Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand’: Lessons for Constitutional Reform from 1990s Belize (Part 1)

By Dylan Vernon, Real Story #6, 8 December 2023.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and never will.” This timeless piece of political wisdom from Frederick Douglas has been critical to determining the degree of success or failure of constitutional reform processes around the globe. So will it be for the current People’s Constitution Commission in Belize. Without informed and sustained advocacy from a critical mass of Belizeans, the odds are slim for a new or reformed constitution that meaningfully returns more power to the people and improves the quality of Belize’s democracy. In this regard, it is imperative to explore the lessons and impact of Belize’s first post-independence constitutional reform exercise – the Political Reform Commission of 1999-2000. (Image shows ten of the fourteen PRC Commissioners in 1999, names given below).

 The First Commission

A few people have incorrectly referred to the current People’s Constitution Commission (PCC) as Belize’s first comprehensive constitutional review process since independence.… Read the rest...

Enemy of Democracy: Entrenched Handout Politics in Belize & the Caribbean

By Dylan Vernon, PAST WORK #5, 22 November 2023

“[This] compelling book on the historical functioning of party politics in Belize opens with a vivid anecdote: In the closing week of the small nation’s 2008 general election, voters lined up to receive payouts of ‘housing support’ from the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), their ‘share’ of a BZ$20 million gift from the Venezuelan government; claimants threatened to vote for the opposition (the United Democratic Party, UDP) unless they received payment, while some UDP officials incited voters to ‘tek di money but vote dehn out’. … More shocking than what he saw in 2008 was his discovery that political clientelism is like a vast vine, deeply rooted, interwoven and entangled throughout the young oak of Belize’s democracy, threatening its health and very existence.”

Political Clientelism and Democracy in Belize: From My Hand to Yours

The above quote is an excerpt from a review of my recent book by Professor Matthew Restall (Pennsylvania State University) in the latest November 2023 edition of Bulletin of Latin America Research.Read the rest...

Just Flowery Words…or More? The Preamble and You

By Dylan Vernon, TIME COME #4, 15 November 2023)

Although there is near universal agreement that the Preamble is the cornerstone of the Constitution of Belize, some are sceptical on its practical utility. Is it purely a set of aspirational declarations? Is it obligatory and legally-binding on its own merit? Can it only be used by courts to help interpret the rest of the Constitution? Should it be left as is or should it be amended? These are some of the questions that the People’s Constitution Commission will likely consider in reviewing the Preamble and they are the focus of this Time Come post.

What Did the Framers Intend?

Let’s first set the background by exploring the intent of the framers of the Independence Constitution. During the public consultations by the Joint Select Committee (JSC) of the National Assembly on the White Paper on the Proposals of the Government of Belize on the Independence Constitution, several citizens sought clarity on what the Preamble, as drafted, would mean in practice for them in an independent Belize.… Read the rest...

‘Whereas the People of Belize Affirm…’: A Progressive Preamble

By Dylan Vernon, (REAL STORY#5, 1 November 2023)

Whereas the people of Belize — affirm that the Nation of Belize shall be founded upon principles which…[the people of Belize] desire that their society shall reflect and enjoy the above-mentioned principles, beliefs and needs and that their Constitution should therefore enshrine and make provisions for ensuring the achievement for the same in Belize. (Excerpt, Preamble, Constitution of Belize).

As this last paragraph (f) of the Preamble makes abundantly clear,  the Preamble is the corner stone of the wider national foundation that is the  Independence Constitution of Belize. Indeed, it has been argued that, in 1981, the Belize Preamble was the most progressive and unique innovation coming out of the short process of drafting the Constitution.

Preambles in constitutions across the globe come in different shapes, sizes and intent; but they are generally approached as immensely important national declarations that can include statements of historical origins, identity, language, overarching values, principles, national goals, rights and freedoms, responsibilities of state and citizens, and even policy roadmaps.… Read the rest...

Campaign of Genocide in Palestine: Why Belizeans Should Care

By Dylan Vernon, Time Come (special) #3, 25 October 2023.

“Well, you better listen my sisters and brothers
‘Cause’ if you do you can hear
They’re voices calling across the years
And they’re ‘cryin’ across the ocean…
…And they will – till we all come to understand
None of Us are free, if one of us is chained…”
(Lyrics written in 1993 by a blues trio, and made popular in 2002 by the soulful blues vocalist, Solomon Burke).

Cries Across the Ocean

As I write this, 2.3 million Palestinians are running from bombs and also running out of everything. This is the place called Gaza – a tiny strip of land surrounded by a 40-mile barrier on one side and the ocean on the next. From across that ocean, the cries of resistance and pain of Palestinians demand that I deviate this week from a planned TIME COME post on ‘the Preamble’.… Read the rest...