Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019. 3:06 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The University of the West Indies’ Belize Open Campus met yesterday, Tuesday, and today in its biennial Country Conference on the topic”Youth and Security: Assessing Risks, Mitigating Vulnerabilities, and Improving Wellbeing”.
The regional university is approaching the matter from a mainly academic standpoint, with presenters discussing various topics on the theme and students organizing the conference held at the Mexico Sports Complex on the grounds of the Marion Jones Stadium.
Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture Patrick Faber was guest speaker and made some eyebrow-raising remarks about the nature of corruption in Belize among politicians and the wider society, and its connection to crime and youth.
It comes as no surprise that the Deputy Prime Minister, who is seeking to be leader of the United Democratic Party and next Prime Minister of Belize, acknowledged that there is a problem with corruption in the country – but adds that while politicians always get the finger pointed at them, the others are pointed right back at their constituents.
Said Faber, “…when they talk about corruption they talk about the politicians of course. Me and you, mayor [Bernard Wagner of Belize City who was also present]. But corruption goes beyond that. You know why politicians are corrupt by the way and I don’t have problem saying it. Yes there is a lot of corruption. They are corrupted because the people are corrupted too.”
Faber pondered why it is that Belize cannot fix crime and violence, especially in Belize City. Taking something of a jab at his rival for party leadership and Minister of National Security John Saldivar, Faber mentioned that while the greater Belmopan area has “almost negligible” terms of crime, the City has consistently had the majority of murders and other violent crimes occur here, especially by gangs. He also stated, “We have a way in this country as well where we spend a lot of money and we don’t get the bang for our buck.”
The three Dean Barrow administrations have had to deal consistently with charges of corruption and improper activity at many Government departments. The Prime Minister himself once called the Lands Department – speaking to Belizean-Americans abroad – a “hotbed of corruption”, though reforms have been implemented. Immigration and Nationality has been put under the microscope of the Senate Special Select Committee; and Prime Minister Barrow has been put on the spot concerning allegations against his Ministers and senior officials many times, resulting in resignations and firings. But the Government has consistently maintained that it has done its best to tackle corruption, comparing itself to the former People’s United Party administrations in this regard. Belize is now a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Integrity Commission and Public Accounts Committee are active, if combative.
What Faber did not say from the published excerpts of his speech is what more Government intends to do to hold itself and Belizeans accountable for keeping the country free of this political scourge.
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