October 19, 2011
Hon. Dean Barrow,
Minister of Finance,
Dear Hon. Barrow:
Re: Ninth Amendment Bill
The Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations APAMO has reviewed several legal opinions of the matter of the 9th Amendment Bill. First, we express no views on the provisions that seek to ensure that the government owns 51% of the utilities. Our concerns are with section 2 and subsection 9 of Section 69 which we consider, if enacted, leaves vulnerable our constitutional democracy and which risks taking our country down a slippery slope.
Our concerns with the two sections are as follows:
(1) any amendment to section 2 of the Constitution potentially dilutes the supremacy of our written constitution, which sets out how we are to be governed and which safeguards our fundamental rights and which our citizenry has accepted as the bedrock of our democracy . The government claims that the proposed alteration to section 2 is simply seeking to clarify and preserve the integrity of the legislative process. Upon our read of it, however, and buttressed by the legal opinions we have reviewed, the proposed amendment seeks to vest supremacy in the National Assembly so as to enable that body to pass future constitutional amendments, and once the requisite manner and form provisions of section 69 are complied with, the citizenry will be unable to challenge its legality, even if the future amendment infringes the vested fundamental rights that we presently enjoy;
(2) the amendments to section 69 takes away the court’s ability to hear anything but procedural challenges to a proposed constitutional amendment and allows for parliamentary supremacy APAMO, urges the government to refrain from amending the section 2 and section 69 as being proposed in the 9th Amendment Bill or alternatively place it on a referendum so that all Belizeans can decide.