From a Queen to a King to What?  Belize Still Waiting in 2024

By Dylan Vernon, Real Story #8, April 15, 2024.

In my Fifteen Proposals for a People’s Constitution, I argue that replacing the British monarch as our Head of State must be more than symbolic. Changing nothing else will simply mean that we move from being a parliamentary monarchy to a parliamentary republic with a Belizean figurehead. When the time does come, how can we make it more substantive than just changing figureheads? My proposal for a directly elected national leader (often called a president) leading a Cabinet with members from outside the legislature will receive intense opposition from those who benefit most from the existing power dynamics. But prior to even discussing this or any proposal on what kind of republic we want to be, we have to agree that we want to be one. Even in 2024, that part does not seem straightforward.Read the rest...

Talking About a Revolution? Fifteen Proposals for a People’s Constitution

By Dylan Vernon, TIME COME #6, 3 April 2024.

What should be in the Constitution of Belize to truly make it a ‘People’s Constitution’? We complain and, sometimes, even agree about what’s wrong, but finding common, enduring and impactful reforms elude us. In this TIME COME, I share some pieces of the puzzle that I believe are needed for framing meaningful constitutional change. These fifteen proposals evolve from long years of analysis and advocacy for political reforms that enhance both formal and social democracy. They are not all original nor exhaustive but hopefully provocative. Some will be deemed too radical, a few too conservative. But it is crystal clear that incremental partisan constitutional tinkering since independence has failed miserably to tackle the core threats to the quality of our democracy and national development. It’s high time for revolutionary constitutional thinking and action.Read the rest...

Representation of the People – challenging our shallow democracy

By Harold A. Young, Guest Post #1, February 19, 2024.

(NOTE: This offering of TIME COME features its very first Guest Post. My fellow Belizean Dr. Harold A. Young is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science & Public Management at Austin Peay State University, Tennessee.  Click on his name for a bio).

The 1981 Constitution of Belize and all subsequent amendments comprise the supreme law of the land. The Constitution of Belize follows closely the template of most former British colonies. A pillar of our Westminster parliamentary system is bicameral Legislature (House Representatives and Senate enshrined in Part VI, Articles 56 through 67). This essay focuses on one major issue: the need for more effective representation the House of Representatives, and a brief introduction to possible alternative frameworks for voting.

For those outside the constraints of political party politics, thinking about system changes is also challenging.… Read the rest...

Religion, the Constitution and Your Rights

By Dylan Vernon, Time Come #5, 8 February 2024.

During the usual ham and turkey handouts by politicians in December 2023, a different kind of X-mas gift made the news. Five days before X-mas, the Government of Belize and a grouping called the ‘Church Communities’ signed a 10-point Statement of Agreement that affirmed the preambular commitment to the ‘supremacy of God’ as a fundamental constitutional principle. The two parties also re-affirmed some of the religious freedoms stated in Part II of the Constitution of Belize. But the Agreement also went further. Apart from an insightful critique made by the always fearless Caleb Orozco, there was negligible public discussion about this development and its timing. What do we make of it? How does this relate to the current constitutional review process?

The Origins of the God Clause

Before addressing the Agreement, it’s useful to recall the constitutional history of the ‘supremacy of God’ clause and that of religious freedoms in the Constitution.… Read the rest...

Rock the Boat! Lessons from Past Constitutional Reform (Part 2)

By Dylan Vernon, Real Story #7, 28 January 2024.

Few things rile Belize’s two main political parties more than being labeled PUDP – Belize’s version of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. It grates red and blue nerves raw not only because being perceived as different is the backbone of the partisan game, but also because the truth stings. The petty, personal and often vicious ways the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) attack each other are mostly tactics to mask the truth that not much really separates them in ideology, policies and electoral practices in post-independence Belize. Both compete largely as center-right ‘handout’ machines. Both have encouraged voters to ‘tek di money but vote dem out’. Both get voted out when the rot of corrupt ‘feeding’ swings the pendulum to the other side. The list of commonalities is long.Read the rest...