Yesterday afternoon in Belmopan, the Senate met in a special session to deal with several matters at the forefront of national importance. Precedence on the table was a debate for the Appointment of a Special Select Committee and because that matter was the last item on the agenda, the meeting ended later than usual, going late into the evening. PUP Senator, Lisa Shoman, requested that the Senate pass a resolution to appoint a Special Select Committee to investigate the issuance of Nationality certificates, Passports and Visas at the Department of Immigration.
It proposes that the Committee be comprised of five members, with only one from the government, one from the opposition and three from civil society. While that event ended at around 6:30, it ended with a vote, six in favor of the proposal and six against. The President of the Senate, Marco Pech, appointed by the Government, attempted to cast the deciding seventh vote, but the PUP’s Senator Lisa Shoman objected on the basis of a section of the Constitution that prohibited him from doing so.
Now, there’s some dispute as to whether it was defeated or whether there was a 6 – 6 deadlock, but for sure, the motion did not succeed. Last night the clerk of the National Assembly confirmed that the motion was defeated by the judgment of the president who ruled that the no’s have it with the 6 government members plus the President’s casting vote. But before that ruling there was fiery exchange between Shoman and President of the Senate Marco Pech. Here is how that went.
Lisa Shoman, Opposition Senator
"My friends have made much of the auditor general and the auditor general's report and his functions or her responsibilities and not one word of what they said is untrue in terms of responsibility, function and law. I will tell you this Mr. President, the auditor general is not a horse and this is not the cart. The Senate is not the cart of the auditor generals' horse. Let us get that clear. If we do not set up this select committee, if we do not do our work, make our inquiries under the constitution, history will not absolve us. I ask Mr. President that the motion be put and I claim a division in this matter. Thank you Mr. President."
Eddie Webster, Clerk, National Assembly
"Senator Godwin Hulse "No", Senator Juliet Timbrell "No", Senator Joy Grant "No", Senator Charles Gibson "No", Senator Lisel Alamilla "No", Senator Jeraldo Sosa "No", Senator Lisa Shoman "Yes", Senator Karen Bodden "Yes", Senator Collett Montejo "Yes", Senator Mark Lizarraga "Yes", Senator Father Reverend Noel Leslie "Yes", Senator Ray Davis "Yes"
Lisa Shoman, Opposition Senator
"On a point the president doesn't have a casting vote in this order, I refer to the constitution he shall not have a vote when the Senate is deciding on any matter referred to in section sixty-one A2D of this constitution. I am sorry Mr. President but you don't have a vote in this matter."
Mark Pech, President of the Senate
"This is the outcome. Six senators in favor and seven against so I think the no's have it."
"No Mr. President you don't have a casting vote, it is six, six. There may be a deadlock but under the constitution of Belize you don't have a casting vote with all due respect."
"I recognize the leader of government business."
Godwin Hulse, Senator of Government Business
"Mr. President I move that the senate now do adjourn."
"Honorable members the question is that the senate is now adjourned, all in favor say I "I", those not in favor say no "No". I think the "I" have it."
While today the clerk of the National Assembly reiterated that the judgment stands since the President of the Senate - while he does not have a casting vote, does have an original vote as a Senator, Senator Shoman insists that it ended in a tie and is willing to take the matter to court since the president does not have a vote when it comes to matters dealing with section sixty-one (A) (D) of the constitution.
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