BELIZE CITY, Wed. Dec. 9, 2015–Today is the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day, a day which is recognized in the 178 countries which are signatories to the United Nations Convention on Corruption that countries began signing onto twelve years ago.
Belize, however, is not a signatory to the convention, although corruption in Belize’s governance structure is so obvious at times that it is noticeable internationally – with clear examples of this being the Elvin Penner passport scandal and the latest incident in which an international fugitive escaped extradition.
Belize’s third political party, the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), had campaigned in the November 4 general elections on a promise of corruption-free governance, and had pledged that if elected they would sign the UN convention on corruption.
Since it lost badly at the polls, however, the BPP observed International Anti-Corruption Day by protesting in front of the National Assembly building and then paying a visit to the Integrity Commission’s office in Belmopan. They then came down to Belize City, where party officials staged a symbolic signing of the UN Convention on Corruption on Coney Drive in front of the Prime Minister’s Belize City office.
The BPP’s shadow Foreign Minister, Paco Smith, symbolically signed the convention. After signing, Smith explained, “We are making a symbolic stand. A lot of times people would say that symbolism means nothing, but it carries considerable weight.”
Smith explained that many of our Caribbean neighbors have signed onto this convention.
“To sign on to this convention would demonstrate that the political will, exists here in Belize to do the right thing, in relation to fighting the scourge of corruption,” Smith said.
Smith added, “Belize has graduated to that level, especially on the heels of that very disturbing case involving Nanes Schnitzer [the escaped international fugitive].”
Smith said that Belize has been infected by Schnitzer getting bail and then disappearing into thin air.
“With the stroke of a pen, the Prime Minister can do the right thing and set Belize on the right path,” Smith continued.
The BPP Leader Patrick Rogers said that until Belize signs the convention, “we will have to be accepting some Prime Minister telling us that it is not enough to be criminal”. If this convention is signed, that autonomous body will be created that will be mandated to find the truth. So once instances of corruption come up, we will be able to prove that it happened, and the whistleblowing laws will have to be changed to protect whistleblowers once this convention is signed, said Rogers.
Rogers said the BPP has not gone anywhere. He said the BPP is engaged in its ten-year plan to help Belize change its direction.
Rogers further stated that the BPP is calling on each and every Belizean to call on the government to sign the convention.
“Until we do so, we will have a compromised judiciary, a compromised police, and a DPP that we are always complaining about,” he said.