| The constitution and laws of Belize
CONSTITUTION OF BELIZE
by Albert J. Ysaguire
On January 27, Premier Price rejected a proposed compromise with Guatemala whereby Belize would cede 300 square miles of mainland and 600 square miles of seabed in the south of Belize in return for Guatemala's recognition of Belize's Independence. A similar proposal by Britain for Belize to cede between 1000 an 2000 square miles of land and adjacent seabed was earlier rejected.
Mr. Price announced on March 10 at a conference that Barbados, Guyana an Jamaica had agreed to take part in multilateral security arrangements that would defend the territorial integrity of an independent Belize. This agreement did not come into force since at the time Belize's Independence date could not be agreed upon.
On May 18, the Gutemalan foreign minister, Señor Adolfo Molina Orantes said in a press interview that his government maintained its demand for a cession of territory by Belize. He insisted that the two governments set up a join military staff, consultations on Belize's external relations and economic integration into the Central American system.
The British Permanent Representative at the U.N. announced on November 28 that a four-point proposal had been put to Guatemala to resolve the conflict with Belize. Development aid including help with construction of roads to facilitate Guatemala's access to the coast, free port in the Port of Belize and a revision of the seaward boundaries of the two countries to guarantee permanent access for Guatemala to the open sea.
On December 7 the Guatemalan foreign minister, Señor Castillo Valdez announced that the British plan for the settlement of the dispute with Belize was unacceptable and that he would now deal directly with Belize. Belize rejected any bilateral negotiations with Guatemala (1).
In November the People's United Party was reelected to office winning thirteen of the eighteen in the House of Representatives. The opposition party--UDP--won the remaining five seats. This election victory was seen as a mandate for the government to proceed with the finalization of the independence status since the People's United Party ran on a platform of moving towards independence. The opposition party, UDP, ran on a platform against independence in the immediate future until the Guatemalan dispute was settled (2).
By November, international support for Belize was virtually unanimous. A.U.N. resolution (A/35/596) called for independence for Belize without conditions, and security, by the end of 1981. This time the United States of America, which had previously abstained on all the Belize resolutions since 1975, voted in favour, and no country voted against.
The Organization of American States, which had traditionally taken Guatemala's side in the controversy, endorsed by an overwhelming majority the U.N. resolution calling for an independent Belize secure and without conditions before the end of 1981. (3)
On January 31 the Belize government issued its White Paper on the Proposed Terms for the Independence Constitution of Belize. The National Assembly of Belize had earlier appointed a bi-partisan Joint Select Committee comprising of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to consider the Proposals in the White Paper and to report thereon. The Committee was instructed to canvass the opinion of the country before making this report.
Special invitations were sent out to all organizations throughout the country inviting ideas both written and oral. The committee found a general and overriding acceptance of the monarchical form of government based on the westminister parliamentary pattern. Although the opposition party refused to serve on the Joint Select Committee, it took steps to appear before the Committee by a senior official of their political party in each district of the country and made a written presentation in Belize City. (4)
In March Britain and Guatemala signed the Heads of Agreements providing the basis for a fully negotiated settlement and a termination of Guatemala's claim to Belize. Basically, these agreements provided for Guatemala's recognition of Belize's Independence and territorial integrity, economic cooperation and Guatemala's access to the Caribbean Sea from the south of Belize. Subsequent negotiations ended without a formal treaty-both parties were unable to agree on the conditions of the use of two cayes and the sea corridor to south for Guatemala's access to the Caribbean. (5)
Between April 6-14, the Belize Constitutional Conference was held at Marlborough House, London. The basic conference document was the White Paper on Proposed Terms of the Independence Constitution prepared by the Belize government. Also considered was Belize's membership in international institutions an Belize's succession to obligations and responsibilities which the U.K. had hitherto exercised. (6)
On July 28 the Belize Independence Act received the Royal Assent. This Act provides for: the fully responsible status of Belize, the power to make a new constitution for Belize, the operation of existing laws, modification of the British Nationality Act and the retention of citizenship of the U.K. and colonies in certain cases.
The Belize Independence Order was made on July 31. this Independence Constitution Order includes, to a large extent, the institutions and procedures with which Belizeans have been familiar for the past eighteen years of self government under the constitution of 1963. The Belize Advisory Council was created under the Independence Constitution with the functions in relation to the security of tenure of individuals occupying judicial and public offices and provides for appeals against any act of the Public Services Commission. This Council will also advise the Governor General on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. There is a section on human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which draws on the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and similar to the equivalent section of other Commonwealth constitution. (7)
The Belize Independence Order was laid before Parliament on August 10.
On September 21 Belize became independent as provided for in the Belize Independence Order. Britain, however, has agreed to provide for the defense and security of Belize for an "appropriate" period of time.
On September 25 Belize was admitted to the UN, becoming the 156th member, by a vote of one- hundred-and-forty-four with Guatemala voting against.
1. Most of the events of 1978 are listed in the Times Yearbook of World Affairs 1978, p. 48 and 113, and The Road to Independence, a chronology of events leading to Belize's Independence.
2. The Road To Independence, September, 1981.
3. The Road To Independence, September, 1981.
4. Command Paper 8245, "Report of the Belize Constitutional Conference, "London, April, 1981, p.24.
5. Brukdown the Magazine of Belize, Special Souvenir Issue # 3 & 4, 1981, p. 16-18.
6. Report of the Belize Constitutional Conference, p. 22.
7. Statutory Instruments 1981 No. 1107, "The Belize Independence Order 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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