The controversial 2015 Petrocaribe Bill which gives government unfettered access to the unlimited amounts of Petrocaribe money without prior debate and approval from the National Assembly has PASSED the senate. But not without the impassioned pleas from the 3 opposition senators, the business senator and the church senator calling the bill unconstitutional and even anti democratic. Interestingly there was complete silence from Senator Ray Davis, Senator appointed by the Unions to the extent that a division of the house was called by lead Senator for the oppostion, Senator Lisa Shoman. here is how that division of the senate went!
Marco Pech-Speaker of the Senate
” On the Petro-Caribe loan bill. Godwin Hulse.”
Hon. Godwin Hulse – Leader of Government Business
Hon. Juliet Thimbriel- Government Senator, Vice President of Senate
Hon. Joy Grant – Government Senator
Hon. Charles Gibson – Government Senator
Hon. Lisel Alamilla- Government Senator
Hon. Gerardo Sosa- Government Senator
Hon. Lisa Shoman- Opposition Senator
Hon. Anthony Sylvestre Jr. – Opposition Senator
Hon. Patrick Andrews – Opposition Senator
“For the love of country, no.”
Hon. Markhelm Lizarraga – Senator, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau
Hon. Reverend Father Noel Leslie – Senator, Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches
Hon. Ray Davis- Senator, National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee
“Senators, I will read the outcome. Those in favour, six senators. Those against against five with one abstention. So I think the I’s have it.
Just before the vote,
Government Senators realized one of their cleagues was missing and so the vote was HALTED by the President and Clerk while two Senators ran out to get the missing Senator. The Bill passed with 6 Government Senators voting YES, 5 NO’s, with one Abstention coming from the UNIONS. Senator for the Business community, Hon Mark Lizarraga was the first to speak, as he lamented that some of the very ones who had worked to create the Finance and Audit Act 2005 were now doing EXACTLY the opposite..
“We are a democratic country Mr. President, and we know that it’s not an emergency situation at this time and so , I believe that this manner could have been brought to the assembly, The house of Representatives to be discussed and to lay it before the house to debate. We are not allowing the democratic process to be as dynamic as it ought to be. It is very important that accounts be given on how accounts are spent. Accountability and transparency is of major important in dealing with developing of our country. “
Senator for the Church Fr Noel Leslie spoke about the erosion of Democracy.
“Section H of this build reads, ‘it cannot be ascertained before hand what the finance portion that will be lent to GOB.’ Well Mr. President, it is untrue really.
This administration ignores and suppresses any attempt to call for detail explanation, reference spending and spending polices associated with these monies. We tried to ask a motion in this house that would give the governmnet to show us what it has spent Petro-Carib dollars on, so that it could justify the impact these funds are having in these particular areas and we know that the motion was denied. Yet we were told that all Petro-Caribe borrowing and spending is being reported to the Venezuelan government. Again Mr. President, why is the Senate denied details if we are to play our role as some oversight and not just the rubber stomp we are preserved to be?:
The Three Senators for the Oppostion also rose individually to speak against the legislation giving various reasons for their position. .
“Seems to me Mr. President that the government and those who were dealing and doing transactions under the loan realized that , you know , the finance and audit reform act did apply and we should have in fact have brought the matter before. When you comb through this piece of legislation, there is no indication that the monies, which are being received by way of the Petro-Caribe agreement, there is no mention that it will be placed in a special fund. It is said that it may be placed in a special account. This law is in conflict of the constitution.
I find it astonishing and almost heart breaking that the very man that championed for good governance and for reform. The very man that advocated for check and balance and for transparency, the very man that lead the 2006 reform to our Financial act. That is the very man that is undoing the very things he fought for. “
“We have had an epiphany, we have woken up and said,’Oh geez, it’s a loan.”I don’t know Mr. President, when my friend had an epiphany or a change of heart or what happened. But the stated paragraphs in this act that purport to make a right wrong, don’t bear rout what is being done. There is no justification except that the government wishing to arrogate to its self, a forbidden fruit. Here it is, in its garden of Eden. And there is an entire tree of Petro-Caribe apples and the government wants to pick and eat them . Be careful.”
Senator Godwin Hulse rose as the only speaker to defend the bill for the Government side. He rebutted the arguments placed before the senate by Saying that Petrocaribe is Different from other loans; He also stuck to his previous description of Petrocaribe loans as being special lines of credits
“If you read the finance and audit act, I am convinced it never captured this arraignment, because this arraignment is a kind of suppliers credit, where you pay some now and you pay some later, but its gone all over the place. We have come here over and over and said this is how much of the money we use and this is how we use it. We gave you a supplementary, we gave you a bill. ”