Prime Minister Dean Barrow and President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala seem to be reading from the same page out of the same instruction manual when it comes to their individual reactions to recent official independent reports that they find unfavorable, Belize’s Auditor General’s immigration audit spawned by the Penner/Castro passport/visa scandals in the one instance, and the OAS report on the investigation into this year’s death of a Guatemalan youth by gunfire from a Belizean military/forest ranger patrol which occurred on Belizean territory. Both investigations were requested by the respective governments, the Belizean Senate in the audit case, and President Morales himself through his Foreign Ministry in the shooting case. Both Barrow and Morales had uttered words prior to these investigations which have come back to haunt them. They have now resorted to undermining the respective reports and shooting the messengers, smearing their abilities and credibility.
The Guatemalan President, his Foreign Minister and his Ambassador to Belize have come out swinging against the OAS report as lacking in scope and purpose in not pointing to criminality on Belize’s part. They have put down the Belizean Prime Minister and Belizeans as a whole as cynical in their dealings, and have accused Magdalena Talamas of the OAS of being political and therefore unfit to have represented the OAS in delivering the report. Let’s get technical and put the boy in the right, they howl: Violation of human rights! Never mind the boy and his family had crossed the line into forbidden territory and done dirty deeds.
Let’s get technical, Belize’s Prime Minister howled, and put the wrongdoers in the right. The Auditor General’s report is flawed: it violated their legal right to an opportunity to answer before the report was made public; never mind they had crossed the line into forbidden territory and done dirty deeds. The Speaker of the House of Representatives has positioned himself to lead the pack of wolves that would destroy Auditor General Dorothy Bradley by actually demanding in writing that she apologizes for naming him and amends her report or face litigation. If the Speaker is confident of his innocence, an investigation will vindicate him. Why threaten to sue? Is the litigation to be against Auditor General Bradley personally or in her official capacity? How does he plan to separate the two? If in her official capacity, would he then also bring suit against the two Houses of the National Assembly who recommended her, even the Governor General who appointed her? How would that work out for you and the Government, Mr. Speaker? There’s a saying: “Say it, forget it; write it, regret it.”
As to the Prime Minister’s clean-up guy, the Immigration Minister, he seems to be quickly losing his squeaky-clean sheen. He too, like Jimmy Morales, wanted the audit in the first instance. He got his audit. Now he is bad-mouthing the audit while resisting a Senate investigation for the second time. The most glaring of his pronouncements in his tirade is that the Chinese, and I take this to include Taiwanese, pay more than any other applicants, a whopping two thousand dollars, for visas that are good for only one month, after which time they must vamoose. Bring on the Chinese, he says: their visas contribute millions to the government purses; enough of them could eliminate taxation of the populace. Come again, Minister? An economy based on the sale of visas, visas which too frequently lead to citizenship, possibly the outlawed economic citizenship? Like Kriol seh, yu ketch fish by dehn own mout. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!
Jimmy Morales made it clear he wanted the OAS findings to string up Belize, particularly the military. He seemed confident that would be the case. So one can accept that payaso’s antics, even if feigned, put on like we say, when the results he manufactured in his own head were not realized. Auditor General Dorothy Bradley’s Immigration Audit Report was no surprise. A bad report was expected and the players, those whom the report named, had two plus years to get used to the idea. Yet several have gone into contortions like puppets on strings. What a spectacle! No one likes bad news. No one welcomes a bad report even when the report was requested. It seems that, and perhaps this is human nature, the first instinct is to blame the bearer of the bad news, probably a kind of defense mechanism to separate oneself from the unwanted. Perhaps the receiver of bad news lapses into magical thinking hoping that by tearing up the message the whole sorry affair will revert to his favor or dissipate into thin air. Perhaps shooting the messenger is an attempt to retain control. These marionettes, however, Morales & Co. and Barrow & Co., should remember that the audience in this case is the entire world.
What makes PM Barrow’s reactions more despicable than Jimmy Morales’ is that they are about propping up a government at the cost of potentially damaging his own country as he publicly goes against the very institution that is constitutionally tasked with safeguarding Parliament, with serving the National Assembly he leads in its business and, by extension, the business of the country. PM Barrow has compounded a bad situation by calling for a special bi-cameral select committee of his choice to do the necessary follow-up investigations. This committee would comprise a majority who are sitting Area Representatives, a composition seen as a tactical maneuver to control the investigation. Some see such a committee as sidestepping, even undermining, the Constitution of the land which the Prime Minister has several times sworn to uphold, the Opposition People’s United Party having repeatedly asserted that the Constitution already makes provisions through the Senate for how findings such as the Auditor General’s are to be investigated. In the minds of many it could be construed that Mr. Barrow’s actions deliver yet another blow to the Constitution, the other being the recent Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing “unnatural” sex acts in which “sex” in the Constitution was interpreted against the spirit of the Constitution to mean “sexual orientation.”
Who says nothing good ever comes out of Belize? The Office of the Auditor General, the supreme audit institution, is probably the only Belizean institution that is proven independent and non-partisan, beholden to no other authority, as it is mandated, except the Constitution itself, of course. Auditor General Dorothy Bradley and her team have set the bar – very high. Don’t know what we’re going to do about Morales. Maybe he should try a disappearing act. However, while Belizeans fight for adherence to and the safeguarding of the Constitution as it stands now, they also need to look ahead and fight for extending the powers of the Office of the Auditor General through a Constitutional change, that is, the addition of its own criminal investigative unit, this office without doubt being fully up to the task.
Only Belizeans can save Belize, from external and internal threats.