‘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. Yet, there are diverse opinions, practices and judicial desicions among states on whether or to what extent preambles are obligatory and legally-binding — or just simply aspirational declarations.… 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’. This is not as significant a deviation from Belize’s reality as it may superficially appear. Think of sovereignty, think of self-determination, think of territorial integrity. These universal principles are as Palestinian as they are Belizean.

We know how Guatemala’s claim to Belize’s territory and the failure of the British to resolve it, in a manner acceptable to Belizeans, delayed Belize’s Independence for almost two decades.… Read the rest...

‘The Environment’ in the Constitution of Belize: Towards Greater Protection

By Dylan Vernon, (TIME COME #2, 17 October 2023)

As one of the citizens who signed the Oceana Belize petition, I welcome the passage of the Bill by the House of Representatives on 13 October 2023 to amend the Referendum Act. When passed by the Senate, the amendment will ensure that Belizeans are consulted by referendum before any move to change or repeal the moratorium placed on offshore oil and natural gas exploration and petroleum operations. Recalling that the original referendum petition called for a constitutional amendment to require a referendum for changing the offshore moratorium, it is a good time to start a national discussion on environmental rights in the Belize Constitution.

A Sudden Appearance

First of all, let us examine how the term “protect the environment” made it into the Preamble of the Independence Constitution of Belize and understand its significance. In February 1981, the term “protect the environment” was totally absent from the government’s White Paper on the Proposed Terms for the Constitution for an Independent Belize. Yet, there it was in the Preamble of our Constitution on 21 September 1981 – giving Belize claim, at that time, to being only the second state in the Commonwealth Caribbean (Guyana being the first in 1980) to have a constitutional reference to the environment.… Read the rest...

Delayed Freedom & Realpolitik: The People and the Independence Constitution – Part IV (Conclusions)

By Dylan Vernon, (REAL #4, 13 October 2023)

So, were the people of Belize consulted on the first full draft or any other draft of their own Independence Constitution? Some certainly advocated to be consulted. Given that there were no public consultations on the preparation of the White Paper and given the rushed Joint Select Committee (JSC) consultations, there were reasoned requests in Belize for the people to be consulted on the draft Constitution.  In addition to examining the role of thev people in the final stage of making Belize’s Constitution, I also offer my concluding perspectives on why it was not more of the people, by the people and for the people.

Let Us See the Draft!

During the two-week public consultations across Belize on the White Paper in February and March 1981, several individuals and organisations argued for public consultations on the draft Constitution. And this was apart from the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP). Prominent among the national organisations that advocated for the public to be consulted on the draft Constitution were the Bar Association and the Chamber of Commerce. In its second written submission to the JSC of 2 March 1981 (signed by G. Brown), to the JSC, the BAR petitioned:

[T]he Association request that Government ensures a draft constitution, as opposed to a White Paper only, be made available well in advance of the crucial date, for distribution to members of the public, in good time to enable thorough study and the receipt by government of as many reasoned viewpoints as possible.Read the rest...

Belize at the London Constitutional Conference: The People and the Belize Independence Constitution – Part III

By Dylan Vernon, (REAL STORY #3, 10 October 2023)

On Saturday 4th April 1981, a small Belizean government delegation boarded a flight at the Belize International Airport to begin a long journey to London to ‘negotiate’ Belize’s Independence Constitution with the British. This was just over one week after the National Assembly approved the Report of the Joint Select Committee on the White Paper on 27 March 1981. (See my Real Story #2 on this here). And it was only two days after Governor Hennessy declared a state of emergency to quell civil unrest over the Heads of Agreement. (This was the last failed pre-independence attempt to settle the Guatemala claim of Belize). However, the Belize Constitutional Conference proceeded as planned at Marlborough House from 6 to 14 April 1981.

Without a Full Team

In a cruel twist of political circumstances, the Father of the Nation, then Premier George Price, was not on that trans-Atlantic trip. In making the agonising decision not to go to London in the middle of the political crisis, Price became the only head of government in the Commonwealth Caribbean to be absent from his nation’s independence Constitutional Conference. (Governor Hennessy was also absent). Price appointed Senator and Deputy Premier C.L.B… Read the rest...