The Area Representatives met at the House today, and as always, we bring you highlights of the day’s event. To start it all off, Hon. Edmund Castro, who was missing at the last House meeting, was present today.
At the adjournment, Castro spoke on the issue of the Belize Airport Authority checks written out to him. But before the Minister’s speech, the Prime Minister himself addressed the issue of BAA and Minister Castro.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the Leader of the Opposition’s words at the last House Meeting, concerning 60 checks, was a grouse exaggeration.
“I knew that what was being said was a gross exaggeration of the truth! He told us about 60 cheques. It turned out at the end of the day that with respect to the member for Belize Rural North, you are talking about a grand total of three cheques, of which (1) was given to him for per diem with respect to his attendance at a conference in El Salvador, having to do with Belize Airports Authority business.
The (2nd) of which was given to him with respect to the burial of his mother. It is only the 3rd of those cheques that he used, was put in his name, and that he used to buy sporting equipment in the Free Zone because that BAA did not wish to make out a cheque direct for the Enterprise on the Free Zone”.
Hon. Castro rouse to tell us, for the first time since this particular scandal broke, his side of the story.
“Present and former ministers of Government children are attending educational institutions at home and abroad at the expense of the government of Belize. Are all those present and former ministers of Government corrupt? I understand that the Leader of the Opposition’s education in the tertiary level as well. Mr. Speaker, it is said that a cheque was paid by the BAA for a Bike shop. Mr. Speaker, we had assisted ten young cyclists in a Junior team, five of which were from the Cayo District and five from the Belize District. Mr. Speaker, I don’t see how that is corruption. What is alleged, Mr. Speaker, is that one of those cheques were issued to defray expenses associated with the death of my dear mother. I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the word of this assistance has been made so public and that it has become so controversial. I readily accept and admit that BAA wrote a cheque to help me to defray some of the expenses with the death and burial of my mother. This is no corruption, Mr. Speaker”.
The Minister further went on to stress the costs for a funeral arrangement, in his constituency at least, which he says sums up between 4,000 and 4,500 dollars; and in his singular case, he says, that money is almost double what he takes home every month.
Hon. Edmund Castro: “In my case, Mr. Speaker, although I am a Minister of State, I am a poor man. Mr. Speaker, I make a ‘take home’ (…you can laugh, but the fact is there) of approximately $2,900 per month. I also have my own family to take care after too, Mr. Speaker”.
Yes, you heard correctly, Minister Castro is a poor man, well at least that is what he told the House today.
Meanwhile, his colleague, Elvin Penner was also present at the House; he arrived some time after the meeting got underway.