacts and working with political parties to bring them to the process. Most times debates are focused around general elections and more electoral type debates. But there is no reason why you can’t bring it to other levels and have general debates affecting the people of a country.”


Jose Sanchez

“Do you think it is possible from this meeting that we will be able to convince politicians to become part of a fruitful debate?”


Brian St. Juste

“I have no doubt and I think at the end of the day while politicians will be skeptical at first. I think once their confidence is ensured I think they will come to the table. I think the fact of the matter is you must be above board and seek to bring issues to the table not try to malign any political party or any person. And it think once the debates commission however it is constituted here in Belize comes to the realization that this is what we are all about and everybody understands I think the public themselves will call for debates to take place. Because at the end of the day it deepens the democratic process and what it does is provide the information to the public about how these candidates seek to govern the country.”




Both Doctor Henry and Saint Juste will be our special guests on Open Your Eyes on Wednesday morning. And you can preview the work of the organization online at Jamaica debates commission dot org. At the site, you can view the manual that they have prepared for use in debates in Jamaica and other countries. 

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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