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Home Editorial A statement under stress

A statement under stress

An ad hoc group of PUP Government Ministers came together between Tuesday and Wednesday this week and brought a list of demands to Prime Minister, Hon. Said Musa, on Thursday morning in his Belmopan office.

Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Johnny Brice?o, was not in the nation, but he, as we understand it, expressed through the technology of e-mail, his agreement with the list of demands presented by Hon. Jose Coye (Works); Hon. Mark Espat (Tourism); Hon. Cordel Hyde (Housing); Hon. Godfrey Smith (Defence); Hon. Servulo Baeza (Agriculture); and Senator Eamon Courtenay (Attorney General).

The six Ministers of Cabinet and the Deputy Prime Minister were prepared, as we understand it, to resign if their demands had been rejected by the Prime Minister. Mr. Musa and his Ministers eventually reached a compromise, whereby the handling of public finances comes directly under Cabinet control and a restructuring at the highest levels of government is promised by the end of this month, August. Instead of the ad hoc group of Ministers going into a Belize City press conference, as had been their intention, they agreed to assist in preparing a statement for the Prime Minister to read to the nation.

In an interview immediately after Mr. Musa?s speech from his Belmopan office was broadcast nationwide on Thursday afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Dean Barrow, described the Prime Minister?s address as an ?inadequate, unsatisfactory statement.? Mr. Barrow told LOVE FM that the Prime Minister should have admitted that there was a ?rebellion? of his Ministers, and Mr. Barrow said that all Mr. Musa was doing was ?buying time?, hence the reason the statement was ?wishy-washy? in Mr. Barrow?s opinion.

The editorial staff of this newspaper was much displeased, felt even insulted by the fact that the press had not been allowed to question any of Thursday?s Cabinet principals, especially the Prime Minister himself. It was very, very tense in Belmopan this morning, however, and tension had been building in Belize City since yesterday evening. (Five of the seven Cabinet Ministers are from Belize City constituencies.) We understand the feeling of this newspaper?s senior personnel, but the Cabinet principals may need time to breathe a sign of relief. This confrontation, which ended up as compromise, could have had traumatic and disorderly results for the administration, the ruling party, and the nation as a whole.

As it is, things will never be the same. The Prime Minister is hoping that the sale of Intelco to Jeffrey Prosser will enable his government to replace the millions owed to Social Security. But the issue is bigger than that. A mood of caution is beginning to grow in Belize. The ?growing of the economy? has not worked, and now telecommunications subscribers are facing an even more entrenched BTL monopoly than that of the greedy Lord Ashcroft.

The scandal involving the use of public finances to guarantee and pay some loans for companies owned by Intelco?s Glenn Godfrey, exposed some holes in our putative democracy. A lot of people with big titles like ?boards? and ?investment committees? in Belize are really rubber stamps. A lot of people in this country have been abdicating their responsibilities on the grounds that discretion is the better part of valour. A moral rot has set in here in Belize, and it includes people who wear the cloth and preach from pulpits.

The reason the whole thing blew up is because there was a quarrel amongst the big boys. Lord Michael Ashcroft became angry and decided to shell Glenn Godfrey. From there, one thing led to another. We were already in a mess even before Ashcroft started blowing the whistle.

Thursday?s confrontation in Belmopan did not solve the problem. What we had were a few men with a lot to lose, deciding that they had to start making some hard decisions. The road which lies ahead, is a rough road. Under pressure, our democracy worked at the highest levels on Thursday, and the result was a statement under stress. That?s about all we can say this Thursday evening, August 12, 2004.

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