The shinning revelation on Thursday evening, March 6, by former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Said Musa, that his government had secretly and illegally diverted twenty million dollars in grant funds from Venezuela to pay the Universal Health Services (UHS) debt at the Belize Bank, confirms the thesis first promulgated by this newspaper in its April 11, 2004 edition – the Musa PUP government was handling public funds as if these funds were private accounts.
The implications of the revelation for the Attorney General in Mr. Musa’s administration at the time of the secret and illegal diversion of public funds, Hon. Francis Fonseca, who is presently campaigning for leadership of the PUP, are clear. The thrust of his campaign so far has been loyalty to the party. Now, if not before, it is clear that the PUP had become a party which behaved in a lawless manner at the very highest levels, those levels where the Attorney General is, constitutionally, the number one guardian, interpreter and enforcer of the laws of this Belizean nation.
This matter will have a Nuremberg-type flavor inside the PUP. At the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi officials who supported Adolf Hitler’s murderous and fascist regime, the defence of those Nazi officials were that they were subordinates who had to follow instructions. Such a defence was not successful at Nuremberg. Many of those Nazi officials were hanged.
In a sense, Mr. Musa is throwing himself upon the mercy of the new Prime Minister, Hon. Dean O. Barrow. The diversion of those Venezuelan funds took place in late December of 2007 or early January of 2008. The Venezuelans inquired about the funds in a letter the day after February 7, 2008 general elections threw the Musa government out of power. The new UDP government publicized the existence of the letter on Friday, February 22, and Mr. Musa assiduously avoided the media (and a public response) until Wednesday, March 5, when he told the nation that he had been to see Mr. Barrow to explain what had been done with the twenty million.
The ruling faction of the PUP will now campaign for increased party solidarity, while the new Prime Minister faces his first crisis of government. UDP party hawks, as well as the general public of Belize, will call for the weight of the law to fall upon the perpetrators of the crime, while the British and the local oligarchy will no doubt hope that the matter will be quietly disposed of, if not swiftly swept under the rug.
There are people in this country who have to look themselves in the mirror right now. We have been saying to you, since April 11 of 2004, that there was something wrong inside the government. This was a government which this newspaper helped to elect, first in 1998, and again in 2003. We did not make our criticisms lightly. This newspaper is the flagship of an institution which had been punished between 1993 and 1998 by the UDP administration of Dr. Manuel Esquivel. When we said what we said in April of 2004, we were not enemies of the PUP. We were friends of Belize.
This is a sad day for Belize. Our democracy is based on laws. When the PUP government did what they did with twenty million dollars, Belize was not involved in a war, when laws are often ignored. There was no excuse for the systematic, chronic, reckless and insolent violations of the laws of Belize where the handling of public funds was concerned. If the Musa government believed that the laws were imperfect, onerous, or in need of revision, then that government had five years, from 1998 to 2003, when they could have made any legal or constitutional changes they believed necessary. Instead, they behaved as if the laws did not exist. They behaved like a rogue government, and they were aided and abetted by those around them who were driven by personal greed, spurred on by party megalomania, or intimidated to the point of pusillanimity.
On this day of Thursday, March 6, we have to ask this question: what would have happened in this country, what would have happened to us, the people, if the Musa government had been returned to office for a third term? Mr. Musa has blamed the media for his defeat. If that was so, then the media should be congratulated. This was a government which deserved to fall.
Power to the people.