The NGO’s Senator-elect Osmany Salas will officially become a Senator on January 20th when the commencement order signed by the Prime Minister in October last year takes effect. The long wait for the 13th Senator, since 2008, has been very controversial as it featured political promises, breaking those same promises, mock elections for a Senator, and court litigation. But even though the Senator is now at the gates just waiting for January 20th to come, there still is a bit of controversy left. On January 19th, which is the day before the NGO Senator officially holds the seat, there will be a Senate meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the NGO Act. Because Salas won’t become a Senator until the 20th, Opposition Senator Valerie Woods is calling for the President of the Senate to delay the meeting until the NGO Senator can be present to make inputs on proposed legislation that will directly affect his constituents.
Valerie Woods - Opposition Senator
“Then its disingenuous and it’s in bad faith that such a bill would be discussed in a Senator where the 13th Senator representing the NGO community is not present to participate is such a debate should the bill present itself at the Senate and so we wrote to the President this morning requesting reconsideration rescheduling the date knowing that the commencement day which we all knew, the entire nation knew from October 20th when the Prime Minister signed that commencement order that it is the 20th so why set a meeting one day before and that is our concern we don’t feel it is in the best interest to the public of Belize to enter the first session of the new year discussing matters that the Senate within this environment. It is not in keeping with good governance we don’t think that it needs to be because indeed meetings can be scheduled any day outside of the Standing Order require Tuesday and then it becomes a Special Sitting it can be reconsidered there is no rule that says it cannot be changed because it has been set.”
For years political pundits have debated about whether such a model would enhance the system of governance. In 2008, the electorate supported an elected Senate in a referendum but it was ignored by the then new Barrow Administration. Instead, they proposed the 13th Senator and then also ended up refusing. But we seem to finally be there and today, Senator Woods also spoke on the anticipated inclusion of a 13th Senator.
Valerie Woods, Opposition Senator
“Well am hoping it we’ll be more robust debate and am always open for additional perspective and the NGO community has played a significant role in the development of Belize, I think it is right that they participate but I am personally hoping for more robust debate that would allow for a wider range of views in determining now, whether it will automatically be that it will stall governments’ plans no not necessarily, whether it would mean that the, we have one more voice that maybe side with anyone of the other groupings not necessarily, they have to do a similar process I would think as business and the churches and the Unions, they have to consult with their community but it does allow for more debate, more perspective and has to be healthier for the upper chamber.”