Editorial — 14 September 2019
PM should apologize for corruption and other wrongs

It is hard to believe that a person who threw his hat into the political ring around forty years ago, and has kept it there up to this day, has no concern for what his country will say about him after he heads off into the sunset. It has to be that the politician who expressed no concern for his legacy, was tongue-in-cheek, frustrated, or misguided.

If Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow entered politics with no concern for the quality of service he would give to the Belizean people, then he didn’t tell the Belizean people the truth. We believed that it was our interests which he and his party were intent on protecting, when he railed against the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) and all their deeds which he said would ruin the country.

It is not likely that Mr. Barrow had no concern for Belize when he sought office. It is possible that at times when he speaks he sees only the PUP, and it is in his DNA to keep his focus on his primary political enemy. That is the most plausible explanation for his public declaration of lack of interest in the long version of his epitaph.

We could, considering that we are not his target audience, ignore his words, but we cannot allow ourselves to be treated as incidental.

It is all well and good for the PM and his ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) to tell their primary rivals for control of government — the PUP, that they, the UDP, didn’t do anything that they, the PUP, didn’t do, but really there must be some concern for those of us who are neither dyed red nor blue. We, the 20 or 30 or 40 percent, weren’t in on what the PUP did, and we aren’t in on what they, the UDP, did and are doing. We are paying for sins for which we were and are not guilty. We have been wronged, and for that it is proper that the PM apologizes to us in what might be his last Independence Day speech to the nation, on September 21, 2019.

So, for the CORRUPTION: the immigration scandal; the rank nepotism and cronyism; the Sanctuary Bay scam ( the PM says his government is completely innocent of wrongdoing— the jury has not yet returned with the verdict — but we can say that his government’s lack of pursuit of transparency and accountability made the environment for such a swindle to take place); the wild and possibly illegal PetroCaribe spending; the favorite contractors who ALWAYS get the jobs; corrupting the Senate; the taps on the wrists of numerous dishonest ministers…

And, for the other WRONGS: the costly mishandling of the BTL transaction; the compounding of the UHS debacle;  the party’s gross disrespect for Belizean women, as expressed in the House of Representatives; abandoning SATIIM and the BTV in the Sarstoon; blocking the path of BGYEA; major environmental lapses; the failure to deliver on the state-of-the-art forensic lab so our country could give justice to murder victims and their families; disenfranchising Belizeans living abroad; maintaining the archaic, stifling prevention of speaking-truth-to-power libel laws; the escalating violence in our country…

And for the dysfunctional PAC, the vacancy for Contractor General, the toothless Integrity Commission, and numerous other transgressions, including recent suspect decisions made at the last sitting of the House of Representatives, we believe we are owed an apology.

All we asked for was a sincere effort at nation-building, and integral to that were transparency and accountability so we could curtail CORRUPTION, but his governments, his record-breaking three- consecutive-term governments, did nothing, nothing to improve the quality of governance in our country.

It is true that three of our major earners —citrus, shrimp, and oil — started experiencing difficult times after the UDP came to power, so their government lost out on quite a bit of revenue. The previous government, the PUP, had encouraged much investment in two of those industries, and while they were in office they were churning out foreign exchange for the country at a record pace.

Tourism has continued to grow under the UDP. We have borrowed a lot of money to build roads and bridges, and much of these are necessary infrastructural improvements. We have also borrowed to improve sporting facilities across the country and except for two instances — spending far too much on the Belize City Center and building a second world class football stadium in Belmopan, a municipality of about 15,000 people, they are good investments. The UDP’s direct investments in the athletes, however, were woefully insufficient.

Let’s see, in 11 years PM Barrow’s governments passed through more than TEN BILLION dollars, and all of that wasn’t spent on salaries. There are achievements to point to. Unfortunately, like their political predecessors, the UDP’s tenure has been a field day for CORRUPTION, and it is so bad it is now threatening to destroy the fabric of our country, our very existence.

There is turmoil in Central America because those countries’ governments have been guilty of the same things that our governments are guilty of. In the countries around us there is a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, and it is the same in Belize. Too many of our citizens are living in a state of destitution, and as Amandala columnist Clinton Canul Luna keeps pointing out, it is forcing our young girls into prostitution, and as others consistently point out, our young men are becoming fodder for the drug trade and other illicit activities.

There are things happening around us that we cannot ignore. The Guatemalan government’s decision to declare a “state of siege” in five provinces will impact Belize. We are a little country in the middle of a big drug war and it is just terrible that in this increasingly dangerous time we cannot trust our leadership because we have allowed corruption to fester for so long.

As Maximum Leader, the PM is duty-bound to express hope on September 21, point to the positive things that are happening in our country. He also must point to cures his government has for our most pressing problems. It is unfortunate that he will not be mentioning any corruption prevention measures. The PM used to know about the gravity of corruption. Remember when he said that he had a sharpened machete and he would wipe out corruption wherever it raised its ugly head? Remember what he told his ministers would sink their government?

We could interpret the PM’s lack of interest in the systems to prevent corruption as an indication that it doesn’t bother his sleep anymore. What we know for sure is that ignoring it was good for his party and, also, that he let it slide for so long he can’t do anything about it now. That’s why we’re only asking for an apology. It’s just a gesture, but we’ll need every mercy we can get to help us shape the Belizean story after this UDP’s inglorious decade-long embrace of corruption, and their other wrongs.

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Deshawn Swasey

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