Editorial — 07 September 2016
Hold on tight, beloved

If we were to tell the Auditor General, Mrs. Dorothy Bradley, that the general public of Belize is quite aware that all the vicious personal and professional attacks being launched against her by the ruling United Democratic Party’s (UDP) officials and attack dogs are a cynical function of UDP self-interest, it would likely be of little consolation, if any, to that brave, embattled lady.

In a governance system like Belize’s, political power, beneath and outside of all the fancy rhetoric and elaborate ceremony, is fundamentally about entitlement to the use and abuse of public funds. The function of the Auditor General and her department involves the constitutional attempt to monitor and regulate said use and abuse of public funds. The nature of the Auditor General’s job places such an individual in an inevitable line of fire from corrupt administrations.

To the best of our recollection, however, it was not the Auditor General who broke the Social Security Board (SSB) and Development Finance Corporation (DFC) scandals in 2004. Off the top, we can’t even remember who the Auditor General was at the time. We can not recall any Auditor General ever coming under these kinds of personal and professional attacks from ruling party officials and attack dogs in our newspaper’s lifetime. Our heart goes out to Mrs. Bradley.

We keep saying to you, dear readers, that it is so important for the optimum performance of Belize’s parliamentary democracy for the Opposition political party (“Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”) to be strong and vibrant. An effective Opposition keeps the ruling party’s administration on its toes, and makes it difficult for the Government of Belize to personalize its propaganda offensives, as the Barrow government has done in the case of Mrs. Bradley.

In the case of the present administration, Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s UDP won a third consecutive term of office, unprecedented in our post-independence era, just eight months ago. The relevant Auditor General’s report, detailing all the immigration document scandals featuring Cabinet Ministers and UDP political cronies, not to mention dishonest public officers, had been placed on the Prime Minister’s desk several months before. The Auditor General’s report was for the years 2011 to 2013, which were noteworthy for the passport scandal with Hon. Elvin Penner, a Cayo District UDP area representative at the time, and the visa scandal featuring Hon. Minister Edmond Castro, then and still the Belize Rural North UDP area representative. Our point is that, while the 2011-2013 Auditor General’s report had not been made public at the time of the November 4, 2015 general elections, the people of Belize already had enough reasons to believe that there was significant corruption in the Immigration Department section of the UDP administration.

The 2011-2013 Auditor General’s report was leaked to the press two weeks ago, days before it was to have been introduced into the House of Representatives by the Hon. Prime Minister on Friday, August 26, 2016. When the Opposition PUP attempted to debate the matter on the adjournment that Friday afternoon, the PUP Cayo South area rep, Hon. Julius Espat, either bungled the assignment, or House Speaker Michael Peyrefitte blew him up. Take your pick. The controversial matter of immigration documents then went back to the media, and to the streets, and in response the Prime Minister called a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, August 31, to zero in on Mrs. Bradley.

With the preceding conversation as background, you can appreciate how important it is for the Opposition PUP to make a decent showing this Wednesday morning, September 7, when they demonstrate in the streets of Belize City, the nation’s population center. This is the first time the PUP will march in the old capital since 1995. Belize City sends ten representatives to the House, almost a third of the seats, and influences three more constituencies – Belize Rural Central, Belize Rural North, and Belize Rural South.

The PUP first collapsed in Belize City in December 1984, when they lost 9 of the old capital’s 10 seats in a UDP general election landslide. In their own landslide victory in 1998, the PUP did win 8 out of the 10 old capital seats. In 2003, they won 6; in 2008, just 4; in 2012, only 2; and in 2015, 4.

The difference between the SSB and the DFC scandals in 2004, on the one hand, and these immigration document scandals of 2016, on the other, is that the present UDP Prime Minister had kept himself scrupulously clear of such types of contretemps. The PUP Prime Minister in 2004, Rt. Hon. Said Musa, had allowed himself to get too close to Glenn Godfrey’s Intelco fiasco and to the financial wheelings-and-dealings of Ralph Fonseca, then the Belize Rural Central area representative.

Mr. Barrow has been attacked for appointments which have the smell of nepotism, such as the second son’s position at the top of BTL, the first son’s Music Ambassador title, and the special, lucrative legal assignments for first wife Lois and younger brother Denys. Until he was named in this Auditor General’s report as having recommended his ineligible sister-in-law’s husband for a Belizean passport, however, he himself had been relatively and self-righteously clean, unless we examine the Petrocaribe loans carefully, and conclude that he had, perhaps unwittingly, violated the Finance and Audit Act, and was then forced to change the law to clear himself. It is possible, to repeat, to view his being named in this Auditor General’s report as the closest Mr. Barrow has come to being himself implicated in funny business, however harmless the incident in the overall scheme of things political. If so, then this may explain the mad savagery of the UDP’s onslaught on Mrs. Bradley.

It’s not fair, and it ain’t nice. It is the Opposition PUP which should have had Mr. Barrow so much on the defensive, because of all the corruption in his administration, that he could not have been going around attacking defenseless ladies who are only doing their jobs. The Belizean people are fully aware that both the major political parties are seriously corrupt. As the thinking of the Belizean people, under increasing aggression and military pressure from the hostile republic west and south of us, not to mention a dangerously shrinking economy, becomes more desperate, things that we Belizeans have never conceived of as possible in our governance reality will enter the realm of possibilities. Just read between the lines and hold on tight, beloved.

Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie, murdered at Caracol in cold blood on September 25, 2014.

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