Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2019. 9:37 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The U.S. State Department’s country report on Belize for human rights condemns abuses across the government spectrum, documented in 22 pages and released a week ago.
But on Friday during the House of Representatives meeting, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Julius Espat brought it up in a political context.
He referenced Section 4 of the report, which refers to the laws on corruption not being implemented effectively and officials engaging in corrupt practices with impunity.
Espat bulldozed through Speaker Laura Longsworth’s pleas not to read the report through, citing Port Loyola area rep and Minister of Human Development, Anthony “Boots” Martinez’s entanglement with former worker Kirk Lamb, who accused him of using him, Lamb, as a dupe in the granting of civil contracts for housing and repairs despite him not knowing anything of such, then pocketing the money, a charge Martinez denies.
“Madam Speaker, the United Democratic Party does not want us to speak of these improper activities, of these corrupt activities, of these illegal activities. The people of Belize have been asking for the longest for investigations to be carried out [on] these allegations. And now, we are having the United States Department [of State] making a report, requesting absolutely the same thing, Madam Speaker; I see no reason why these issues cannot be brought up to the House, Madam Speaker, so that they can be addressed. These are public officials, and in this case these are elected officials, who are being paid by the people, and therefore we deserve that these investigations be carried out. We cannot continue acting in corrupt manner in Government, Madam Speaker, and expect that the people of Belize follow the law, when the leaders of this country refuse to follow the law,” Espat said.
But Prime Minister Dean Barrow, citing the earlier discussions about the actions of the European Union/OECD, chided Espat for simply “peddling” the U.S.’s conclusions, which he said had largely not been presented with evidence, saying he was disappointed in him.
“If you want to come to this House and say you have evidence of Government corruption, you are entirely free to do that. If you want to make particular reports to officials, to the Police, to the DPP or to whoever and nothing happens, you are entirely free to denounce the Government or the public officials for refusing to act; but don’t you come here and peddle what the Americans are saying to blacken the name of Belize. If you are the nationalist you claim to be you will refrain from doing that, and I say shame on you!” P.M. Barrow hit back.
Over Espat’s shouts of “Defend them!”, referring to former Ministers Elvin Penner and Gaspar Vega, Barrow further accused Espat of employing a “narrow partisan political agenda” and counseled him to know when to stand up for Belize when circumstances apply.///
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