The United Democratic Party (UDP) made it a major plank of their campaign in 2008: the legislation to implement a thirteenth seat in the Senate for the non-governmental organization (NGO) community. A candidate had already been selected in the person of former executive director of SATIIM, Gregory Ch’oc. But Prime Minister Dean Barrow changed his mind and despite the Sixth Constitutional Amendment passing all its stages declined to bring in Section 7 of the Act to formally seat a 13th Senator. A court case filed by Belizeans for Justice and Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) in 2010 failed when then-Acting Chief Justice Samuel Awich sided with the Prime Minister, who indicated through his attorneys that he would bring in the section at the “appropriate time,” but at the time of the 2012 elections indicated he was no longer interested in the issue. The Court had also ruled that the matter should have been brought up in the National Assembly and attorneys for the two organizations said that only one party – the People’s United Party (PUP) – would have the muscle to address the issue there. Now the issue has been revived and now PUP leader Francis Fonseca is moving to force P.M. Barrow’s hand in court. He told us about the upcoming filing of a claim to force the implementation of the 13th Senator.
” We just finished makingthat claim. I am filing a claim in the Supreme Court against Prime Minister Barrow seeking an order from the court, seeking a declaration from the court that his refusal to bring into effect Section 7 of the Sixth Amendment Bill which provides an avenue for the 13th Senator to be appointed. That refusal is arbitrary , that it is unlawful, that it is wholly unconstitutional and illegal. That claim has been prepared. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay is my laywer. We have finished preparing and signing the claim yesterday and in the next few days, we expect that claim to be filed.
As late as 2013 the Prime Minister was quoted as being “adamantly” against the implementation of the 13th Senator, citing potential governmental paralysis if the Opposition’s three appointed Senators collaborated with those appointed by the churches, unions and business community respectively to frustrate the Government’s plans. He told Amandala‘s Adele Ramos, quote, “I am very sorry. I was the one who, in fact, put that in a UDP manifesto; this Government pushed it forward in terms of constitutional reform, but I came to realize that it’s a wonderful ideal, but in practice, it will make no sense….The Opposition is there to oppose. The so-called social sector partners are not there to be friends of the Government, and if you gave control of that chamber to that combination, I am telling you there will be paralysis. Now, other people might have a different point of view and I respect that, but as far as I am concerned, the role of the Senate is to be a watchdog; it is to shine the light on what is happening, it’s like the Public Accounts Committee. It is not to substitute for the government…”
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