Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2018. 7:34 am CST.
By BBN Staff: United Democratic Party (UDP) minister, Dr. Carla Barnett, has long been touted, especially by Prime Minister Dean Barrow as a minister above reproach, one of the party’s most exemplary ministers. However, a trove of documents from the infamous “hotbed of corruption”, the Land’s Department, suggest that her abrupt removal from that ministry may be one of the last straws in her swift fall from grace.
A number of documents leaked to the media, first published by People’s United Party (PUP) newspaper, the Belize Times, suggest that during Barnett’s time as minister of Lands, she approved and expedited a number of applications for prime pieces of real estate for her family members and party supporters.
Government announced Barnett’s departure from the ministry on June 12. And though the announcement came somewhat abruptly, much of the focus was directed toward Hugo Patt, who has been appointed to replace Barnett as Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.
The documents, however, indicate that party supporters Leila Peyrefitte, a known supporter of Barnett in the Freetown division, and Rommel Berges, of the infamous RJB Construction, were each granted prime beachfront properties. Peyrefitte was granted permission to survey four-acres of land in Caye Caulker while Burgess got five-acres of land to survey in October 2017.
On May 15, Barnett’s sister, Pamela Barnett, applied for two parcels of land in Sarteneja while Barnett’s brother, Michael Bruce Barnett, applied for 26 acres of land in Burrell Boom on May 18, and his application was approved in record time. The documents also show that three people had applied for 10-acres of land each on Colson Caye in the Stann Creek district, and their applications were approved on the same day. According to reports, these applications needed Cabinet approval since as any application exceeding 10-acres requires, however, no such approval was reportedly sought.
In an attempt to clear her name on her last day in office, Barnett gave an exclusive interview with Channel 7, a station also known for its political affiliations to the party, and made several admissions that she had expedited the application process on behalf of her siblings. According to Barnett, she had arranged a meeting between her brother and Commissioner of Lands, Wilbert Vallejos, because he wanted to apply to buy land on an expired lease he had gotten in 1996. Barnett said he paid the arrears on the lease and applied for a relocation, so 26 acres of land in Burrell Boom was identified for him and then he conducted his survey on the property.
In the case of Barnett’s sister, she explained that while visiting on vacation, her sister expressed an interest in owning a piece of land in the country for after her retirement. “It went through the proper process, and yes it may have been a quicker process, but it’s not a process that onto anyway illegal,” Barnett told 7 News, in defending her actions.
And in responding to questions that she approved many applications in a single day, Barnett said she signed hundreds of applications a day as Lands Minister and said there was nothing out of the ordinary regarding any of the other applications, suggesting that many had been filed even before she assumed responsibility of the ministry.
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