The Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement on Friday, May 4, indicating that there will be no comment for the time being on the Universal Health Services (UHS) debt to the Belize Bank, which Government was called to pay last Wednesday. At press time this evening there has still been no comment on this burning issue from Prime Minister Said Musa – the man at the heart of the controversy. Mr. Musa returned to Belize on Sunday, May 6, after 12 days abroad – in Taiwan on state business and in Florida for his youngest son’s graduation.
On Friday, May 4, the United Democratic Party held a press conference at the Radisson Fort George declaring its position on the most recent development in the Universal matter – that based on a letter from the Belize Bank to the Prime Minister, the Government is now being asked to make immediate payments to settle the $33 million debt.
The Belize Bank letter indicates that on March 23, 2007, the Prime Minister converted a guarantee – the subject of intense debate over the past few months – to a deed of settlement and a loan note, both on terms that have still not been disclosed to some key people in Government nor to the general public. The UDP claims these newly disclosed documents are illegal and is demanding a House meeting on Friday, May 18. (Also see front page story, UDP Leader demands House meeting May 18!)
The statement issued Friday by the Prime Minister’s office said that Government’s efforts to settle the debt are “ongoing” and “this matter has become the subject of legal action and therefore we are restrained in our ability to fully respond.”
As we reported last week, the Association of Concerned Belizeans, joined by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, the Medical and Dental Officers Union of Belize and Senator and businessman, Godwin Hulse, have taken up the matter in the Supreme Court, because the group does not believe that the Government should settle the UHS debt.
While things came to a head, the Prime Minister was in foreign places. Since his departure, the full text of the guarantee and the existence of the two new documents have come to light. There has been fierce public debate, and some strong condemnations coming from some quarters.
The Prime Minister’s office said that he would be fully briefed on the recent developments.
The statement from the P.M.’s office concludes that, “The Cabinet and Public Finance Committee will be convened to discuss and develop a structured solution to this important national issue.”
Those meetings are expected to take place over the course of the next few days. Cabinet, specifically, is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 8. Meanwhile, all attempts to get updates from Government today were futile.
The Prime Minister, himself, has not yet replied to about the UHS loan statements made since his departure .
Within the ruling PUP, tension is unusually high, because some of the parliamentary caucus who gave the Prime Minister/PUP Leader a vote of confidence last week Monday, April 30, with respect to the controversial Universal guarantee, found themselves embarrassed two days later by the disclosure of the Musa loan note and deed of settlement in connection with the same matter.