Last week Prime Minister Dean Barrow made announcements that the recently passed Petrocaribe Loans Act, 2015, will be amended to spell out the terms of spending, subsidization to existing laws including the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act and other provisions. But the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP), long-standing opponents of the Act and of the handling of Petrocaribe funds, say the reforms do not go far enough, and still camouflage what they say is tyrannical behavior by the Government. Today the VIP’s Patrick Rogers explained why without legitimization of the original loan agreement, the reforms mean nothing.
Patrick Rogers – Member, Vision Inspired by the People
“The amendments that he is doing says that he will amend this section , 3.1, we are saying that as long as this clause is saying that they are not withstanding anything contained in that Finance and Audit Reform Act. Once there is nothing in there. … This is the Finance and Audit Reform Act, clearly it has a Section 3 referring to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, clearly it has a Section 7 that refers to Loans to Government, Section 9, Special Funds and Section 10, Development Funds . The VIP has been making the point all along that this PetroCaribe monies should have been channeled through a development fund which is there in the Finance and Audit Act for how these things should have been handled. We have been saying that the Prime Minister, by not taking the loan agreement, because this is still the problem, this loan agreement signed in 2012 is still not legitimate, we still have a court matter that is addressing the legitimacy of this along with the loans that are borrowed from it.”
Rogers says that their alliance with the Belize National Teacher’s Union (BNTU) and other unions which will lead them to the streets is because the Prime Minister is violating the Constitution.
“We are saying that our move to mobilize people on the street continues Mr. Barrow, because you could have brought us to the table, not necessarily VIP but all the stakeholders that are saying we need to get back to the rule of law. If in effect the loan agreement that was signed and not taken to the house to be legitimized, and the borrowings that subsequently went against this thin, if it were legal based on the Finance and Audit Act and the Constitution, because Section 114 of the Constitution states, ‘ all revenue or other monies raised or received by Belize not being revenues or other monies payable under this Constitution or any law into some other public fund established for a specific purpose, shall be paid into and form a consolidated revenue fund. So in the absence of this being legal, then the Constitution would have kicked in at 114. So that is why we are saying that the Prime Minister violated our Constitution at 114.”
And Rogers poured scorn on the cosmetic changes to the Act, accusing the Prime Minister of playing games and avoiding the real issue with opposition to the Act. The VIP wants the Act completely repealed. No timeline has been set for a demonstration, as the People’s United Party (PUP) wait out a 21-day deadline for repeal, which the Prime Minister has already indicated will not happen. Meanwhile it is consulting with interested parties to build broad support for an anti-PLA march.