The hastily enacted Macal Hydroelectric Development Bill of Friday the 13th of June has, on the face of it, enabled Fortis Inc. of Canada to go ahead with their dam on the upper Macal River despite court cases pending against construction of the dam at the Privy Council in London.
This Bill has done more than that, though. It has directly allowed the Executive, a single leg of the tripod which is the vital separation of powers on which the Belizean Constitution stands, to overpower the Legislature and to discard the Judiciary - in fact, to rip into shreds the Constitution of Belize.
The Legislature was already wobbling and this act of knocking out the Judiciary has undermined any possibility for stability and may indeed topple Belizean democracy altogether.
What it has also done is take the Chalillo dam project out of the local arena of BACONGO against BELCO and BEL and thrust the issue squarely into the increasingly heated international debate about globalization, in particular the huge profits accrued by corporations from industrial nations at the expense of , and with disastrous results for, the people of developing nations such as Belize.
It is no longer a case of BACONGO, a small group of local Belizean civic leaders and environmentalists, battling an uneconomic and environmentally unfriendly dam in the mountains. It is now all the people of Belize versus a monopolistic, very rich giant of globalization (Fortis Inc., of Canada) which is taking what it wants and in total contempt of Belizean law and taking it by the sleight of hand exercised by their puppet Government, once supposedly the protector of the people and the environment of Belize.
If Belizeans think that this is an exaggeration then let them regard these words very carefully: "For the avoidance of doubt and for greater certainty, BECOL shall proceed with the design financing, construction and operation for the Chalillo Project in accordance with paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this section notwithstanding any judgement, order or declaration of any court or tribunal, whether heretofore or hereafter granted, issued or made."
Read it again and again until the message is clear. The Judiciary has been totally sidestepped, discarded. The Bill announces clearly to all that from this day henceforth the only law in Belize is that which suits government and its various foreign cohorts. We have seen the same story with telecommunications and the water of Belize and even with the monopoly bus system which is, in all but name, already owned by Guatemalan interests.
In the Senate, on the day of infamy, a small brave group of four did fight against the Bill but were overpowered by the Government´s majority - yet another lesson in the need for a reformed elected and independent Senate.
As commented by Channel 5 TV, normally a supporter of Prime Minister Said Musa and the PUP: "Clearly, a law which places any person or activity beyond the reach of the system of justice, is incompatible with the notion of constitutional rule. The government must know this, and we can only assume that the bill, which went through all three readings in one day, was enacted in order to ease the concerns of BECOL's potential financiers."
It shows in fact the ugly face of a new form of imperialism, of
global imperialism whereby huge multinational conglomerates can buy and sell the assets - and the very lives and hopes - of entire populations by subverting local politicians.
This Bill also heralds a new form of colonialism because, when a foreign enterprise can dictate that it is no longer beholden to the laws of the land in which it operates, then it is no different from the very worse days of colonialism. It is the effective end of Independence, of sovereignty, of dignity and, in this case, of the right of Belizeans to stand free and proud.
"Land of the free by the Carib sea, our manhood we pledge to thy liberty, no tyrants here linger , despots must flee, this tranquil haven of democracy…" Forget it!
What is also set to go, unless Belizeans now fight back and insist of this odious Bill being struck down, is every freedom mentioned in the constitution - and that includes Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Association.
If this Bill is allowed to stand, this Government (and I say the word with due contempt) can do what it likes. It can pass Act after Act ripping again and again at the rights and freedoms of all Belizeans. The one resort, the one safe haven from dictatorship, is the Law, and the very structure of the laws of Belize has now been pulled out from under all Belizeans - not just from under BACONGO.
Last week I described the government as having gone "beserk". It is worse than that. This is not a temporary madness or a passing fit of stupidity. What they have done is simply and purely criminal.
As Channel 5 concluded in their report: "The fact is that, whether you like Chalillo or not, this bill may be the worst piece of legislation ever passed by the House of Representatives." That says it - but does not end it. It is up to all Belizeans to do that.
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