I listen, I read, I discuss and I see that we are a nation compromised. I write my thoughts down because I am only voicing what many people have thought and said. You see, we the people have allowed this compromised state for too long, but collectively we belong to an abused nation, where, like any cycle of abuse, we have not broken the cycle. We keep allowing the abuse in every form.
Past PUP SINS
All the wrongs, illegality, impropriety, corruption etc. of this present government are now justified by saying that the PUP did like wrongs, illegality, impropriety, corruption etc., thus, we cannot point fingers at the UDP. That is the theory of staunch UDP supporters and well-known apologists. They make the most noise and list all the wrongs of the PUP as if to nullify the continued abuse of power and poor governance of the present UDP. So here is my take on that!:
1. We the people, especially the swing voters, who are more independent-minded, voted against the PUP for the very fact of their ills and poor governance and corruption.
2. We the people, many of us truly wanted change and looked to the UDP to do positively better, NOT better at the continued corruption.
3. A UDP administration was the right body to move in and undo many of the ills of the PUP – like repealing all those laws they debated and said were bad laws and passing laws for better accountability and transparency.
4. The UDP administration should also investigate and prosecute all the ills of the PUP – but no such thing has been done to date.
5. The very things the PUP did, like bloated contracts, accommodation agreements, secret agreements, tax write-offs, sale of passports and visas etc. should never have been done by the UDP, yet they have done the same and more.
You see why the cycle of abuse continues? When the UDP was in opposition they relied on the voices of us, the people, who are the independent-minded ones, to organize and condemn the ills of that time, now they seek to quiet us. The 2005 mass protest was key, because until then there were institutions that had not been politically infiltrated. Today, the UDP has done a great job to infiltrate and even place representatives in those institutions, from the Cane Farmers Association, to the trade unions, the Bar Association, the churches, the NGO’s, to name a few. Today, Sen. Ashley Rocke from the churches, to give an example, is viewed by many as one of the compromised souls!
Where is the moral compass?
The politics of the political parties are just a reflection of the politics of the churches. Imagine, the UDP-sympathetic clergymen ganged up and excluded many of the Evangelical churches to be able to appoint a senator, and they call that God’s work. It has been said that this was spearheaded by no other than former UDP Ambassador turned preacher, Howell Longworth, who has never stopped glorifying his days in politics from his pulpit.
For those who have forgotten, just three years ago we had a most damning report of the level of corruption at the Passport Offices of the Immigration and Nationality section. Here is a refresher and how the churches dealt with it. The Auditor General’s audit revealed that as many as fifty-five thousand passports were approved without biometric checks and at least one passport was from a batch of stolen passports.
The audit was from the period of 2011 to 2013. In brief it addressed both the issuing of visas to visit Belize and issuing of Belizean nationality and passports. In relation to the visas – the Auditor General identified inconsistencies in the processing and issuance of visas to persons who did not qualify. Among the ministers named who made recommendations for visa approvals were known characters such as Elvin Penner, Erwin Contreras and Edmond Castro, as well as Hugo Patt, as well as former C.E.O. Candelaria Saldivar-Morter; Frank “Papa” Mena, a minister of state; and former minister of state, Michael Hutchinson. All except Penner, at the time, continued to sit in Cabinet.
Imagine the audit report also revealed that four hundred and sixty visa foil stickers were returned to the department, of which four hundred were unaccounted for. According to the report, thousands of visas, Belizean nationality documents and passports were approved to Chinese nationals who did not qualify. Some were for Koreans, Colombians and Iranians, who obtained visas, but did not have the required security clearances, but got support of the very same named politicians. The corruption in the system was such that even Cubans in prisons got visas to remain in Belize instead of being deported.
The Auditor General confirms that the passport issuance system was breached in various ways, so much so that the now infamous case of South Korean national, Wong Hong Kim, who got his Belizean passport delivered to him while in prison, remains etched in our history of corruption. However, the corruption extended to nationals from Turkey and Russia, although the bulk of them are Chinese nationals. The Immigration Department was found to lack accountability as numerous stolen, unaccounted for and apparently fraudulent Jumbo and Ordinary passports were among cancelled passports presented for the audit. The audit also found that an alleged human trafficker obtained nationality and registration and that numerous persons who entered Belize with visas received passports within days, weeks or months. The situation to date has never been addressed.
Senator Rocke’s seeming loss of moral integrity came in to compound an already corrupt situation, as he was asked to take a position on a Motion for an independent investigation into the Immigration and Nationality Department placed before the Senate by the Opposition. What goes down in the annals of history is that days prior to the vote, this was Rocke’s position, supporting the motion: “I also rise to give support to the inquiry. The church feels that in observing the style of the Prime Minister over the years, whenever there was a concern, he would put an inquiry in place. So in looking at that and appreciating that, we feel that because there has been disquiet, even in the public, among the government officials, that it is only right that some kind of inquiry be brought to bear.”
What is telling is that he said, “observing the style of the Prime Minister over the years, whenever there was a concern he would put an inquiry in place,” believing PM Barrow was inclined to say there should be an inquiry, but he did not seem to understand that this was an independent investigation that was being called for. It’s not that he was daft; it’s that he was playing politics and has been there to shore up, not a representation of the churches, but of the political party he supports. Shame on him.
Let us not forget that when it came down to the vote on the Motion, he voted against the position the churches had indicated, and the Catholic Church did not let this go unchecked. Thus, not being faint of heart, the then Bishop Dorick Wright wasted no time in expressing “great disappointment with Sen. Ashley Rocke’s vote against the motion for the appointment of a Special Select Committee of the Senate to investigate any and all irregularities in the issuance of nationality certificates, passports, visas in the Ministry of Immigration and Nationality.”
The Roman Catholic press release said: “The Catholic Church has lost confidence in Senator Rocke to represent the Roman Catholic values on behalf of our faithful.” And it even went on record to disassociate itself from the position taken by Rocke, who, it says, was charged with the responsibility to represent the Belize Council of Churches, the Evangelical Association of Churches and the nation’s democratic ideals.
Then the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) and its six national chapters representing over 250 churches were also against Rocke and via a press release, demanded his immediate resignation. The NEAB said: “To vote ‘NO’ on the call for accountability to such corruption, regardless of the reasoning, is completely unacceptable to us church leaders.”
Thus it is my view that even church leaders are compromised. Rocke’s posture on the matter appears to indicate the level of moral corruption that is parallel to the level of political corruption of this country. Last week I went at lengths to lament the apparent moral torpidity of Carlos Perdomo, Cabinet Secretary, and a church leader himself, who saw Cabinet write off monies owed by his son, Joshua Perdomo, who breached his government bond and study leave conditions and then was rewarded with a write-off. If you track it for yourself, you will see through my lens the picture I have, of no morality and righteousness in those claiming to be “godly”; thus, that is the baseline from which we can now measure our political leaders!
The Senate Inquiry
Thus, with no true independent investigation in sight despite the 55 thousand passport and visa irregularities, the government, wanting to create a masquerade of some sorts, said there would be an inquiry before the Senate. Note that this is not investigation of the sorts envisioned by the Opposition. Thus, Aldo Salazar, UDP-appointed Senator and an attorney by training, was placed at the helm of the process, which we all had hoped would be giving us results and bringing strong consequences against this corruption. However, two things have since happened.
Firstly, it’s been two years and eleven months and five days since the approval of the inquiry on 30th September, 2016. Said Senate inquiry was abruptly concluded since December 2017, and now, one year and eight months later, there is absolutely NO report from the chairman, who was to provide a draft to the committee for approval and then tabling.
In March of this year, Amandala did a follow-up story trying to ascertain when we will hear the results, and only Sen. Elena Smith of the unions was willing to provide some information, and she stated: “There were some dates agreed upon [deadlines to complete the report], but I have not heard back from the chairman about the recommendation part…There might be some people who might be charged, but that has not been finalized as yet.”
Secondly, since then, reports allege that the chairman, the good senator, was detained and questioned by US authorities in Texas on a visit to Taiwan, transiting through the USA, in connection with the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation of the Sanctuary Bay fraud scheme carried out against mostly US nationals. The allegations against him are documented in the FTC’s report.
The FTC’s investigation was in connection with a land development scheme used to defraud land buyers at Sittee River Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize.
I hate to say it, but we are a nation compromised, and the hearts of our people in the highest echelons of leadership are indicative of the level of corruption we are facing and accepting as a nation!