“We will be watching and waiting”, that’s the BNTU’s promise upon ending the strike action on Tuesday which allowing their teachers to return to classes. The BNTU says it will keep the Barrow Administration to the commitments made during the negotiations, and today was one of those days they had to deliver. Prime Minister Barrow agreed that today he would be signing the commencement order allowing the 13 Senator to become a reality. Well, the PM did sign a commencement order according to a Government release.
The order will take effect on January, 20th 2017. By that time, the NGO community should have worked out the mechanism for the selection of the thirteenth senator and be prepared to nominate someone from within its ranks.
Now, this 13th Senator proposal was one of the anchors of Prime Minister’s election campaign in 2008. But upon taking office, he turned on the very same idea and while inscribing it into law, he refused to sign the commencement order that would give life to the idea of an empowered Senate. He also tricked the NGOs who had already voted for Maya leader Greg Cho’oc as their Senate-nominee.
Last week Thursday, when he announced that he would give in to the demand, we asked the Prime Minister how he will cope with an idea he resisted for so long.
Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister of Belize
“This matter went to court and the court ruled that the timing of the commencement order is a matter for me, the minister, that I had great difficulty in fixing the commencement date because I feared that the climate that had developed would more likely that not mean that government legislative agenda would be frustrated in the Senate, in the period that will elapse before the 13th Senator is actually named, government will make an effort to say to all the social partner senator we were the ones that put this in our manifesto, we were the ones that changed the constitution, so that this could happen we delayed because of this legitimate fear that I have expressed given that it appeared that social partners were lining up politically, we hope that after all that has transpired we will be able to rely on the social partners to treat with government legislation and motions coming to the Senate in a manner that is impartial and devoid of any kind of political agenda. If we can get that then the 13th Senator will proof to be a wonderful thing for our democracy as we always knew it could be, hence the reason for our coming up with it, if we don’t get that, then I fear the paralysis that I worried about would materialize, let me just tell you, that it will men in principle that the Senate will be able to delay any government legislation or motion for upwards of six months that is why as I said I was reluctant to sign the commencement order but in consequence of all that has happened I am now going to do it and I will simply repeat my request to social partners that they employ the power that they will have fairly and in a way that will be transparent in terms of proving to everyone that they are acting in accordance with their legitimate sense of what the justice of any particular government measure demands.”
A 13th Senator would mean that the Government’s majority of 6 would be out-numbered by the Opposition’s three, the Social partner’s three and the NGO community’s one.
There was also another commitment the Prime Minister made for today. This was that the Terms of Reference for the International Investigator into the Danny Mason debacle would be completed by the Attorney General and submitted to the BNTU for review. We attempted to get confirmation that was done, but were not able to.
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