BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 16, 2017–When the Said Musa/Ralph Fonseca-led People’s United Party (PUP) government was around the halfway point in its term in 2005, a new pressure group, the Association of Concerned Belizeans (ACB), burst on the scene and played an important role in the removal of that corrupt PUP government in 2008.
The ACB, as an Amandala editorial said, was made up of various individuals from the professional class of the Belizean society and represented a new hope for the country’s democracy and vigilance against a corrupt government.
“The ACB is groups of young businessmen and professionals who participated in the giant August 28 demonstration last year, and have since held public forums featuring prominent speakers addressing topical issues. The ACB has been careful to maintain its independence of the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), but the group is considered anti-government,” said the Amandala editorial of September 21, 2005.
The editorial went on to say, “The Association of Concerned Belizeans is a good thing for Belize’s democracy. The people who decide municipal and general elections are not party fanatics. Such fanatics are pretty evenly distributed between the blue PUP and the red UDP…”
Since the United Democratic Party (UDP) government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow came to power in 2008, however, the ACB appeared to have gone under the radar, notwithstanding the many shortcomings of the Barrow administration.
In September 2005, the ACB spearheaded a demonstration against the Social Security Board for lending Sunshine Holding, an Ashcroft alliance company, 20 million dollars.
Prior to its public demonstration in September 2005, the president of ACB, Karim Berges, said, “People don’t want to be partisan, and that’s one of the key issues. They want to be political, but they don’t want to be partisan, and we have established ourselves as a political watchdog. So we are leading this demonstration based on public opinion that we get directly from people.”
Since its election in 2008 with a supermajority that even allowed it to alter some fundamental principles of the Belize Constitution, the Dean Barrow-led UDP government, which has won two more terms since it replaced the corrupt PUP, has been accused of all kinds of corruption itself. But there has been no supposedly apolitical body to keep the government in check.
The ACB, which had showed tremendous promise in its early skirmishes with the excesses of the Musa/Fonseca government, has been silent since the UDP came to power in 2008.
And despite his promise to stamp out corruption “when it reared its ugly head,” Prime Minister Dean Barrow has done nothing to address the manifest excesses of his Cabinet ministers, some of whom have been accused of widespread, repeated acts of corruption.
Where are those “patriotic Belizeans” who were at the helm of the ACB fighting against the excesses of the Musa/Fonseca government?
Where is the ACB now, after Prime Minister Barrow has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on his ill-advised, some say, legal battles with the Ashcroft alliance over the government’s acquisition of, and payment for Belize Telemedia Limited?
Where was the watchdog ACB when PM Barrow singlehandedly negotiated a half-a-billion dollar settlement deed between Lord Michael Ashcroft and the government? Up to now, PM Barrow has not breathed a word about which law firm drafted that settlement agreement that the Caribbean Court of Justice categorized as “poorly drafted.”
The Belizean people have a right to know which law firm has benefitted financially from that agreement that eventually led to the country paying a quarter of its foreign exchange as settlement.
Where has the ACB been when government ministers squandered 450 million dollars of Petrocaribe funds?
Where has the ACB been when GOB squandered six hundred million dollars of taxes they collected from BNE?
The list of ministerial excesses is long and loud, but where is the ACB?
This is the present status of some of the most prominent members of the ACB who were engaged in the war to bring down the Musa/Fonseca government, and have since “disappeared” in the fight against the stinking corruption of their own government:
-Attorney Lois Young-Barrow, S.C., is now Belize’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
-Stephen Duncan, a banker, was recently appointed to the government side of the Senate.
-Godwin Hulse, who is unelected but was appointed a Senator, has been serving as a Cabinet minister in the Barrow administration since its second term began in 2012. Senator Hulse has since served as Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Natural Resources, Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Immigration, and has been the Leader of Government Business in the Senate since his appointment as a Senator.
-Dylan Vernon is now the Belize Ambassador to Sweden.
-Diane Haylock, formerly the Director of National Institute of History and Culture (NICH), is now serving as Belize Ambassador to Taiwan.
The following ACB members who have limited government involvement are: Steve Perrera, an attorney in private practice; David Gegg, a businessman who remains in his business; Jeremy Spooner, who remains a businessman and is the owner of Spooner’s Café, and businessman Karim Berges.
Combined, a number of these ACB members have cost the taxpayers of this country tens of millions of dollars on contracts, salaries and operational expenses.