UNDERSCORING THE NEED FOR THE RULE OF LAW (BCCI press release)

AUGUST 30TH , 2017 .. A fundamental element in the sustainable development formula of any nation is the enduring practice of the rule of law at every level of society. A country that builds a reputation for prevalence of rule of law and is determined through its leaders to protect its citizens and the state against all forms of corruption will very likely be a model of developmental success.

Belize’s governance structure, even without UNCAC, already allows for checks and balances through the Supreme Audit Institution, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Integrity Commission. However, political expediency and interference have rendered these bodies almost completely ineffective. The latter two bodies have had absolutely no effect in checking corruption in the public sector, while the former is unable to carry out the number of audits required on a more timely basis. Case in point is that the last tabled Audit Report is for Fiscal year ended 2012.

The constant media reports of the many corrupt schemes employed at the Ministry of Natural Resources are appalling. Despite evidence of blatant abuse of office for personal gain, the Prime Minister has commented that he doubts there is any “actionable illegality.” With due respect to the office, it is not for any Prime Minister to make that determination. Corruption accusations must be subjected to the same judicial scrutiny to which any other criminal accusation would be subjected. The BCCI therefore calls upon the relevant authorities to investigate the allegations of acquisition of land and improper compensation so exhaustively discussed in the media. The Prime Minister, as a responsible leader, must encourage a thorough investigation without political interference and anyone found to be involved brought to justice.

It is time for the various branches of law enforcement to carry out their mandates to use their legal powers to expose and eliminate all forms of corruption now entrenched in our society; thereby giving Belize and her people a chance at developmental success. If these entities fail to perform, then the people of this country must find other methods for eliminating corruption, and with urgency.

The BCCI reminds Prime Minister Barrow and the public that almost exactly one year ago he committed to having the Laws redrafted to have the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) re-configured for the inclusion of Social Partner Senators. The public should take very seriously the fact that to date, this task remains incomplete. The most recent Audit report on the Ministry of Works is damning and so are the many land scandals. Inaction by the GOB on the abuse of our natural and fiscal resources is no longer acceptable.
No one should be above the law, regardless of name, position, or political affiliation.