Features — 06 January 2018
Best political Christmas

Continued from page 10 of last weeks friday issue of the Amandala

Then the biggest political deal of the last decade has been the dispute between Dean Barrow, under the guise of the people of Belize, and Michael Ashcroft under the guise of the Ashcroft group, which has culminated in the best Christmas gift for the man turned Good Samaritan after being “villainized” by no other than PM Barrow. Belizeans love drama and a good gossip and a hype story, but get so distracted by the noise that they fail to see the true issues developing before their eyes. In this case the issues had to do with following the money… Yes, the money! No matter what name calling is done, what magnificent interview is given and what grandiose speech saying it’s all for the people, what really mattered at the end of the day is that the Ashcroft groups after almost a decade still ended up getting the money they demanded and they have gotten even more than what they would have been entitled to had the matter been resolved from the first court ruling against the government.

It’s elementary, my people… the entire saga was just one big farce to ensure that at the end of the day, Mr. Ashcroft, through his companies, gets more than the value of BTL, gets that money tax and impost free, gets it in US dollars and that the politically-affiliated attorneys get their cut as legal fees. Now the question is – how does that translate into the poverty on the streets? Well, the answer to that is also elementary, since it means that much needed foreign exchange had to be taken out of our foreign reserves and that impacts the availability of foreign exchange, especially this time of the year where our importation of foreign goods is very high and we must pay in US dollars.

It further translates into our higher poverty rate, because monies which could have otherwise been available for the provisions of development projects, education and health, payments and servicing of other debts, and even provision of employment, are no longer available. Of course the extra monies are always being skimmed off to pay for the legalized “bribes” and “handouts” really cut down to almost nil, and the few dollars left to hand out go to special UDP’s first, second, third, and last! The masses are superfluous and first to be trimmed down or cut out. This Christmas is living proof of that. Who smiling having walked away with the people’s money is the good Samaritan, ironically, and the Belizean attorneys on both sides of the fight.

The expensive and useless fight

You see much legal fees, time and heartbreak could have been saved for the Belizean people if they understood upfront that going to court to dispute payment to Mr. Ashcroft’s groups was an exercise in futility and waste of our hopes, time and money, because how could our people forget that in September 2015, Dean Barrow not only struck a special secret deal with Mr. Ashcroft as main negotiator, in a Miami hotel, but Mr. Barrow also signed that deal and without a blink passed it through the National Assembly and made it law. Paying off Mr. Ashcroft now is not a simple matter of contract, it is a matter of law… it is the law of our land. Please, can you even conceive the magnitude of that? On August 7 of 2016, I wrote the following, which I repeat for reference:

“Then ironically, today Thursday July 28, 2016, while at Supreme Court to deal with a client’s matter I stumbled upon a case management hearing by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the same government and Ashcroft group are back in court because as I understand it, on July 13 [2016] the government was obligated to pay 50% of the monies agreed to as the price tag of BTL by the ruling of the arbitration tribunal. We all say that price tag is a total of US$500 million, but the breakdown is disputed or still unclear. However, our Minister of Finance, who also happens to be our Prime Minister, is reportedly unable to find the money to make the payment and is disputing what the 50% works out to. Also he is now saying through his attorneys that the country does not have the US currency to use to make the payment in US dollars as was previous legislated.  Of course Ashcroft will not have “no” for an answer. The Good Samaritan wants his money and so his attorney is taking GOB to court to demand an enforcement of the once Secret Settlement deed turned legislation under the Telecommunication Acquisition Settlement Act. Belizeans need to know what is going on. You see that special law that was shoved down our throats after that secret Ashcroft/Barrow meeting states at Clause 4 dealing with payments as follows: ‘4.1 – On the Business Day following the enactment of the Legislation, the Government shall pay or procure payment to the Bank of US$48,544,927.78, representing compensation, including costs, expenses and interest, in amounts specified in paragraphs 328 (h) to (m) and, in the case of interest, calculated according to paragraphs 328 (n) of the Final Award [This is the December 19, 2014 decision of the Arbitral Tribunal in which it found the government in breach of an old English treaty which applies to Belize and ordered  payment.]4.2 All payments made pursuant to clause 4 shall be: (a) exempt from and be made free from taxes, duties, charges, fees or imposts; and (b) made in United States Dollars directly, without any set off, deduction or counterclaim whatsoever …’” [emphasis mine]

Conclusion as we end 2017

This is the payment we had to finally make, in US dollars, with interest, and without being able to withhold any taxes, duties, charges, fees or impost! This explains how 2017 has come crashing down on all of us… except the few made wealthy by the corruption! Brace yourselves for 2018; it’s only a New Year, but not projected as a financially prosperous one as the corruption is not subsiding and those in power will fight, undermine and undercut anyone or anything to stay in power. There is no power in the people unless they recognise their power!

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Deshawn Swasey

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