Editorial — 03 August 2016
For whom the bell tolls…

It is said that before Richard Nixon left the American presidency enveloped in a cloud of shame, he was advised by Henry Kissinger, who was then his man on National Security Affairs that he should cut loose his closest implicated people and accept a measure of responsibility for Watergate. He never did. And in fact, six months later in January of 1974, the president was defiant in his State of the Union address, declaring he had “no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job the American people elected me to do for the people of the United States.” Six months later, in August of 1974, he would resign before his likely impeachment and removal by the US House of Representatives.

We wonder whether there is any Henry Kissinger in this government who is advising the Belize Prime Minister that mayhap he should cut loose his Minister of National Security and really try to come to grips with this tragic, unsavoury nightmare that is unfolding. That we may never know because in this UDP administration there seems no one with the testicular fortitude willing to bell any cat, whether internally or externally, no matter the level of toxicity and filth surrounding the administration.

Instead what we know for sure, is that in the Prime Minister’s Friday press briefing at the Biltmore, the same day he returned from a weeklong visit to Miami to reportedly check on his back, he dug in and said that, at least for now, Minister Saldivar has nowhere to go. He went on to declare that in order for him to even contemplate ousting Saldivar, some arbitrary threshold on public corruption would have to be met.

We recall that no such stated corruption threshold was employed when Mr. Barrow wanted to sack the lowly Marcel Cardona from his Cabinet. In the case of Cardona, he was sacked for daring to have the NICH Board fire NICH president Diane Haylock, a lifelong friend of the Prime Minister, for signing “a secret agreement to privatize an archaeological reserve.” Cardona would later be challenged and defeated as the UDP’s Orange Walk East standard-bearer.

Prime Minister Barrow on Friday conceded that his administration was “paying a huge political price” but added that he was no “unthinking slave” to public opinion. But we repeat here again: this particular scandal is much different from anything we have seen before.

A man is dead, A pastor, Gruesomely killed, Beheaded, A life that arguably could have been saved if the Minister of Police and the Police Department had acted with more dispatch almost a year ago when they reportedly first discovered that William Danny Mason wasn’t who he said he was, and that he was in fact a con-man with several aliases that spanned at least two continents and had in fact just a couple months earlier received all of six gun licenses from the Belize Police Department.

We submit that Mr. Saldivar is no ordinary member of Cabinet, and it is precisely because he is no ordinary member of Cabinet that is why it appears to us, convenient for the Prime Minister to say that he won’t contemplate removing the Minister until the lofty threshold of guilty of corruption or criminal collusion is met. The Prime Minister’s posture Friday appeared to be one wedded to a political calculus. The same political calculus that saw the junior Minister Elvin Penner fired from Cabinet in 2013 but given a soft landing, steered clear of any hazard of prosecution.

The problem is, Mr. Saldivar is the top lawman in the country; the head of the crime fighting division of the government. As of today, he stands convicted by the public of at the very least cavorting with, and accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a man who is accused of beheading a local pastor. He has lost the moral authority to lead the crime fighters in targeting the would-be and suspected criminals. Someone suspected of corruption cannot credibly attack others over corrupt practices; although, it can be argued that that passes for the norm all the time in little Belize.

And we have not even gotten into a discussion over the Police Department’s perceived inability to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the murder of Pastor Lucas. Our reports are that another unit of the Police had to be called in to arrest William Mason because the first unit on the scene was unwilling to arrest a man they and their boss knew so well. The people of Belize are demanding that an independent international investigator be engaged. Needless to say, we support the people of Belize.

But the onus is now on Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to act, to give flesh to the words of the people as it were. In this case, those words are also the Opposition’s words; it is the Leader of the Opposition who first publicly demanded that Saldivar must go.

These are serious times in the country of Belize.

There are difficult days ahead, explicitly and exhaustively announced last week by no less than the Governor of the Central Bank (CB).

If we were entirely cynical we would question how it were that the Prime Minister on Friday lapped up in its entirety to the Governor’s damning leaked memo. But that memo, we surmise, will prove conveniently timely for the government when they meet the union heads of the teachers and public officers early this week to inform them whether their third and final pay raise would be forthcoming. There is a more than an average chance that the teachers and public officers will be forced to share in the economic pain ahead.

The problem is that while austerity may be visited upon those at the base of the pyramid, there’ll be no such belt tightening visible on government officials. If past history is any indication, the good times will continue to roll for the big boys, and their priorities will continue to be disconnected from the real. Just check the amount of late model SUVs you see with blue plates swarming the town, while parents are left to figure out how to meet the exorbitant fees and cost of books for their schoolchildren.

After a hiatus of almost five months, a House meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 10. In a time long gone, the Opposition and the social partners would gather in numbers on Independence Hill, not to be confused with Intelco Hill, to bring pressure to bear on parliament and those who wield monarchical power inside. But we repeat: as we write this editorial early Monday morning, August 1, 2016, the onus is on the Opposition to respond on behalf of the nation. They are being paid to so do.

In the meantime, the bell tolls…The question is, for whom?

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