Widespread corruption in government is the reason that UNCAC isn’t implemented, says the NTUCB
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 3, 2020– In December 2016, Belize signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) against a backdrop of pressure from the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) following their 11-day strike.
That, however, was all that the Belize Government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow did, because there has not been any major push by the government to implement the UNCAC, as Belize government leaders continue in their embrace of corruption.
That embrace of corruption may soon come to an end, because government will have to push through with the implementation of UNCAC, or it will face the wrath of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), which issued an ultimatum today at a press briefing.
The NTUCB said that its press conference today is the first step it is taking to serve notice on the government to implement UNCAC before the end of this month; and if the government does otherwise, it will face “escalation” from the trade unions of the country.
The president of the NTUCB, Marvin Mora, said that the NTUCB was given a mandate by its members on how they were going to approach the matter of UNCAC. Mora went on to read a resolution that was approved by its members.
“Whereas the country of Belize is faced with a plethora of issues as a result of widespread corruption; and whereas the NTUCB, the largest representative of employees in Belize was advocating for the Government of Belize to sign onto the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); and whereas as a result of its advocacy and that of its members, a UNCAC Steering Committee was formed to ensure the progress of the overall implementation of UNCAC in Belize. Be it resolved that the NTUCB calls on government to secure the following by February 28, 2020. (1) To implement the recommendation from the Executive Summary of the First Cycle of peer review process; (2) to immediately re-establish meeting of the UNCAC Steering Committee; (3) to proceed expeditiously with the review of passage of anti-corruption legislation and the establishment of anti-corruption practices and agencies in Belize,” the resolution said.
Mora went on to inform that the NTUCB General Council met and a letter was sent to Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte to inform him of the resolution, and that the NTUCB was looking forward to the UNCAC Steering Committee meeting.
Mora said, “We know that they received the letter, but we have not gotten a response to our correspondence. We met again and we decided to call this press briefing. It is no secret to anyone in Belize that corruption is an issue.”
Mora added that because the trade union movement is about fairness and equity, they cannot ignore this serious issue.
“We have called out member unions to address the issue with their members. We are also making that call today, so that everybody knows and understands the implication of where we are, and the implications of a government that has failed to act on the implementation of those recommendations that the passage of the UNCAC is full and complete,” said Mora.
Mora added that labor is the most important ingredient in the economy, and their conscience has pushed them to make this responsible call which will have implications not only for labor, but for the country on a whole.
“If the government of the day continues to ignore the calls of the representatives of the persons who labor, then there is going to have to be some escalation for us to get the attention we deserve,” the NTUCB president said.
“We are here today to ask the trade union representatives to educate their members. We are also calling on those government offices who are responsible for the continuation of the work of the UNCAC to proceed as expeditiously as possible with whatever work they were carrying on, so that the implementation of the UNCAC becomes a reality,” Mora added.
Hubert Enriquez made a presentation, explaining some of the aspects of the UNCAC and its strict measures against corruption. UNCAC also has an international component for crimes involving corruption on an international scale. Enriquez said that these aspects of UNCAC were covered in the first cycle of the process.
The second cycle has to do with the reform measures in the public sector and it aims to see systems put in place where public offices can advance through merit.
Enriquez said that the second cycle also deals with campaign financing and how political parties are registered, and it speaks about public reporting, and the independence of the Judiciary and the DPP’s office. The UNCAC also deals with Asset Recovery, the training of public officers and a host of other initiatives.
Enriquez explained that the last meeting of the UNCAC Steering Committee was held in September of last year.
“Having put the laws in place, people will have to learn about all of these things. It won‘t be business as usual in the public service when UNCAC is implemented piece by piece”, Enriquez explained.
Enriquez said that somehow, there has been a breakdown of communication. Initially, the funding for the project was provided by the UNDP and CARSI.
Enriquez said that there is a need for legal drafting at the Attorney General’s office if they are going to draft these laws for reform.
Enriquez pointed out that some of these undertakings were promised before the elections of 2008.
In the brief question-and-answer period that followed the presentations, the BNTU national president, Hon. Senator Elena Smith, was asked if the unions were trying to use their leverage because the government is at an all-time low, in terms of how it is perceived.
Senator Smith replied that the BNTU does not need to attack anybody when they are low. “We are prepared for them at any time,” she said.
Senator Smith went on to explain that the BNTU has tried its best to work with the Ministry of Education to try to resolve the issues amicably, without having to resort to any kind of industrial action, but the Ministry continues to disrespect the teachers.
“And we are at the point where we will no longer tolerate such disrespect”, she said.
Senator Smith said that at times the Ministry prefers to go to other bodies to discuss matters concerning teachers.
“We can no longer allow that,” she said.
Smith was asked if she was able to say what became of the poll that was taken of teachers and if the union prefers to proceed with industrial action.
“We prefer not to answer that now, because we don’t want anyone to think that we are going into a meeting with other intentions. So we want to go into tomorrow’s meeting with a clear head, knowing that we will be sitting around the table, knowing that we want to resolve issues. But I’ll tell you this much: our teachers have had enough,” Senator Smith said.
“We don’t want any promises that we will deal with it next week, we want resolutions tomorrow,” Senator Smith added.
Feature photo: NTUCB executives: Hubert Enriquez, Marvin Mora and Senator Elena Smith