| The constitution and laws of Belize
THE CONSTITUTION OF BELIZE
The Constitution of the State of Belize is a well drafted document which follows the general pattern of other newly independent states od the West Indies. It appears that the drafters of the Constitution used the British Honduras Constitution Ordinance of 1963 as the basis for Chapters VI, VII, VIII and IX in the new Constitution. The new features of the 1981 Constitution can be found in Chapters I, II, III, IV and V.
Chapter I states that "Belize shall be a sovereign democratic State of Central America in the Caribbean region. "The frontiers of Belize shall be comprised of those land and sea areas which immediately previous to Belize's Independence constituted the colony of Belize.
Chapter I, Section 2 contains the supremacy clause of the new Constitution. "This Constitution is the supreme law of Belize and if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void."
Chapter II deals with the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of the peoples of Belize. As stated in Section 3 of Chapter II, every person in Belize is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms, regardless of "his race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed, or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others for the public interest, to each and all of the following, namely - a) life, liberty, security of the person, and the protection of the law; b) freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association ; c) protection for his family life, his personal privacy, the privacy of his home and other property and recognition of his human dignity ; and d) protection from arbitrary deprivation of property. "These provisions are only limited if said rights prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.
Chapter III sets forth the citizenship requirements of Belize.
Chapter IV establishes the Governor-General's office, powers, and duties. In section 31 provision is made for Acting Governor-General; the power to appoint a Deputy to perform his or her functions during a period of absence of a short duration; is specified in Section 33.
As stated in Section 35, the Prime Minister shall keep the Governor General informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Belize.
Chapter V of the Constitution defines organization and the powers of the executive branch of the government. As stated in Section 36, the executive authority may be exercised on her behalf by the Governor-General or the Governor-General's subordinate officers.
Section 37 provides that there shall be a Prime Minister of Belize who shall be appointed by the Governor-General. Provision is also made for the appointment of a Deputy Prime Minister (Section 38). The following section concerns the performance of functions of the office of Prime Minister during his absence or illness. The appointment of Minister of Government by the Governor-General, with the advice of the Prime Minister, is regulated in Section 40. It is the function of the Governor-General to assign any Minister the responsibility for any business of the Government, including the administration of any department of government (Section 41).
The principal legal officer is to be the Attorney-General (Section 42). Provisions for the performance of functions of Ministers during absence or illness are made in Section 43.
The Governor-General may, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, "constitute offices for Belize, make and terminate appointments to any such office." (Sec. 51).
The Governor-General may pardon, grant a respite, or lessen punishment to any person convicted of any offence, with the advice of the Belize Advisory Council (Sec. 52).
Provision is made for the establishment of the Belize Advisory Council "which shall consist of not less than six members of which two shall be appointed by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Prime Minister. The others are to be appointed by the Governor -General after consulting the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Sec. 54).
Chapter VI entitled "The Legislature" contains several new sections. According to Section 69, the National Assembly may alter any provisions of the Constitution. Section 88 provides for the establishment of an Elections and Boundaries Commission; Belize is to consist of eighteen electoral divisions (Art. 89), but the Election and Boundaries Commission may increase the number of electoral divisions (Sec. 90). The Election and Boundaries Commission may also redivide the electoral divisions (Sec. 91). The requirements for the right to vote (age, one vote, and secret ballot) are stated in Section 92. The conduct of elections is regulated in Section 93.
Chapter VII, entitled "The Judiciary," provides for the establishment of a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeals. Appeals to Her Majesty in Council are provided for in Section 104.
Chapter VIII which corresponds to Part IV of the 1963 Constitution, concerns the public service. Among the new features are the following: Appointment of a Director of Prosecutions by the Governor General (Sec. 108); and the appointment of the Auditor-General by the Governor-General (Sec.109).
Chapter X, entitled "Miscellaneous" refers to a variety of matters such as a Code of Conduct for persons to whom this section applies, which include the Governor-General, members of the National Assembly, the Belize Advisory Council and public officers (Sec.121); powers of appointment and acting appointments (Sec. 123); removal of public officers from office (Sec. 125); and resignations (Sec. 126). Section 131 gives interpretation and definition of certain terms in this document.
It should be noted that the printed text of the Belize Independence Order 1981 (1981 No. 1107), which was printed in London, contained only 10 Chapters and 131 sections. The Constitution which was subsequently published in Belize contains 12 Chapters and 142 sections. Chapter XI contains important transitional provisions. Unfortunately one page (74) was left blank and we were unable to obtain a corrected copy as this publication goes to press. We hope to obtain the missing page for insertion at a later time.
Chapter XII, consisting of two articles, concerns the date of commencement of this Constitution (September 21,1981).
Constitution of Belize
Chapter I - The State And The Constitution
1. The State
Chapter II - Protection Of Fundamental Rights And Freedoms
Chapter III - Citizenship
Chapter IV - The Governor-general
Chapter V - The Executive
37. Prime Minister
42. Attorney General
45. Deputy Minister
Chapter VI - The Legislature
The House Of Representatives
Powers And Procedure
Chapter VII - The Judiciary
Chapter VIII - The Public Service
109. Auditor General
Chapter IX - Finance
117. Contingencies Fund
119. Public Debt
Chapter X - Miscellaneous
121. Code of conduct
122. National Symbols
125. Removal from office
130. National Seal
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