By Wellington C. Ramos
The highest ranking legal official in Belize and most countries in the world is the attorney general. In the constitution of Belize, like most former British colonies, the attorney general is appointed by the prime minister of the country after the elections are held. It is also a Cabinet post and he or she is granted a ministry to have people work for him or her.
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
This appointment is for five years if he or she was elected with his or her party unless the prime minister chooses to replace him or her. The Belize constitution was amended by this current United Democratic Party (UDP) administration to give the prime minister the authority to appoint a person who did not run for public office this post.
In the past this post was given to people by the People’s United Party who were not elected to the House of Representatives for political expediency. I do not think that the UDP has ever given this post to a person who was not elected to public office.
The attorney general’s responsibilities are to bring legal action against any person who violates our countries laws, to seek qualified individuals to become judges in the courts, to appoint a solicitor general, a director of public prosecutions and most other legal functions necessary for our country.
The problem is that the attorney general is loyal to the prime minister of Belize because he can remove him from office whenever he chooses to do so. Commonsense will tell anyone that the attorney general will always consult the prime minister on any legal matter before he or she decides to make a final decision.
If the prime minister, members of his Cabinet and other civil servants break the laws of Belize, then the attorney general will consult the prime minister as to how to proceed with the case. If the prime minister likes the person then he will tell the attorney general not to proceed with any legal action against the person. However, if the prime minister dislikes the person, then he will tell the attorney general to proceed with the case. If the attorney general fails to act in compliance with the prime minister’s request, then he or she will have to resign his or her post. This is what has been taking place in Belize for years now.
To change this injustice system, I think that we should amend our constitution to elect our attorney general in a non-political capacity and give him or her the independence that he or she needs to have full prosecutorial authority for the five years of his or her reign. The Amendment could read that any Belizean citizen who is twenty-one years of age or older and is an attorney is qualified to run for office to be the attorney general of Belize.
Upon his or her election, the attorney general will be sworn in by the governor general of Belize and he or she will appoint the solicitor general, director of public prosecutions, crown counsel, a district prosecutor for each district and all the duties that are currently under the jurisdiction of the attorney general.
The House of Representatives will allocate a reasonable amount of funds to the attorney general’s office so that he or she will carry out his or her functions. If the prime minster, members of the House of Representatives, the Senate or any other individual or individuals attempt to use any method or methods to prevent the attorney general from carrying out his or her duties, they will be charged with obstruction of justice.
This is the only solution I can see to resolve the problems of abuse of power and corruption by our members of government and the civil service in our country of Belize.
For years now the two major political parties have both PUP and UDP complained about the other political party when they are out of office. The VIP and the PNP are just sitting on the sidelines quietly as well. Yet, when they get elected to office, they end up doing the same thing the other party was doing.
They know what the problems are but fail to come up with a solution for the problems. Why? Maybe it is because they have no intention to resolve these problems. We the Belize people must demand a solution to this problem or else we will continue to have our government officials and civil servants engaged in breaking our laws at will forever without any justice granted to us.
This might be a proposed constitutional amendment the newly formed political party Belize People’s Front (BPF) might want to consider. If something is not working for us we need to fix it quickly and stop the complaining.