By Alexis R. Milan
Senators representing the social partners wrote to Prime Minister Dean Barrow this week questioning his delay in appointing the 13th senator.
According to the letter, signed by Senator Mark Lizarraga who represents the private sector, Senator Ray Davis who represents the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and Father Noel Leslie who represents the Council of Churches and the Evangelical Association.Tthe National Assembly has already debated, considered and passed the law but the implementation is pending, awaiting only the order from the Prime Minister.
The letter reminded Mr. Barrow of his United Democratic Party’s (UDP) 2008 manifesto pledge to implement an immediate reform agenda which, included and empowered the Senate by ensuring that those senators nominated by the opposition and non-government organizations together would constitute the majority.
Senator Davis told the Reporter that the social partners have been discussing this issue for some time and feel that implementing the 13th senator would lead to greater transparency in government.
Davis said the letter is their first official query to the Prime Minister about the delay and said the PM’s response would determine their course of action moving forward.
Davis said the letter signified a step in the right direction and added while some may criticize the slow pace of action, the Union believes that it is necessary to move one step at a time.
The Reporter tried to reach the Prime Minister for comment but we were told that he was not in office. There was, however, an editorial in this week’s Guardian, the UDP’s party newspaper, seemingly in response to the social partners’ letter.
“It somehow feels that the non-governmental members are intent on usurping the elected government’s authority to administrate our nation,” the editorial reads.
The editorial also makes the argument that should a 13th senator be appointed it would result in a stalemate of the Senate every time and would shift the balance of power.
Barrow has also publicly endorsed this position. At a press conference last November Barrow told the media, “The thirteenth senator will then mean that the Senate will be controlled by the opposition and non-government senators and they will have the power to paralyze the government.”
He added, “I quickly realized it is a wonderful ideal but in practice it will make no sense.”