A few days ago Prime Minister Dean Barrow introduced a massive rollout of funds to repair the broken streets of Belize. Some $500,000 has been allocated for the Stann Creek District and particularly Dangriga Town, which has been hit by several weather systems causing significant road damage. However, Mayor Gilbert Swazo in speaking to PLUS News today reported that in a personal conversation with the Prime Minister a few days after the big press conference, there were some strings to be attached. Mayor Swazo tells us more.
“That concern was aired and subsequently on Thursday, the Prime Minister called indicating that Dangriga would be allocated $500,000. However, their conditions which the Prime Minister stated to me over the phone call as the result of this $500,000 is that he would select the contractor and that contractor should be CISCO Construction, John Woods. He is stating that John Woods-CISCO Construction has done good works and also provided to several people in doing those street works”.
According to Swazo, the Prime Minister insisted on having the UDP’s caretaker in the area, former Mayor Frank “Pawpa” Mena, in charge of the work and not hiring any known members of the People’s United Party. The Dangriga Town Council, the Mayor was told by the Prime Minister, would be left only to select the streets to be fixed and the priority of the work. But according to the Mayor, that is disrespecting the Council’s autonomy.
Mayor Gilbert Swazo: “That, in my humble opinion…there are certain several things that are wrong with that. First and foremost, I believe that $500,000 should go into any elected representative; that is the town council. I also believe that $500,000 should go through a tendering process. Those processes, as far as I am concerned, are circumvented. Another thing I significantly believe is significantly wrong with that proposal is that is circumventing the authority of the town council to oversee the work because Pawpa Mena is not an elected representative. So, essentially the Prime Minister is using the people’s money for selfish political interest”.
It’s quite an allegation, and the Mayor said he urged the Prime Minister to reconsider, citing that there was no order by him to fire any UDP’s on taking office. Here was the Prime Minister’s response as given to us by Mayor Swazo.
Mayor Gilbert Swazo: “So, essentially, we welcome the infrastructure work certainly, we welcome the employment that will be created as a result of the infrastructure work. However, we believe that as a council, the authority and the legal mandate of the council is to be respected. We also believe that a caretaker has no authority to manage the affairs within the municipality that is elected by the people, he has no legal mandate over the monies that is allocated to the people and in my humble opinion, Dangriga deserves that money because it is our money, the tax payers’ money, not the Prime Minister’s money. So, the Prime Minister does not have any authority to say that it is going to be his people that is working”.
And so that is where the matter stands. Mayor Swazo was to brief the local media in Belize City during a press conference called by the PUP at its Independence Hall headquarters. We expect to bring you those details tomorrow.