Constitutional Chronology

Constitutional Chronology

Constitutional Chronology

Constitutional Chronology

The constitution and laws 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

2. Constitution Is Supreme Law

Chapter II - Protection Of Fundamental Rights And Freedoms

3. Fundamental Rights And Freedoms

4. Protection Of Right To Life

5. Protection Of Right To Personal Liberty

6. Protection Of Law

7. Protection From Inhuman Treatment

8. Protection From Slavery And Forced Labor

9. Protection From Arbitrary Search Or Entry

10. Protection Of Freedom Of Movement

11. Protection Of Freedom Of Conscience

12. Protection Of Freedom Of Expression

13. Protection Of Freedom Of Assembly And Association

14. Protection Of Right Of Privacy

15. Protection Of Right To Work

16. Protection From Discrimination On The Grounds Or Race, Etc

17. Protection From Deprivation Of Property

18. Provisions For Periods Of Public Emergency

19. Protection Of Persons Detained Under Emergency Laws

20. Enforcement Of Protective Provisions

21. Protection Of Existing Laws

22. Interpretation And Savings

Chapter III - Citizenship

23. Person Who Become Citizens On Independence Day

24. Person Born In Belize On Or After Independence Day

25. Person Born Outside Belize On Or After Independence Day

26. Registration

27. Avoidance Of Dual Nationality

28. Citizenship Legislation

29. Interpretation

Chapter IV - The Governor-general

30. Establishment Of Office

31. Acting Governor-general

32. Oath To Be Taken By Governor-general

33. Deputy To Governor-general

34. Exercise Of Governor-general's Functions

35. Governor-general To Be Informed Concerning Matters Of Government

Chapter V - The Executive

36. Executive Authority

37. Prime Minister

38. Deputy Prime Minister

39. Performance Of Functions Of Prime Minister During Absence Or Illness

40. Ministers Of Government

41. Allocation Of Portfolios To Ministers

42. Attorney General

43. Performance Of Functions Of Minister During Absence Or Illness

44. Cabinet

45. Deputy Minister

46. Oath To Be Taken By Ministers Etc.

47. Leader Of The Opposition

48. Permanent Secretaries

49. Secretary To The Cabinet

50. Control Of Public Prosecutions

51. Constitution Of Offices Etc

52. Prerogative Of Mercy

53. Procedure In Capital Cases

54. Belize Advisory Council

Chapter VI - The Legislature

55. Establishment Of Legislature

The House Of Representatives

56. Composition Of House Of Representatives

57. Qualifications For Election As Member

58. Disqualifications For Election As Member

59. Tenure Of Office Of Members

60. Speaker And Deputy Speaker

The Senate

61. Composition Of Senate

62. Qualifications For Appointment As Senator

63. Disqualifications For Appointment As Senator

64. Tenure Of Office Of Senator

65. Appointment Of Temporary Senators

66. President And Vice-president

67. Clerks To Houses Of National Assembly

Powers And Procedure

68. Power To Make Laws

69. Alteration Of Constitution

70. Regulation Of Procedure In National Assembly, Etc

71. Oath To Be Taken By Members Of National Assembly

72. Presiding In House Of Representatives And Senate

73. Voting

74. Freedom Of Speech

75. Validity Of Proceedings

76. Quorum

77. Introduction Of Bills, Etc

78. Restriction On Powers Of Senate As To Money Bills

79. Restriction On Powers Of Senate As To Bill Other Than Money Bills

80. Provisions Relating To Sections 77, 78 And 79

81. Mode Of Exercise Of Legislative Power

82. Words Of Enactment

83. Sessions Of Legislature, Etc

84. Prorogation And Dissolution Of Legislature

85. General Elections And Appointment Of Senators

86. Determination Of Questions As To Membership Of National Assembly

87. Unqualified Persons Sitting Or Voting

88. Election And Boundaries Commission

89. Electoral Divisions

90. Increase Of Electoral Divisions

91. Redivision Of Electoral Divisions

92. Conduct Of Voting

93. Conduct Of Elections, Etc

Chapter VII - The Judiciary

94. Establishment Of Supreme Court And Court Of Appeal

95. The Supreme Court

96. Reference Of Constitutional Questions To Supreme Court

97. Appointment Of Justices Of Supreme Court

98. Tenure of office of justices of Supreme Court

99. Oath To Be Taken By Justices Of Supreme Court

100. Appeals To The Court Of Appeal

101. Appointment of justices of appeal

102. Tenure of office of justices of appeal

103. Oath to be taken by justice of appeal

104. Appeals to her majesty in council

Chapter VIII - The Public Service

105. Public Services Commission

106. Appointment, Etc. Of Public Officers

107. Appointment, etc. of permanent secretaries and certain other officers

108. Director of public prosecutions

109. Auditor General

110. Appointment, etc, of junior police officers

111. Appeals in discipline cases

112. Pension laws and protection of pension rights

113. Grant and withholding of pensions, etc

Chapter IX - Finance

114. Establishment of consolidated revenue fund

115. Authorization of expenditure from consolidated revenue fund

116. Authorization of expenditure in advance of appropriation

117. Contingencies Fund

118. Remuneration of certain officers

119. Public Debt

120. Audit of public accounts, etc

Chapter X - Miscellaneous

121. Code of conduct

122. National Symbols

123. Powers of appointment and acting appointments

124. Reappointments and concurrent appointments

125. Removal from office

126. Resignations

127. Saving for jurisdiction of courts

128. Power to amend and revoke instruments, etc

129. Consultation

130. National Seal

131. Interpretation

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