BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 13, 2016–On Tuesday, the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) issued a press release making it absolutely clear that it would not participate in a Senate Special Select Committee which it had dubbed, “bogus.”
“The People’s United Party continues to demand that an independent and impartial Senate Special Select Committee be appointed to conduct the senate inquiry into the Immigration and Nationality scandal,” read the release.
For reference, the Opposition had made the call for a Senate Special Select Committee to investigate the findings of the Auditor General’s special report into the Passport, Visa and Nationality Department which documented thousands of irregularities.
At the Senate meeting held on September 30, Church Senator, Ashley Rocke, tabled a motion on the terms of reference and the composition of the motion, which received majority support after a vote was taken.
However, in that motion, the Government secured a majority of two representatives while the three social partners received one representative each, along with the Opposition, which also received one representative.
According to the PUP’s release, that motion was bogus because Minister Senator Godwin Hulse, who is named in the Auditor General’s report, should have recused himself and abstained from voting on the motion.
Furthermore, the release goes on to mention that his participation in that meeting was in fact unconstitutional.
Also, the release goes on to criticize Church Senator Pastor Ashley Rocke, who, it said, presented a motion for the Government and not for the Church.
“The motion was bogus; the voting was bogus; and the inquiry will be bogus,” added the fiery release.
On Wednesday, the first hearing of the Senate Special Select Committee was held, but no Opposition member was named or even in attendance. Despite the Opposition’s absence, however, the meeting continued.
However, the purpose of the first hearing, to appoint a chair of the Senate Special Select Committee, was not achieved, as none of the social partners offered themselves for the position even though the government had indicated that the chair of the committee should be from among the social partners.
Church Senator Pastor Ashley Rocke did not offer himself on the grounds that he felt it would attract even more outcry, while the Senator representing the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and Civil Society, Elena Smith, did not offer herself on the grounds that she had to consult with the membership of the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU), who is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister on Thursday.
The senator representing the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), as well as the Belize Business Bureau (BBB), Markhelm Lizarraga, protested against the composition and terms of reference of the current Senate Special Select Committee, and so, did not offer himself.
According to Lizarraga, efforts were being made to modify the current configuration of the committee.
With a deadlock, the Senate meeting was postponed until next Wednesday, when another attempt will be made to select a chair.