Editorial — 16 July 2016
The sacred cow

Amandala welcomes this week’s statement from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) on the national financial catastrophe which the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) has become. It may be that the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) has also weighed in on the BTL crisis, but any such statement may have been lost in the shuffle. The point we wish to make is that when Belize experiences these crises wherein all the leaders of the two major political parties – the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP), do is point fingers at each other, the BCCI and the NTUCB become the nation’s most important socio-politico-economic factors. That is because they represent arguably the two most disparate, and at the same time vital, elements in our democracy, these being capital (BCCI) and labor (NTUCB).

Ideally, of course, there should be a commission of inquiry into just how our nation’s most profitable and cutting-edge technology public utility, built over decades by thousands of talented, dedicated Belizean workers, ended up as the source of the largest ever hit upon our foreign reserves and consolidated funds. Commissions of inquiry are expensive propositions, and it does not appear that any of the two major parties is eager for a BTL inquiry. Such an initiative, we submit, would require a joint effort by BCCI and NTUCB, in the first instance.

In July of 2004, a huge scandal broke involving Social Security Board (SSB) funds, and by February of 2005 the heat on the ruling PUP was such that their Said Musa government yielded to demands for inquiries into the SSB and the Development Finance Corporation (DFC). SSB was investigated by a Senate group led by then BCCI Senator, Godwin Hulse, and the DFC was investigated by a three member commission headed by the late David Price. It was the NTUCB which brought the pressure on the Musa administration, but the NTUCB was being fully supported by the BCCI, not to mention the people of Belize.

At the center of both the scandals was the attorney Glenn D. Godfrey, who had been the PUP area representative for the Belize Rural South constituency in the 1989-93 and 1993-98 terms. Between 1989 and 1993, Mr. Godfrey was a PUP Cabinet Minister, and a member of a powerful troika which included Education Minister Said Musa and de facto Finance Minister Ralph Fonseca.

When the PUP returned to power following the 1993-98 UDP interregnum, Said Musa became Prime Minister and Ralph Fonseca again became de facto Finance Minister. Glenn Godfrey had decided, for whatever the reason(s), not to run in the 1998 general election, although he would have easily won the Belize Rural South seat again. Instead, in 1998 he was appointed chairman of the DFC, and after a while he began to put together the framework of a new telephone company – Intelco.

Eventually, Intelco failed, because BTL, then owned by Lord Michael Ashcroft, refused interconnection between BTL and Intelco, and Godfrey ended up on the hook for $19 million. At the time, the PUP was still in power, and Glenn Godfrey was the quintessential PUP sacred cow. It was to get Glenn Godfrey off that $19 million hook that the Said Musa government signed the infamous (and probably illegal) accommodation agreement with Lord Ashcroft.

Before the 2008 general elections, when dissident elements in the PUP began to criticize him, Glenn Godfrey began to “play games” with the UDP leadership. He was a multimillionaire many times over, and the UDP was looking at the campaign financing possibilities where Glenn’s millions were concerned. If you have enough money in Belize, we see and we know, you can buy political protection.

The long and short of all this is that absolutely nothing came of the SSB Senate inquiry and the DFC commission of inquiry, even though a great deal of filthy, incriminating evidence emerged. The people of Belize were able to see how the big boys in the major parties operate with public funds, using these funds as if the money belongs to their private accounts and ignoring the sufferings of the Belizean people. The monarchical Belizean system protected Glenn Godfrey and the other conspirators, and life went on. Only some dusty audiotapes and videotapes remain somewhere, hopefully.

The UDP came to power in February of 2008 and has remained in power ever since. At a specific point in time, just two months before the November 2015 “third term” general elections, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, whose law firm has been handling Lord Ashcroft’s Belize Bank business since 1989, came to a private agreement with the said Lord Ashcroft which has ended up with the taxpayers of Belize having to pay the Lord much more than we ever bargained for. The Rt. Hon. Barrow has described the final BTL arbitration award as a victory for Belize, but the people of Belize do not agree.

The BCCI and the NTUCB should demand a BTL inquiry, so that the big boys have to testify under oath. After all, it’s our money. It’s the people’s money.

Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.16

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