Government & Media Prayer: GOB is stepping into two thorny issues seeking to apply solutions. One issue is crime. In 2014 murders rose by 22%, thefts by 18%, and rapes by a massive 62%. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has announced Belize reforms in the legal system.They are meant to improve the delivery of justice in 2015. Magistrates and judges will be able to reveal what sentences are likely to result from an early guilty plea. This should encourage the guilty to confess and so reduce their punishment. A draft bill would allow vulnerable witnesses in murder trials to provide anonymous testimony is certain cases. Such witnesses would be able testify and be cross-examined via screened video link from a remote location. Other Belize reforms protect detainees. The pre-trial process would be streamlined so that the accused would not have to wait longer than two years for trial. Police would have to fully document their treatment of those detainees who are in their custody.
GOB is also addressing the long-running dispute between the sugar cane union, BSCFA, and the factory owners, BSI/ASR. Two of the 18 branches of BSCFA have broken away so they can sign their own contracts with the factory owners. On Jan. 19 the House of Representatives will meet to vote on an amendment to Belize’s sugar laws. The Senate will consider it on Jan. 20. The amendment would give the breakaway groups legal standing. Some have objected that these divisions will weaken the sugar growers’ bargaining ability. Others argue that sugar growers should not be tied down to one union if it cannot win them a timely deal. Both sides say that if the growers had been better informed they could have reached an agreement much sooner. We must pray that the media will help to fill in the info gaps, and that clear and lasting agreements can be made.
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