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Public Service Union questions timing for Government’s sudden emphasis on old gag order regulations

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Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2021. 3:43 pm CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: The Public Service Union (PSU) is questioning the Government of Belize’s sudden interest in an old constitutional provision that bars public officers from disseminating information on government business.

This week, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, circulated a memo noting that Belize Constitution Public Service Regulations 47 (1) prohibits public officers from sharing documents or oral information with the media or members of the public. Some public officers are also being asked to sign an oath of confidentiality. Waight called on all CEOs and Department Heads to bring the regulation to the attention of everyone who falls under their supervision, as anyone found violating the regulation will be sanctioned.

PSU President Gerald Henry notes that the timing for the government to suddenly place emphasis on the regulation, which has traditionally not been enforced, is a reversal of a previously held position.

“The question now is why at this time are they choosing to highlight it, especially considering the fact that this administration was previously calling out public officers for not sharing information especially as it relates to fraud when the previous administration was in government. It seems a bit contradicting that they wanted public officers to come forward then but they don’t want them to do it now,” Henry said.

The regulation has been called upon at a time when government and public officers are at odds over a number of issues including the continued hiring of new public officers despite a moratorium on such, and ongoing negotiations for cost-cutting measures, which includes a 10 percent pay cut for teachers as well as public officers.

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