BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 15, 2021– This morning the Government Press Office chopped the scheduled broadcast of today’s session of the Commission of Inquiry into the fire sale of government assets after PSU representative, Luke Martinez, delivered a stunner of a statement.
“The PSU wishes to express its outright disappointment in the Government of Belize for what we respectfully consider a mockery of the Commission of Inquiry, as we continue to witness the fire sale of public assets whilst this process is ongoing,” Martinez said.
Anthony “Boots” Martinez was to appear before the commission, to answer questions regarding his purchase of an F-150 pickup from the Government. Before he could start his testimony, Commissioner Luke Martinez requested the permission of the Chairman of the committee, Andrew Marshalleck, to make the statement, which he was allowed to deliver in its entirety.
However, the live-streaming video on the Government of Belize’s Facebook page was cut and deleted moments after the broadcast was cut short.
The statement was released by the PSU, and subsequently by local media. The release called into question the recent alleged sale of various items by the PUP government to CEO’s and Ministers.
“During the past four months, we have witnessed the sale of vehicles, aircraft, and even guns to CEO’s, Ministers, without following the proper public disposal process. We have seen whereby the Assets and Utilities Manager, acting via the office of the Financial Secretary, continues to abuse his power and discretion to render assets unserviceable when, in fact, information received indicates that they were in good condition,” Martinez said.
The statement also noted that the PSU is “skeptical” about the sales process that took place for those assets, and pointed out that the bidding process lacks transparency. The union reminded PM John Briceño of a statement he made in February 2020, that he would “break the cycle of systematic corruption.”
“The abuse of the government’s assets currently stands in the millions of dollars, and it is time for all the key players in the Ministry of Finance to be held financially and criminally responsible!” the statement declared.
The unions are calling for the enactment of legislation to ensure this is done. They are also calling for the limitation of the discretionary powers of the Minister of Finance, Prime Minister John Briceño, and the Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight. The union says that the Assets and Utilities Management Unit “needs new and honest leadership.”
The PSU had called for the Commission of Inquiry into the fire sale of government assets after sounding the alarm shortly before the 2020 General Election. In the statement delivered by the PSU representative on the Commission of Inquiry today, the union says,”We did not sign up for what appears to be a political show that will be limited to name-calling and political grandstanding.”
The union indicated in the statement that they would withdraw from the day’s hearing until they get a formal written commitment from Government that the improper sales of goods would stop and that clear legislation would be put in place for the government to dispose of assets.
“Enough is enough! Enough is enough…we, the Public Service Union, requested for this Commission of Inquiry into the sale of government assets because the people of Belize, the poor people of Belize, have been asking why do we continue to sit back and allow government, parliamentarians, people in high office to be handling our assets in such manner. After listening to the first couple of investigations and hearing a lot of Belizeans have been rubbed terribly wrong. And inna the height of this inquiry, we see once again, this government yah, wah start to sell out the assets of the people without following the proper procedure. Absolutely unacceptable!” Luke Martinez said during an interview after the meeting was adjourned.
“Shame, shame, shame on you,” stated 1st vice president of the PSU, Dean Flowers. “When the people of this country have been exploited, their assets disposed of at fire-sale prices and instead of exposing this, the Government of Belize choose to stifle our representative this morning, and choose to block the Belizean people from hearing what our representative had to deliver,” he went on to say.
Chairman Marshalleck has said that he was not aware that the broadcast was cut until leaving. He said that he did not give the directive for that to be done and whoever cut the broadcast will have to explain why it was done.
“Look, if the union has a view to express, they are free to express it. In any event, I have no trouble with them expressing their view, so long as it’s done in a responsible and mannerly way, which it was. To be quite frank, when Mr. Martinez start adverting to the sales by the government during the time, I too was very disappointed when that happens. I can’t say that I would have put my objection in quite those terms or as strongly, but I wasn’t happy to see that either,” Marshalleck said.
The Chairman shared that they have agreed that all members must be present for quorum and as such the hearings for the Commission of Inquiry will be postponed until the Government and the PSU mends their relationship.