A short notice from the People’s United Party yesterday spoke of “breaking news” to be revealed at a press conference today, Tuesday. And we were told that the ruling party had made a “secret deal” with Fortis Energy International as part of the settlement reached at the end of August and rushed through the House and Senate. While most of the documents that were part of the deal were presented and debated on, what is known as the Deed of Confirmation and Assurance was not. In the document released only today, the Government agrees that BECOL is not to be interfered with, not even by any court or tribunal. It states also that the company can continue to charge its rates for buying of electric power, and assumes no responsibility for losses sustained, which must be made good by the Government. Here is what former Senator Lisa Shoman had to say.
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator: What does this mean? This means that by clauses 2.1 and 2.2, the government has effectively tied the hands of the PUC. When it comes to BECOL, committing the government and people of Belize to indemnify BECOL against any loses. Make good those losses sustained, as a result of any determination that the PUC as a regulatory body, or any court may make against its interest. By clause 2.2 and the later clause 4, the government has agreed that even if a court finds that the instruments held by BECOL are lawful, the government will make them good.
Shoman further contended that it is consumers who ultimately, for the next 20 years, pay the price for what she called a “pissing contest” between GOB and Fortis. She explains that it is not a matter of comfort between the parties, but a binding contract.
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator: Totality is not US$35M. Totality is US$35M plus this deed of assurance. It assures them that they will never loser, whether as Fortis shareholder or whether as BECOL for any ruling made by the PUC in respect of rates.
Further explanation came from the party’s legal advisor, Anthony Sylvestre, who says the decision also extends to the relationship between BECOL and BEL.
Anthony Sylvester, PUP Senator: The Prime Minister has, by clause 2.2 stated in no uncertain terms that even if a court of law were to declare that the various agreements between BECOL and BEL were unlawful, even if that were to be the case, they would still remedy it. Now, you would have known because Channel7 does publicize this very frequently, that there has been a court judgment which speaks to that the powers of the executive must not be untrammeled, that it cannot be a free for all. They cannot operate without being able to be checked. And what this document reveals and what it exposes is that the Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in light of that court judgment has signed and spend his name along with his brother, has spend his name to this document. That is something very grave and serious. That is something that I don’t think you can misuse that.
What is even more appalling is that this secret agreement between Government and Fortis was signed by PM Dean O Barrow and was witnessed by his brother, Attorney Denys Barrow.