Posted: Friday, April 30, 2021. 7:31 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Who is to blame for the perceived lack of progress in implementing the recommendations coming out of the international investigation into Belize’s anti-corruption platform, laid on the cornerstone of the United Nations Convention against Corruption?
Asked on Wednesday, Former Attorney General (AG) Michael Peyrefitte appeared to shift blame in part to the trade unions under the umbrella of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), whom he said missed their moment to consult on final versions of draft legislation.
Senator Peyrefitte clarified that Belize did not choose the countries involved in the review of our national legal structure – Haiti, and Tuvalu; they were randomly chosen and duly presented their reports, and recommendations were made, which Peyrefitte said were taken to the unions.
“I personally met with the unions and when we sat down with them I told them this is the document. Now you go for it and you tell us what your priorities are in terms of which of these you want to see pass. I met with them months before the general election. And they did not get back to me. Did not get back to me to say, of the things that you say you have here that were recommended by the United Nations, we want you to implement these. They have not done that. I believe there is a high chance that when I gave them the document they didn’t even read it,” he suggested in a press interview.
A Crown Counsel was specifically appointed to deal with the UNCAC process and had been present at the meeting in question. Peyrefitte added that Belize was recognized for its diligence in meeting the UN’s deadlines and with the instruction of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, all that remained was to consult with the trade unions, especially to avoid charges of not being properly consulted.
But the NTUCB has hit back, confirming the meeting in question which it said in a statement was about “discuss[ing] the implementation of recommendations contained in the Executive Summary of the Country Review Report and to request the reconvening of the UNCAC Project Board that had been paused for over a year. During the meeting, the AG reported that he had not yet received the Final Country Review Report and furthermore he had been advised that no action should be taken until after receipt of such document. At no time did the AG make any request of the NTUCB for submissions regarding the passage of the legislation. Had such a request been made to the NTUCB, the NTUCB would have complied with deliberate speed and courtesy.”
The Congress said it believes that the previous administration in fact had no intention of proceeding with good governance legislation, and calls Peyrefitte’s comments “disturbing and confrontational to the unions of Belize,” adding, “NTUCB has always and will always continue to lobby for good governance.”
Peyrefitte also claimed in his interview that Belize does have some of the structures needed for anti-corruption unlike many other countries, and what is needed is to fill in the gaps and more strongly enforce the legislation.
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