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The Sham Resignation- A Barrowesque Move

Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2024. 3:51 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Norris Hall: A top Attorney and close confidant of the Prime Minister, Mr. Eamon Courtenay, has “resigned” as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the first Briceno Administration that was elected three years ago.

The window dressing laid out by the Prime Minister, to this so-called “resignation” by Mr. Courtenay, is that he had committed to serving in this government for the first three years.

That is laughable given all the privileges afforded to Mr. Courtenay after, or in connection with his sham “resignation’’. Some of them may even be unconstitutional, or at least, required some creative lawyering to allow him to have his cake and to eat it.

The Constitution is totally mute on how Mr. Courtenay, who will retain his appointment as the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, can continue to enjoy “Cabinet privileges” and will “retain overall responsibility for Belize’s two cases currently before the International Court of Justice.”

So why the resignation? Is it to hoodwink and to dodge the legal ramification for conflict of interest and duplicity?

But isn’t the main responsibility, THE key, the most important part of the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the Guatemalan issue? Does it mean that Mr. Courtenay will be paid a retainer by the Government for assuming that responsibility?

It also begs the question: Will his law firm be getting a retainer from the Government for legal advice?

These are questions related to transparency in government. With malice towards none. It is just about-transparency! That’s all.

 Other matters in that portfolio such as Foreign Trade and some mundane matters in a reduced foreign affairs portfolio have been assigned to Mr. Francis Fonseca, the Minister of Education who will now be the “Official” Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Fonseca is one of the power houses and thinkers in this Administration. He is an astute thinker and savvy politician.

For him to be handed a reduced portfolio, for the convenience of Mr. Courtenay’s sham “resignation” is offensive and a slap in the face of a core believer in the fundamental principle of the BLUE with the E, PUP.

This should be considered as offensive to Mr. Fonseca, a loyalist and a key member the Cabinet of the former PUP Prime Minister, Mr. Said Musa “The old PUP” as they say.

Fonseca has been a dynamic Minister of Education, a portfolio he retains in addition to his new post as Foreign Minister  with a drastically reduced portfolio.

Mr. Fonseca had earlier indicated, without any explanation, that he may no longer be considering electoral politics.

The responsibility for Immigration, which was a part of the Foreign Affairs portfolio will now fall under the Office of the Prime Minister.

This Department of Government has been perpetually mismanaged and corrupt. It has never recovered from the massive passport scandal under the Barrow UDP Administration.

Will there be more of the same now that Mr. Courtenay has relinquished that responsibility in his “resignation”?

Perhaps it was not sexy enough, although, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, “the Immigration Department has achieved major milestones including the e-passport and the amnesty programme.”

Cupcake!! Now back to the “resignation” thing.

With Mr. Fonseca’s heavy portfolio in Education and taking on the reduced Foreign Affairs portfolio, observers say that the perpetually airborne Foreign Affairs CEO and a close do-nothing-wrong acolyte of the Prime Minister, will in fact be the de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs, while she continues to manage that Ministry by in flight and by remote, using WhatsApp while travelling the world to conferences intended for technocrats and other professional meetings without any accountability.

What about Zoom ma Lady?

Even China and Nicaragua recently made a major trade agreement via Zoom!

This excessive travelling is sometimes to the chagrin of members our diplomatic corp who are assigned in many countries where Belize is paying for Ambassadorial representation. This continues unchecked and appears as a subtle form of unaccountability and living high at tax payers’ expense.

That was an aside observation but relevant nonetheless and for future reference.

While Mr. Fonseca assumes the responsibility for the reduced Foreign Affairs portfolio, it begs the question: To whom will Belize’s team at the International Court of Justice have to report to? Will it be to Mr. Courtenay with his “Cabinet privileges” and is he the king-pin for all ICJ matters?

This is a direct slap and even a Ministerial humiliation for the new “pretender” as Foreign Affairs Minister.

We need to understand where Ministerial Authority, according to the Constitution, overlaps with “Cabinet privileges”.

Under this new arrangement, we must again ask the direct question to the Prime Minister and be given a direct answer by the Prime Minister in clear and concise English:

Why did Mr. Courtenay “resign” and IF he really did, why was he retained in almost the same positions in the government?   This is  really a sham and yet another attempt by the BLU PUP to hoodwink the electorate.

Again: Why did you “resign” Mr. Courtenay, or did you?

This is more than just a political play to allow for more wiggle room in government and private practice to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, it would seem. Perhaps just another political sleight of hand!

Mr. Courtenay is now the most powerful man in the Government and perhaps even the country, with his Cabinet privileges. He has always been considered as the Prime Minister’s brain in a symbiosis that does not aoeslways work. This is not one of those. This one was cleverly signed, sealed and delivered. It was without doubt a classic move to make a non-resignation look like one with more power to the resignee.

The Office of the Prime Minister in making a terse announcement, said that Courtenay was stepping down as Foreign Minister, a post he held for the first three years since the People’s United Party was returned to office in November of 2020, to return to his legal practice.

The release was cleverly timed as the Belizean populace was focused on Christmas and not on the politics of the day.

This announcement sent political observers scrambling for the chess board to try and figure out who would replace Mr. Courtenay in that Ministerial position as well as the Leader of Government Business in the Senate.

The following day the deception surfaced from the office of the Prime Minister in a longer release to underscore the resignation sham.

It later turned out to be a “Barrowesque” gambit in which the former (or maybe not) Foreign Affairs Minister will not be going anywhere really.

The former UDP Barrow Administration directed most of that Government’s legal business to certain family-owned law firm and those of their associates in what appeared as a flagrant act of unapologetic nepotism.

The Courtenay-styled resignation, under close examination looks as if it came from similar cut of cloth by manipulative legal minds in our political landscape.

Now, having become the most powerful “politician” in the country, Mr. Courtenay will continue to be a major, though unelected, “influencer” to the Prime Minister on political and national policy matters.

He undoubtedly will remain a key member of the Prime Minister’s cabal – the inner Cabinet.

 Mr. Courtenay has now returned to his very lucrative law practice after three years of tremendous sacrifice in service to the beloved people of Belize.

It is not likely, that as an elitist Attorney, there will be any conflict of interest in both camps where he now resides.

We would hope not!

There is though, a rich market for “Influence” peddling and subsequently State Capture. It is a growing practice in many countries. South Africa is a model example.

This is a way in which laws and social norms, including the manipulation by Government officials, or those with power and influence,  influence State policies for the benefit of individuals, State-backed  or private companies.

It is happening here!!!

But with all this and more, Cabinet remains numb until!! It is like crickets or the sound of silence.

So, when is a resignation not a resignation?

When there is an abuse of power!

3rd January, 2024.


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