Posted: Thursday, June 8, 2023. 6:47 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow is demanding answers from Prime Minister John Briceno directly as to the Definitive Agreement signed by former Government Minister Erwin Contreras, but about which the Government is taking legal advice.
Barrow says the Prime Minister should provide: “a full explanation of who is the driving force behind your support of the egregious Definitive Agreement despite former Prime Ministers, Ministers, past and present [Attorneys General] advising against its legality and validity, and why; full disclosure of the terms of the Harvest Caye and Stake Bank agreement; and an explanation as to why environmental clearance given to Portico on the basis of a Definitive Agreement, exposed as being fraudulent, should stand.”
This follows charges that in relation to the Agreement, Attorney General Magali Marin-Young allegedly advised that it was illegal and not binding on Government. That the Prime Minister said otherwise a few months ago, before the Agreement was revealed, according to Barrow, “is squarely contradicted by your Attorney General and your own past actions.”
And the truth is that both former Prime Minister Dean Barrow and former Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, as well as Tracey Taegar-Panton, have repudiated the agreement, while current Minister of Tourism Anthony Mahler called it “scandalous” and even the P.M. himself has backed off, saying its provisions cannot fly. But then why ask Cabinet to support it, asks Barrow, as only the Prime Minister can have the force of will to do that.
And the Government has not hesitated in renegotiating and outright scrapping previous agreements signed by the previous administration, from the Nature Conservancy Maya Forest Agreement (erroneously confused with the Blue Bond agreement which redoes the “Superbond”) to the Brads Boledo contract and others – so why uphold this one?
Barrow also compared the bona fides of the Portico developers, David Gegg and Gulab Sharma, with those of the Port Coral/Stake Bank developer Michael Feinstein and Waterloo Enterprises Limited, mostly bankrolled by Lord Michael Ashcroft, and repeated a claim the former debunked this week about who owns the land on which the Port of Magical Belize will be built. And he notes that Portico attempted to get a significant headstart on the other developers that would effectively freeze them out and make Port of Magical Belize practically the only game in town.
From a government that came to office pledging full transparency, accountability, good governance and anti-corruption, the people of Belize are owed an answer, Barrow concludes.
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