Proposed changes to Belize’s constitution affecting both the ownership of public utilities and the rights of the judiciary are provoking heated debate in the small Caribbean nation. Phaedra Mohammed-Ali, 16, a Commonwealth Correspondent, offers her perspective on what is at stake.
There has been much debate of late in Belize about the Ninth Amendment to the constitution. It has been a hot topic not only in conversations among the elite, or even radio talk shows, but also on the sidewalk.
Everybody wants a say! But do they really know what the Ninth Amendment is, or are their opinions simply based on hearsay?
The constitution of Belize is pretty much the ‘Bible’, as it encompasses all those fundamental rights and laws which govern our society. But unlike this sacred writing, the constitution is not necessarily ‘set in stone’ and is subject to change. It can be amended pretty much anytime the ruling government sees fit.
The United Democratic Party, the current government, is proposing that the Ninth Amendment be subject to two changes. The first is to section two of the constitution, adding a subsection which, in short, does not allow the judiciary to have any say in amendments made to the constitution. The second change, to section sixty-nine, involves the addition of a subsection nine which provides that the government shall at all times have majority ownership and control of all public utilities.
So what in essence do these fancy words have in store for ordinary Belizean citizens? As with everything there are always advantages and disadvantages, so what are these with regards to the Ninth Amendment?
The first change outlawing the privatization of public utilities brings much the way of our citizens. Through it, utilities will always be managed in the best interest of the people. The government will always have a say in the management of such utilities and so tangible benefits will, by extension, be passed to people by such ownership.
On the other hand, if passed, the Ninth Amendment may pose a threat to the meaning of ‘True Democracy’. A democratic society is one in which all voting members of society have the free and equal right to participate in a system of government, for instance by electing representatives of the people by the majority of the people.
Yet the Ninth Amendment infringes even the judiciary in having a say. As a result, people may lose their fundamental rights. The infringement of the Social Security Board’s ownership in utilities will occur and it will be the end of good governance. So which do you chose… Yes or No to ‘The Nine’?
As a citizen of this democratic nation, I have the right to voice an opinion (at least for now) and as a youthful Belizean with my mind set on what the Ninth Amendment holds for US the future voting citizens, I must declare my strong opposition towards the change to section two of the Belizean constitution.
Since the change to section two incorporates the judiciary not being able to have a say in the amendments of the constitution, I believe that with its implementation, Belize will no longer be considered a democratic nation. Such a law infringes the fundamental rights of citizens to speak out and be heard; the underlying principles of democracy. With citizens not being able to be influential in the decisions made in their country, the race to bad governance and a deteriorating society will be well underway.
Though section two’s change poses some threat to our rights as Belizeans, I am in strong support of the change to section sixty-nine. Citizens will reap the benefits of public utilities never being fully privatized and instead being managed in their best interests. Tangible benefits will be passed to the public by the government having majority ownership.
If the Ninth Amendment is revised and the change to section two of the constitution is terminated, then and only then would I be in full support of it, but for now, I say YES only to section sixty-nine!
With the present talks of the Ninth Amendment, one is forced to understand what it is to engage in those heated conversations we have on the bus or with our fellow peers about what it has in store for us as citizens. After analysis, section two poses much threat to our democratic liberty, while section sixty-nine offers great benefits to our social stability.
To my dear present and future voters, say YES to the change to sixty-nine and NO to the change to section two if you want to preserve our democratic nation! As Phillip Goldson once said,” The time to save your country is before you lose it.”
Palacio, Myrtle. “Ninth Amendment to the constitution of Belize: Tracking the trails.” Slideshare.net, 2011. Web. 16 Sep. 2011.
“Government introduces Ninth Constitution Amendment Bill.” Love Television, 2011. Web. 16 Sep. 2011.
“Government constitution (Ninth Amendment) Act.” Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BCCI, 2011. Web. 16 Sep. 2011.
“Clarifying the supremacy of the Belize Constitution.” Belize Invest, 2011. Web. 16 Sep. 2011.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent, visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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