Features — 14 March 2014 — by Audrey Matura-Shepherd

There are many things going on all over the place that may seem unrelated but which to me are very much related: these “things” or “events” are very much reflective of the ethos of our people and the culture of our nation. They are also yardsticks by which to measure the way we see ourselves and others.

This past long holiday weekend was interesting for many reasons…. some good and some not so good.

From juice to beers

Tragedy struck the Silva family when a youth suspected of being drunk crashed his vehicle into theirs resulting in the death of a three-year-old, miracle child of a young couple. I personally had stopped following the cycling race and now Ruta Maya, because I have become concerned with the wild driving and excessive drinking being associated with two of my favorite sporting events. Those who went out can attest to the excessive drinking now associated with these “family” outings as many adults forget children are what they learn and learn what they see.

As a mother, and, just Citizen A, I was disturbed at reports I was getting of how the more recent sponsors of Ruta Maya made their beers freely available to the paddlers, some of whom indulge, while others were smart enough to know alcohol and racing do not mix. I was not there because like I said I stay away from the crowd and drama, so I rely heavily on media friends who commented about the issue. I could see as sponsors why you would want to associate your drink with the paddlers, but from a strictly family and motherly view I do not agree it should be done during the event – after all it is a family, not adults only fest.

When Ruta Maya started it was by the Big-H juice people – the Harrison family. Ironically in those days the paddlers were “filled up” with orange juice. If alcoholic products will be promoted it is my humble opinion that sponsors MUST run a special educational campaign to advise against drinking and driving, what amounts to abuse of alcohol and to warn of the impairment caused by excessive drinking. That is my personal view, which many will not share because of the money it represents.

Jobless for standing up

It seems this week workers at Bowen & Bowen were given the axe and from all reports coming out of the workers, many officials and entities are reluctant to assist because no one wants to fight the giant. Mr. Barry Bowen, whom I only got to interact with when we both served in the Senate, to me did not come off as that kind of heartless guy, but the company still bearing his name is coming off as such.

The 13 workers were being asked to sign new contracts that would end up meaning they get far less pay and it was a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Now I want every Belizean, even Bowen’s top management, PR and HR officers to seriously ask themselves… “would freely and willingly sign a contract of employment that gives you less, or far less, compensation than you are getting now?” Or is it only the poor and manual laborers who have to worry about these kinds of things happening to them?

This situation reminds me of the recent Belize City Council redundancy plan of some 30 plus security workers, who were being forced to take on employment with Ranger Security for $3.50 an hour from a job with Citco that paid them $4.48 an hour. Come on, let’s have a heart – does any honest employer really think this is fair? Even with union representation it was a battle, so I can only imagine what these 13 workers are going up against. Imagine, to date the new security company has not met with the Christian Workers Union – a broken promise, but a reflection of the heart of those who “give their word of honor”!

As things stand with Belize CitCo, at least one worker, who was not recommended for a post with the new security firm but promised a compassionate package, was double-crossed. By two separate letters signed by the Mayor the duplicity is revealed. In one letter he fully agrees to this package for this laborer and in the other, outright going back on his own “word” as if a prior commitment in black and white did not exist… a blatant reneging sadly. I should publish these letters if CWU’s last attempt to have City Hall honor its commitment fails. Why come down so hard on one worker… I will not understand!

So, in the case of these thirteen workers, I say you are fighting with giants, but like David stand your ground! It is not right to fire people while on sick leave; it is not right to be asked to sign a less favorable contract under duress, and it is surely not right that it is always the people at the bottom who get trampled on.

Penner… freely moving around

But while some were dealing with the daily struggles of life, one man and his wife seem to having been living it up. So this long holiday weekend marked the final days of the statute of limitation under the Nationality Act if charges were to be laid against Minister of State Elvin Penner. When Tuesday, March 11, 2014 came, Penner was not handcuffed and arrested or charged. As a matter of fact he did not even seem to be concerned as he was enjoying his long Baron Bliss weekend somewhere across the border in Mexico.

“Facily” enough, his wife proudly posted on Facebook the grand time they were having drinking Tecate beers and posing at some restaurant and/or resort… while on this side of the border police officers had no break as the pulled in possible witnesses and took police statements in a haste to meet their deadline. As was proper to do, one such person questioned was Jules Vasquez, to whom Penner, by e-mail and text, confessed. These were his words: “[I] personally went with him to the passport office to see to it that he would get proper attention and would get his passport the same day.”

By text message to Vasquez, Penner further confirmed he was the author of said e-mail. To date even immigration officials were questioned, but Penner was nowhere to be found to be questioned because he was enjoying the long weekend with monies earned from tax-payers. It is like he is so sure he will get away or is untouchable and invincible….. I guess power does that to anyone.

I for one anxiously await the outcome of this investigation and I suggest persons who still need to be questioned include no other than Eric Chang; Penner’s brother in law, who is a police officer and his middle-man for some time; the businessman Penner said he knew and who posed as Citizen Kim; and the driver who went to pick-up the passport for his boss.

Records that need to be examined include the chip of the equipment that captures the picture to be placed in the passport…. That will show whose picture was actually taken to be placed in the passport, if any. These chips time code and so at this point the police really need to call in the company that designed the system. Also the computers used to print any of the documents needed to be removed and again an expert brought in, since everything on a computer can be retrieved and dates are stored in its memory.

But maybe because we have to settle for a charge under the Criminal Code which has no time limitation, what we will need is proof that Penner did sign, and so anyone who witnessed when he signed the nationality document and backdated it needs to come forward and become witness for the prosecution.

The Castro investigation

But while this investigation is in progress there is a need for another investigation to take place. That is, they need to look into the Edmund Castro visa racket alleged by Alvarine Burgess, a long time ago girlfriend. According to Burgess, Castro facilitated recommendations of visas to Asian nationals for a fee which she delivered personally to him. To me the answer to this investigation lies in police being able to confiscate the computer of Castro’s secretary where the recommendation letters were written. Further, she needs to be thoroughly questioned and Penner’s brother-in-law who is a police needs to be pulled in as well.

The recommendation of visas for persons whom you do not know, yet you attest to know thus you recommend visas for them, in itself is not right… worse yet, taking money for it. Those are serious allegations which I believe can be proven, if it did happen.

Plus the records at the Immigration Department speak volumes to these since each file must indicate whom a visa was issued to, recommended by whom, approved by whom and issued by whom. This case is no less important and Belizeans must demand that the authorities act.

BTB axe Laura

One authority that did act is the Belize Tourism Board’s management team. It was an unprecedented coup and one I can figure was carefully orchestrated by an invisible hand yet influential player. But the truth is, from Laura Esquivel-Frampton got that appointment the writing on the wall was there. In the Book of Daniel it speaks of this writing which is “Mene, Mene Tekel Parsin”. Mene means – your days are numbered; Tekel means – you have been weighed and have not measured up and Parsin means – your belongings, in this case, post/job, have been divided and given to another.

Interestingly, and sad for Laura, she was given a post and responsibility I believe she was not experienced enough to manage, but with years under the right leadership she could have acquired. But when professionals play their own politics and allow others to drag them out and “force ripe” them before their time, they need to pay the consequences.

It is serious to get a vote of no-confidence cast against a person, but the three grounds on which it is based are very damning per the letter signed by the Team of Management. But the worst in my book is the one that states: “.. she has failed to display requisite leadership, level of honesty, transparency and integrity in the current budget process…” I hope they have evidence of this since that is my same complaint about this government, but with all the evidence no one dares call for the vote of no-confidence.

I don’t know the lady personally. I have nothing either way to say about her, but regret that this letter has reached the hands of the masses and can only guess that the same invincible force I know capable of this made sure her embarrassment is worsened.

Writing for Contreras

I hope this writing on the wall is a warning to Danini Contreras, daughter of politician Erwin Contreras, who knows very well what her qualifications for the newly created post of Director of Drug Inspectorate are. She knows if she has been given the local license, has the years’ experience and the aptitude to get the job done without fear or favor towards the political directorate that got her there.

I hope she is aware that one of the biggest scams against the people of this nation is the inferior drugs peddled in and the back-door contracts with some same health officials who have placed themselves in a position of conflict of interest who do not want a strong oversight person or entity so the racket can continue. My advice, don’t ignore the writing on the wall.

Plus, if children of politicians will be given jobs, let it go through the right process so as to avoid this kind of attack against them just when their careers are so young. I would not expose my child’s professional future to such a bad start, unless of course I taught them to feel they are more entitled than other Belizeans because of the political office I hold.

God bless Belize!

Related Articles

Share

About Author

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.