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Senate unanimously approves Special Select Committee to investigate Portico agreement affair

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2023. 9:52 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Senate has agreed unanimously to the appointment of a Special Select Committee to, among other things, “conduct an independent and impartial investigation and inquiry into the signing of the document titled “Definitive Agreement, by and between the Government of Belize and Portico Enterprises Limited (DBA) the Port of Magical Belize”, dated October 2020, and to determine which, if any, established procedures and/or investment policy were followed.”

The Committee will also look into advice, policy and basis, and applicable communications and documentation relied on by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Tourism to form Cabinet Confidential Memo 84 concerning the agreement, and in this endeavor question former and current Ministers of Government, signatories of the agreement, heads of departments, regulatory committees and others with information into the above; to hold meetings and sittings publicly and broadcast live apart from its deliberations and after doing so with urgency and expedition, report back to the Senate.

The composition of the committee was amended to seven Senators from six, including two members representing the Government, one representing the Opposition and all four social partner Senators. A quorum for meetings was established as four.

In introducing the motion, Senator representing non-governmental organizations Janelle Chanona explained, “I think it is important to stress to the public that this is a serious matter, we brought this as independent senators in the interest of good governance. And it’s really that going forward, this is what it’s going to be, getting to the bottom of what we’re dealing with. I don’t think any of us feels comfortable trying to piece through interviews and all these ads and all of that. So it’s really about treating it as seriously as it is. And we also want to signal from now that anyone called before the committee should also treat it just as seriously.” She continued that the terms of reference specifically allow for opportunities to review the report by witnesses within 14 days of receiving the final report.

Lead Opposition Senator Michael Peyrefitte noted that he was never provided a copy of the Definitive Agreement as asked for earlier this year and noted that there is much that needs to be known, especially why an Agreement repudiated by the former Government was still kicking around three years later.

Leader of Government Business Senator Eamon Courtenay asked to add to the motion the fact that the Government announced on June 16 that it would not proceed with the Agreement and opined that much of the present “narrative” will be shown to be “false, to be fake, to be rumours” and the Committee should not be misled in its objective.

The motion was approved and the members of the Committee apart from the social partners will be announced in due course.

 

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