Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
So today was the biggest day on the Parliamentary Calendar for the year so far - the much hyped Amended Petrocaribe Loan Amendment Bill was taken to the house. This issue has galvanized all those organizations opposed to the government for months - principally for the PUP which has made it the central focus of all discussion and political activity. So today surely they would have rained down a mighty debate to push back against and expose the government. Well, that's what we thought....but, this one never happened. And that's because very early into the House Meeting the opposition walked out.
They did it in support of their senator Patrick Andrews who was in the gallery as an observer. Now, the Senator is a member of Parliament so he has special privileges - but speaker Michael Peyreffitte told had cautioned him earlier - and then during a Patrick Faber presentation - he ordered him removed! We pick it up about a minute after the speaker called the police - and Andrews refused to move - that's when UDP's Michael Finnegan brought the situation tot the speakers attention.. We air it moistly unedited from there:..
Hon. Michael Finnegan "I think your instructed the police to take that gentleman out who are destructing the House. Make him get out."
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House "One second Minister."
Hon. Michael Finnegan "Who is he? Was his father making him when he was....?
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House "Leader of the Opposition, I explain a long time.... wait let me explain to you. When the Opposition side is speaking, remain quite. It doesn't matter of you are a senator or a governor general or anybody. You will be removed by me if you can't follow my rules. Simple."
"When you speak, they have to be quite or I will move them out too and for the record, I put out more from this side than that side. Who vex could leave."
"Officer remove the gentleman."
Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition "Mr. Speaker this is outrageous. We are subjected and we take it like big girls and boys. We are subjected to all kinds of name calling and all kinds of things and we take it. I did not hear the Senator say anything Mr. Speaker. He laughed during a comment made by the member for Collet. Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to you to reconsider. Because if you remove the senator, then we will walk out of this meeting. I am telling you that right now. You touch one of us, you tough all of us. You are treating us unfairly. You are treating the senator unfairly. He did nothing."
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House "It is not true that when you speak or any other member from this side speak, that I tolerate any shouting at you or anything like that. That is not true. But I believe if the person is a senator, the person should set an example. To be frank with you he acted that way as if though he was daring me to put him out. Well he dared me and he dared the wrong person. He has to go and if you choose to go thats your choice. That's your choice."
"Remove Mr. Vaughn too please."
Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition "Mr. Speaker we are walking out and I put on record again, this is the arrogance and tyranny and dictatorship of this government that the people of this country are starting to wake up to and stand up against. We will have no part of it Mr. Speaker."
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House "Officer, remove this man."
"Are there any more presentations on the debate?"
The PUP hung around…not wanting to leave - while police had to call their Belmopan Commander Superintendent Howell Gillett - who tried talking to Andrews - because the police clearly did not want to forcibly remove the Senator. After some talking to Senator Andrews finally accepted that rather than be hauled out, he would walk out - and with a wave to the crowed - he strolled out pass the UDP who heckled him, and went down the stairs.
We followed him outside - where he linked up with his fellow PUP Parliamentarians - and the Senator blamed it all on Barrow:..
Jules Vasquez "Senator, you've been thrown out of the House of Representatives. What's you initial reaction?"
Hon. Patrick Andrews - PUP Senator "I wasn't thrown out. I decide to walk on my own. What happened here today is nothing new in this country. We have a prime minister and a UDP government that feel like they are above the law. I was in this same house, the last house meeting when Alberto August. That man was talking and insulting our party leader and our PUP representatives and when that same House Speaker ask for him to be taken out, no one could have taken him out. Now, I am a Senator and I have immunity in this House. Now two things: I want then to how me what I was doing or saying to have the House Speaker feel as if though he could have taken me out of the House. Yes, there was people behind me saying things, but man, we live in a democratic society and so, he had no reasons or conditions on why. That's why I refused to have stepped out."
Jules Vasquez "Senator, let me ask very clearly. Did you thrown words. I can't detect who is doing what. The Speaker says he heard you repeatedly throwing words like you were goading him."
Hon. Patrick Andrews - PUP Senator "Man, the Speaker, he could barely turn his head to see up at the gallery. To be honest with you. And so whatever he were hearing, I couldn't attest to that. I could tell you that whenever our party leader stood up and speak I applauded."
Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of The Opposition "I was sitting directly in front of Senator Andrews. He is in my line of sight and he did nothing except laugh fairly loudly. Laughed, when the member of Collet was making his statement. We behind us are subjected to that kind continuously all during the meeting. So, I felt on principle that it was absolutely unfair for the Speaker to single out Senator Patrick Andrews. It almost seems that it was pre-ordained, that it was a part of some plan. He singled out Senator Andrews and insisted on having the police removed him and even when I appeal to him to reconsider, he refused to do so. We felt that under those circumstances we could not sit there and participate in a House meeting in which one of our parliamentarians Senator Patrick Andrews was being treated unfairly by the Speaker of the House of Representatives."
Jules Vasquez "You wanted the man stayed in the House. That's what you told him. Because he eventually relented and choose to walk out, but you wanted him to put up a fight."
Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South "Well I am a fighter. We are warriors in the People's United Party, but we are also responsible and what is the prime minister is doing is not responsible. What the prime minister is doing is shutting down everybody. He has shut up the press, he has shot up the media. The Speaker is part of them. You have to understand he is an agent of Barrow."
Jules Vasquez "But you are saying the Speaker takes instructions sir? You are a member of the House and you are saying the Speaker takes instructions...?"
Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South "Listen to me very carefully. The Speaker is member of the People's United Party - that at times want to participate in the debate. But what he does not realize is to participate in the debate, he has to be elected. He tried it once and he knew what he got and that's why I am saying, the Speaker is bias. The Speaker is an agent of Barrow and that is what we have here right now and I have no problem saying that quite clearly. Secondly, the Prime Minister is going about shutting up freedom speech."
And while he says the PM is shutting down freedom of speech, on this day, it's the PUP that gave up the right to debate when they walked off the job. So, was it the right decision? Well, judging by the body language of some of the members - it's clear they had prepared for the day and didn't want to go. We asked the leader of the opposition if it was worth it:..
Jules Vasquez "We know that todays a very important day in the House and Opposition certainly needed to be there to discuss particularly the Petrocaribe legislation. Why did you al take the decision to walk out?"
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition "You're absolutely right, Jules. It's very important matters and we had had very important contributions to make, but we think events over took that."
Jules Vasquez "There are all these assaults on democracy and free speech or free expression as you say then why did the PUP abandoned its very important position today. How do you all ventilate your very important view points on these Petrocaribe legislation if you leave the House?"
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition "That's what we are doing here. We are talking to you. We are talking on these issues. That is exactly what we are doing and other members here are prepared to discuss these issues with the media."
And while the Leader of the Opposition walked out on principle, the PM says the PUP it all wrong:
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "Precisely, they've made all this noise about Petrocaribe. This is the opportunity to make a last stand on their part and they manufacture an excuse to walk out. I don't know if it is sea breeze and Pelican they figured to dodge this lick that's coming because we were ready for them on this side of the House. But in any case what on earth Mr. Speaker is happening to the constitutional opposition in this country? First, they didn't want to contest a bi-election. Second, petrocaribe that they claim - is the most fundamental issue in this country today. When you get a chance to debate it, you walk out. It is a gross dereliction of duty. They will walk out and leave the nation and those that support them and those that are interested in democracy and debate - hanging. Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House say, shame."
Of course, a discussion with the media is not quite a house meeting - in fact, it's kind of like preparing for a Turkey dinner - and then ending up eating fried chicken and water ideal! Still, we did our best to piece together a debate on the main points of contention for the Petrocaribe Loans Amendment Bill:
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "It is now a requirement of law that we come to the House every quarter to report on all spending under Petrocaribe for the quarter that would have proceeded the meeting and we also have to forecast for the quarter to come. When we go to the House for the three months in view what the proposed spending will be."
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition "The bottom-line with the Petrocaribe loan motion is - we are not interested in any amendments. The resounding cry and call from the Belizean people. It was come from the Chamber of Commerce, it has come from the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, it has come from APAMO - all of these entities have called for the repeal of this act. This Petrocaribe loans act. Not amendment. Not fixing it. Repealing it. This is law that cannot be fixed. It is a law that must go, it must be repealed."
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "Their argument has always been that you need prior approval to borrow under Petrocaribe. I've indicated there can be no compromise there. That's a core issue that simply is not resolvable. If that's the correct word. I repeat that this is a special arrangement that cannot permit of prior approval and that's why in the act which caused them so much grief. We did away with any requirement for that under the Finance and Audit Act. We cannot apologized, because that's the only way to take the program forward."
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition "We are prepared to offer as we were today, to offer proper suggestions and recommendations for what can be put in place to replace this Petrocaribe loans act and the Hon. Julius Espat has been part of a team that has led that discussion. Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck has in fact drafted legislation which we are prepared to proposed, to replace that Petrocaribe loans act."
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "That is an impossibility. I am telling you that is an impossibility. We have had (Mr. Marshalleck is a good lawyer) far better legal minds than Marshalleck look at this thing and so that simply cannot happen. Whatever they come up with, we will look at. But I insist to people that's not really their end game. They want to stop this thing."
Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South "It is not third term he will get, it is jail term he will get and that's what we are facing. We are facing because the prime minister has passed a law and now amending the law to protect himself from criminal charges, because he, more than anybody else understands what will happen. Jules, it will happen. It might not happen today, but it will happen. His tie will go to court, because he has done something that is illegal and you know what is beautiful about it? He is the same person that created an amendment to that law for it to be criminal."
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "That's absolute nonsense, because as far as I am concern as a lawyer, there was no breached. If you look at the Finance and Audit Act and the amendments that we passed to bring in the criminal penalties, I know what we were writing. That could never cover a situation in which there is this argument whether this thing was a loan or not. How would that affect me personally? As Minister of Finance, I preside over the government - that was not on. There is no way any charge could have been brought. So that is foolishness. What they want to do is to get away from the fact that the purpose of the retrospectivity is to save the program. Not to save Dean Barrow skin, because that is not an issue at all and if we even were to lose the next election and there had not been the passage of the law, I would have dared them to try to come after me. I would have rubbish them and sued them for every penny they would have been worth."
15 year old Tyrique Thompson succumbed to his injuries at midday today. The second form student of Canaan High School was shot in the head on Monday night on Lake View Street. After fighting for his life for almost 4 days, Thompson's heart stopped beating this afternoon. We spoke to his grieving mother shortly after.
Mother of Tyrique Thompson "It's sad. Nobody can believe, not even myself as the mother can believe Tyrique, the sweetest, lovingness, kindest, and friendliest person. He has lots of manners, yes ma'am, yes sir, no sir - that's my baby. I never thought a day would come that they would kill one of children, but someone out there just took a gun and give my baby one shot to his head. For what? And for why? And I know who shot him, my baby didn't do anything to."
Monica Bodden "Could you recall the night that you heard those gun shots? Tyrique was shot only a few yards away from his home."
Mother of Tyrique Thompson "The night I heard one pop, it sounded like a pop shot then after that I heard 'bow bow'. what made me run back and around the lane to see was because I know my bigger son was right on the corner of Lake View and Vernon St., then I came and I heard my little sister and my daughter crying then they said that Malic is in the yard but Tyrique was up the street on the ground. I went and I saw my baby up the street on the ground. I couldn't believe that was my baby on the street on the ground because my baby didn't do anyone anything. I am positively sure about that. My baby did no one wrong or harm."
And tonight the other teenaged shooting victim, 16 year old Ruben Leslie continues to fight for his life at the KHMH. The first form student of Wesley College was shot to the head and left leg on Wednesday night at the Corner of Magazine Road and Banak Street. He is still listed in a critical condition and remains tonight in a coma.
For most of today, divers from the Belize National Coast Guard were in the waters around the Port of Belize Facility in Port Loyola, Belize City. They were looking for elderly seaman Leobihildo (Leo-bildo) Varela who went overboard last night. He's the owner of the Varela Tug Boat which transports merchandise and supplies from Belize City to San Pedro Town. Last night he was on his way to the Port of Belize, but he went overboard during a thunderstorm.
All accounts to us are that he and his crew were pulling his barge, "San Vicente" into the waters near port of Belize last night. The crew was caught in a squall which dumped heavy rains and strong winds on them suddenly. It pushed them off-course from the usual barge docking area, and sent them in the direction of the bridge of the Port's pier, where they certainly would have crashed. The crew opted to try to release the barge before they were tipped over, but the tugboat and the barge collided with Varela on deck. That sent him overboard, and it is believed that he may have been injured. Since then, he's not resurfaced, and everyone involved is fearing the worst.
The CEO of the Port of Belize, Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, spoke with 7News about the incident this afternoon, and here's what he had to say:
Arturo "Tux" Vasquez - CEO/Receiver, Port of Belize "We got a call from our security people between 9:30 and 10:00, that we had an incident where a barge had run into the pier. Obviously we had a similar incident a few months ago and I was very much concerned. So, I came very quickly and what I saw was a barge was lodged against the pier. There was no tug boat insight at the time but my security had told me that the tug was already by the marina. The security told me as well that somebody may had fallen up overboard. so, there are two concerns we have here, obviously the concern for the safety of life and also my concern at the time also was possibly damages to the pier, that could be significant for us, not only in cost the whole inconvenience of importation and we wouldn't want to be going through that again. By that time the police were here. A few minutes after a lot of police and then the BERT ambulance showed up. I've heard interviews that the police were having with the captain and he was saying to them that as they were coming in there's a squall that came around between 9:30/10:00 and I know, I was on the pier and the sea was extremely rough. The barge was heading towards the pier and he was trying to stop that. So he was trying to pull the vessel back which was not possible and he claimed that it was so rough that it was about to tilt - the tug that they were in and the best thing he could have done was to release the barge which he did but after releasing it apparently he tried to still kind of bumped it away from the pier. There was a collision between the barge and the tug and that's when the other crew members told the police that he saw when Mr. Varela went overboard. One of the crew members were saying that he was probably hit. During the collision I understand that... I saw him making gestures to the police which was suggest to me that he was hit against the tug. So he may have been injured before and falling into the water. I don't know and I really don't want to speculate on that."
Leobihildo Varela is a resident of San Pedro Town. Late word to 7News is that the Coast Guard has suspended the search for the day, and they resume tomorrow.
As we reported last night, the official claim of compensation for damages on the reef is in the process of being finalized and sent to the Guatemalan authorities. Well, it seems that if not a claim of compensation, then at least a ticket for poor navigation might have to drafted and sent to Mexico. That's because this morning at around 8:00, a 55 foot Mexican Navy Patrol Boat - known as a "Polaris Intercepter" ran aground on mud flats and shoals 7 miles North West of San Pedro - which is near the Coast Guards Operating Base on the island. According to our sources, the Mexican Navy vessel was traveling from Chetumal heading towards Isla Mujeres when it veered off course and ran aground on shoals which are merely sandbanks or platforms elevated above the surface of the water. It was the Mexican Navy who called Belizean authorities to inform them of the incident and that's when the Coast Guard responded. Fortunately, the boat was removed this evening at 4:30 and according to the CEO in the Ministry OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS Lawrence Sylvester, no marine life or ecosystem was damaged and there was no oil spill or spill of any contaminants from the boat. It's not nearly as serious as the incident with the Guatemalan gunboat because the reef was not hit or damaged. In a press release sent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today it states that it is quite normal for Mexican Navy vessels to transit from their Chetumal Bay base …"with the knowledge and permission of the Government of Belize to access their southern outpost at Xcalac." Although the reef was not damaged, the Department of Environment, the Belize Port Authority, and the Fisheries Department will still conduct an assessment of the site and that will also be forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The release ends by saying "the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Mexican Secretariat of External Relations are currently in the process of completing negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding on Innocent Passage to formalize such Mexican Navy transit arrangements through our maritime spaces in accordance with Contemporary International Law and Practice".
Santa Cruz, Toledo - that small village in southwestern Belize has become a flashpoint for racial discord between Mayas and creole Belizeans. Today, the unprecedented and divisive matter went to the House of Representatives - where both sides put in positions over who was wrong: was it the Mayas or was it Rupert Myles? Again, it is a debate that should have happened in the House - but, after the PUP walkout, we had to stitch together another media-manufactured back and forth. Here are both sides, starting with the statement made by the Prime Minister at the opening of the sitting:..
The Prime Minister says that the Mayas have called for a meeting with him next week and he is hopeful that common ground can be found…
Earlier we told you heard both political sides of the dispute about Creole Belizean Rupert Myles and the Mayas of Santa Cruz village. But earlier this week, a group of Garifuna residents turned up on our radar.
These are about 100 to 200 Garifuna living in the community of Punta Gorda Town known as the St. Vincent Block. It is being erroneously referred to as 960+ acres of Garifuna Communal Lands, but our research says that it is a private property being held in a trust by a few leaders of the community.
After a long struggle, in 1923, a group of Garinagu living in PG put together the required money to buy the land from the colonial government of the day. Since then, the ownership has been held in a trust, and, since then, their descendants have been living on the land.
That history is important because the community is complaining that Belize Water Services Limited has not been providing them with the service they need. A continuing dispute between the company and the community is that wells were dug in their in their property and the water from those wells is being used by BWS to supply water to the rest of PG and the surrounding communities for years. They believe that natural resources from their property are being exploited, but they receive no compensation for it. They are only provided with one community pipe which must supply 100+ persons. One of the members grabbed us shortly after the Arraignment of the Santa Cruz 13 in Punta Gorda. Here's how he explained it:
Glenn Logan Martinez, resident - St. Vincent Block "For decades BWSL has been pumping out millions of dollars of water from the Garifuna communion, 960 acres where by that water is supporting Punta Gorda Town, Cattle Landing, Hopeville, Forest home and Elridgeville with water. What they did is that they suck all this natural resources from our community in St. Vincent Block and they use it to produce water for the different communities around and they are collecting millions of dollars. However, they refuse to give us in the community the small detention pipes. So there are 200 Garifuna people who are currently demonstrating against BWSL for this water issue. It saddens us as a Garifuna people because we realize that there are certain people in the Government whereby they can just pass an act and in 3 days' time it's a law, without any kind of participatory democracy from the Belizean people. Specifically speaking about the Petrocaribe. In 3 days' time that became law. It was just an act for 3 days. Now we have a law the ILO69 which supports the rights of indigenous people to prior and previous and free consent on whatever project take place within their community and for years and years the Government refuse to authorize this law in Belize for the indigenous people. So we feel like they are working to protect the state and to protect the capitalist investors and they are not working for the poor people and to support us as a poor people. We have been struggling for water. so what the community did was, we ran our pipes in the community our by ourselves even though for the past how many years Mr. Benga?, 'quite a number of years sir' - decades WASA have been pumping and giving everyone in this area water from out of our property. They refuse to give us water so we took out of our pockets and run pipes and connected it. Now they come to cut out this water. So there's a demonstration whereby some 50 or more Garifuna people from the community came out and stood around the pipes told the BWSL guy, you cannot cut out this pipe."
So, what's company's response to this claim for royalties for the water pumped from under the Garifuna community's land? Well, this evening the Public relations Manager says that they need to take that up with Government.
Haydon Brown – HR/PR Manager, BWSL "BWSL would never deny anyone connections to their respective homes. what BWSL had done in 2012 was write the group when the request was made for connections and amount quoted was, 72k for the connections to be done and they also required to do and authenticated survey. These things were never completed at that point on time and so therefore, BWSL would not have been in a position to make those connections for the respective homes. the simple reason being that for BWSL to do connections, we needed to know for example; where streets are so that our connections are on the streets and not necessarily in personal properties because we had in the past where we do connections what we refer to as yard to yard that later on comes out and poses its own challenges to the company. So we try to move away from that kind of practice and that’s the reason for us asking them to do an authenticated survey. Where the disconnection is concerned, BWSL, we provide services and where people do not pay their bills timely after duration especially when the cost is exorbitant, BWSL will look to disconnect such accounts. Certainly the St. Vincent Block came up as one of those account that were in a areas and it was at the time decided by the person in charge of the branch to disconnect the account. It was later decided by the manager in charge of the customer services section not to disconnect the account. A decision was taken by the manger not to disconnect the account but the account is in arrears and it does need to be attended."
And in relation to the inadequate service, and the attempts by the company to cut out the only water supply to the company, the PR manager told us that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. They owe, and no payment is being made:
Haydon Brown - HR/PR Manager, BWSL "Where the extraction is concerned, BWSL certainly gets its water from the St. Vincent Block. The thing is that is that we retrieved water with the understanding that this is done through the Government of Belize, who authorizes us to abstract water. Where that is concern, BWSL commits to paying the Government of Belize for such abstraction and it's a legal commitment that we have with the Government of Belize for any abstraction at all countrywide, where we draw water for our use. We note that for this specific case BWSL, at the time when we were presented with this by the group. We appointed them to Belize since that we pay the Government of Belize for such abstraction. The Government owns the land and where anything under the earth is related BWSL would have a direct relation with the Government and not necessarily with any individual entity or company or owner."
We're informed that the only living Trustee from the original agreement between the Colonial Government and the Garifuna who bought the St. Vincent Block is a gentleman known as Valentine "Ting Ting" Flores. When he passes away, the community should go through a democratic process to elect new trustees. That's how it's supposed to work theoretically, but right now, there is war for power and control over the community and the leadership positions. We're told that an election was held recently, but the old administration is refusing to vacate to allow the new leaders to take up their post.
Over the past two decades, we have reported on numerous art exhibits and events at the Image Factory. But today the walls, ceiling and floor at the Factory weren't adorned with a singular narrative or just one artist's vision - instead it was coloured with landmarks and landings that the factory crew have made in the last 20 years. In a press conference this morning, the Director of the Image Factory along with several artists told us that today is not so much of a reflection but more a realization that there is so much more to be done for Art in Belize.
A celebration is being held at the Factory right now. There will be a documentary exhibit, a photo booth and poetry presentations.
At the top of the newscast, we told you about today's House Meeting where the Barrow Administration pressed and passed the amendment bill to the Petrocaribe Loans Act. As we've shown you, the Opposition believes that it needs to be repealed, and in principle the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry agrees with them.
President of the Chamber Tux Vasquez told us that the changes are cosmetic, and that this law wasn't needed in the first place:
Arturo "Tux" Vasquez, CEO - Port of Belize Limited "The chamber is certainly not against the initiative of the Petrocaribe funds. We are not against the borrowing the 1% interest is a great advantage for us. We are also a bit concern as to the spending, how it was being done. We have been requesting more details and then after the recommendation of the amendments were made, we also look at that with our legal people and we also believe those amendments are also not really necessary. At the end of the day the chambers' position is again I emphasize, not against the Petrocaribe initiative and not against the borrowing at that very minimal rate but we are certainly concerned about the transparency. we are of the opinion that they was no need for an act like that, that this loan could have been handled within the Finance of Audit Reform Act of 2005 and the amendments made in 2010 and also were the constitution is concerned that this loan could have been handled within the controls already provided under that and that's where we stand with it and saying there is no need for a new act."
And while that's the Chamber position, not surprisingly, the Prime Minister isn't moved one bit. He says they are not serious, and while he claims government is open to suggestion on the Petrocaribe Law, the suggestion box is about to close:..
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "While nobody wants to shut off the debate about Petrocaribe, nobody wants to close down their campaign and the campaign of those in alliance with them. I need to tell them there's a point at which the Government certainly will say, fine you continue to talk, we're not going to entertain you any further and I fear we've reached that point."
Jules Vasquez "However, there is the Chamber of Commerce which says that the Government has in fact not even responded, that you have not responded to their request to speak about the legislation."
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "Man, but that's it. I will send you a copy of the last letter they sent to me. They said in that letter that they appreciated my general invitation to all social partners and everyone else in deed to dialogue. They never in that meeting said, so we want to take you up on that offer and we're asking you for that meeting. The invitation that went to them, went to the NTUCB. NTUCB quite properly wrote to me and said fine. Therefore can we have a meeting and we agreed a date. The Chamber never asked that. How can they say I did not give them the opportunity? They had to say to me, yes we accept your invitation can we fix a date. They never did that. I also think they were playing the fool."
And while the Petrocaribe Loans, the PUP Walkout and Santa Cruz village dominated the discourse today in and around parliament, some other very important pieces of legislation were passed. First among them is the PACT Amendment Bill - which had gotten considerable pushback from the conservation community. That's why we were surprised to see the galleries full with members of the conservation community - dozens of them - all there not to bash, but to support the legislation. They even cheered when the Prime Minister presented it! It's a coup for the Minister of Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development and today she took nor prisoners when she described the naysing organizations as blue koncas.:
Today APAMO sent out a release saying, quote, "The Association of Protected Areas Management Organization (APAMO) would like to clarify that decisions are taken through a democratic process and a decision only becomes an organizational position when supported by majority of its members. Majority of APAMO's members support the decision to express our concerns to the Prime Minister to express the organizations' concerns regarding the National Protected Areas System Bill and amendments to the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) Act."
APAMO's concerns are based on the premise that the proposed Bill can further be improved"
Today in presenting the legislation, the PM said that he heard the reservations and acted on it:..
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "I just want to make clear that we had first received in Cabinet a letter sent to me by the Audubon Society and the BTIA and again, they started out by saying that this is a good idea, a good undertaking. But there were certain concerns they had. I want to tell them that Cabinet took on board every single one of those concerns and the bill was sent back."
"The bill was sent back to the Solicitor General to be redrafted and we only got site of the finished product on Tuesday."
The Cruise Ship Passenger Tax and Validation Bill was also passed through all its stages today. Now, this is a bill to validate the head tax - which as you may recall is being argued in the Supreme court this very week. So how does the legislation interact with the ongoing proceedings in court? Well, it's interesting - because of the possibilities that the lawsuit raises:..
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "What is does, is of course, it ensures that there can be no disruption in terms of the cruise industry. If Mr. Feinstein have succeeded in getting a court adjudication that the head tax is invalid, until we could have corrected that we couldn't pay FSTV and they would no doubt close that village. So we wanted to avoid that and once this passes we'll achieve that result, but that's not the end of the case. Apart from the question of wanting to have collection of the Head Tax declared illegal as well as I understood Feinstein is also arguing that the entire contract between the Government of Belize and FSTV is illegal and that in fact we do want to see play out and quite frankly I don't want in fact appear to be looking to take on FSTV but if the court rule in favor of Mr. Feinstein, that would certainly allow us to see our way far more clearly."
Jules Vasquez "And in fact you saw the contract that your Government signed. So if it were to fall by the way side?"
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister "A brand new ball game. We would then feel that we could say to FSTV, listen we are going to find a way to proceed with the construction of the new facility. What's holding us back now, well a number of things but in particular from the point of view of FSTV is the contractual exclusivity. So, if the court says no, that has to go, then the options available to the Government becomes far more wide ranging."
And finally from the Prime Minister tonight - what does he think of his suddenly departed candidate Melvin Hulse? He was exposed in a recording on Monday making all sorts of claims about the Prime Minister - and by yesterday Hulse had resigned - and publicly retracted everything he said. So what now for Hulse - who has been a ranking UDP for decades? The PM said there is still a place for him in the UDP:..
"The Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy: breaking the cycle of poverty in fishing communities." That is the theme for this year's Caribbean Fisherfolk Day. It will be celebrated on Monday June 29th and there will be number of activities and awards for fisher folk in Belize. For those who simply don't appreciate life on the sea or know the daily struggle of a fisherman - this observance may not be inspiring but for Belizean fisher folk - this day means that their passion, hard work and sacrifice matters.
On Monday morning, the series of events starts off with the blessing of the boats at the Commercial Center in Belize City. Thereafter, the official opening ceremony will be held at 9:00 Monday morning at the Coastal Zone Training Room.
Belize City's first mall was opened today. Well at least that's what many Belizeans are calling it. Businessman Dinesh Bhojwani has been planning brainstorming and planning out this concept for about 10 years and today his plans were realized. The business is called The Northern Shops and when we got there for the opening people were already sampling what the mall has to offer. But Bhojwani says that it's more than just a shopping mall, today he told us about the broader vision he has for this idea.
There will also be a second phase which entails opening a theater and other stores. There are 18 stores in the mall.