The House of Representatives met today for the first time since March. There were 13 bills presented, so there was a lot of business to take care of – but what took up 75% of the day’s activity was debate over an unusual motion, a motion to, quote,
“deplore and deprecate the actions of the member for Fort George and the Member for Freetown, while in government for…granting tax concessions entirely contrary to the laws of Belize.” End quote.

That, of course, is all about the recent judgment from the Caribbean Court of Justice which ruled that a settlement deed they signed with the British Caribbean Bank was unlawful. The Government used a clever political maneuver to get it introduced into the House as a motion so that Musa and Fonseca who signed the document could be hammered, on the record and at close range in the House of Representatives.

But, it wasn’t as easy as that; Musa and Fonseca launched their own counteroffensive which made for a feisty back and forth that lasted house. We’ve compressed some of the highlights into a 15 minute parliamentary punch-up:….

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"These two and their actions were described as malignant chewers on our democracy which no court could allow to go. It was said that what they did, if allowed to stand, would set back the democracy of Belize by some three hundred years. The member for Fort George as Prime Minister, did say to the nation that there had been a settlement deed and that in consequence of the settlement deed - some taxes had been written off for the Belize Bank - he never told us the content of the settlement deed, he never told us how much tax had been written off and he certainly did not tell the nation that in addition to what was written off - going forward until at least 2020 - no taxes would be paid by the Belize Bank. They, as the CCJ said, carved an unalterable special regime for the Belize Bank - I heard the leader of the opposition say 'well at least there was no corruption' - look up corruption and see how the dictionary defines corruption - that was corruption!"



Rt. Hon Said Musa - Former Prime Minister
"I accept full responsibility for this settlement deed, for that decision, that secondly Mr. Speaker - that unlike this Prime Minister in the House today - we accept the court's decision even when it goes against the position we took. Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister today is castigating me because he said that the CCJ declared that my action was illegal, void and contrary to public policy - and that is true, that is exactly what the court said 'illegal, void and contrary to public policy'. The Prime Minister should also admit to this House that the Court of Appeal in Belize has declared his action as illegal, void and contrary to not only the public policy but to the constitution of Belize. It is indeed however, the height of hipocricy for this Prime Minister to seek to use the decision of the CCJ, when as leader as the opposition, he and his law firm were allied and represented the Ashcroft interest. The purpose of the settlement deed, as I said Mr. Speaker, was well intentioned and done in good faith, even the Caribbean Court of Justice is ruling and the Prime Minister doesn't quote this part in deliver their judgment, does not question that when I sign the settlement deed - it was an attempt to settle a prior dispute. The leader of the opposition did not take that decision, I did - I was the Prime Minister and I was the Minister of Finance.

(Directed to the other UDP members' comments) - Well you can say what you like - you know to throw it but you don't know how to take it.

So, Mr. Speaker - I accept full responsibility but I stand up in this honorable House and say that what I did was in good faith in an attempt to settle the decision, that I acted out of noble motives and that no one on that side can successfully accuse me of making any money off this matter."

Hon. Wilfred Elrington - Attorney General
"He has not yet explained - he gave away to the richest man in Belize or his company, 20 million dollars right off the bat - 20 million dollars write off for taxes, I'm not content with that. He purported to give them tax exemption from 2005 to 2020 - not knowing how much money, in fact they were raking in. We know that when we stopped it - they turned around and came against us 44 million dollars. If you add 20 to 44 million dollars, you know how much that will give us? That's 66 million dollars - if he says that he did it in good faith and there was no end motive and that he didn't get any money out of it - then tell me why didn't he bring it to the House? Why did he agree that this was going to be a secret document? Why not publicize the transaction? Why didn't he share it with the other colleagues, if in fact it was done in good faith then it could have been brought to the House. How do you explain to me not bringing it to the House? That is not acting in good faith, your actions belly your words; you're telling us one thing but you're doing something else and it always happens. You make the same most beautiful speech but it makes no sense. But I will feel completely good, liberated, and free if in fact the two members of the other side would do the decent thing and get out of the faces of the Belizean people. Remove themselves from the political scene -- that is what any decent, honorable, caring, conscientious, patriot would do."

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition
"What he needs to understand that under his watch, the people of Pickstock have gotten poorer and poorer - he is here beating his chest, self righteous dignity. He cannot go anywhere in Belize, he's one of the most hated men in Belize today - that's what he should be saying. The reason, there is one reason for this meeting, and it is this motion - that is the sole purpose of this meeting, to grandstand and posture and play political games when there are serious problems affecting this country - that's the sole purpose of the meeting, to grandstand and talk and play games. Where is your motion that you are to present today, your motion to deal with the failing education system, where is your motion to deal with the crisis in health, where is the motion apologizing to the fathers and mothers to the 13 babies who died at Karl Heusner? Bring a motion to the House for that. There is no question that we acted in good faith, and I can place my integrity up against person, any individual in this House - I am prepared to do that. I have said publicly, people are free because we live in a democratic society, people are free to criticize the decisions of the Government of the day, people are free to pass judgment in the harshest terms if they wish but there is absolutely no support, no evidence for any allegation of bad faith or any allegation of corruption. This leader, Mr. Speaker - I never claimed to be perfect, I grow and learn and when people say things are wrong, I hope to learn and grow from that and to be a better person and a better leader because of that, I'm not afraid to say that."

Hon. Michael Finnegan
"He was shouting and like he had hysteria, he was deafening our ears and I believe when you are the leader of the opposition, you are put in a position where you should articulate a message and if you cannot articulate a proper message as leader of the opposition - then Mr. Speaker as far as I'm concerned - the leader of the opposition should step down."


Johnny Briceno - Former PUP Party Leader
"The Prime Minister felt at that time that in the interest of the government and in the interest of trying to move things forward - he felt he had to sign this agreement. But Mr. Speaker, we need to give him credit because he stood up here as a man and said yes that he signed it but he did it because he felt it was in the best interest of the country at that time."

Hon. Dean Barrow
"The impression all three of them sought to give is that the CCJ accepted that while this was wrongly done, it was not done out of an improper motive. Well you member of Orange Walk Central, for God sake - go read the judgment before you are seduced or traduced by what the two lawyers beside you have said. When you read that judgment - the CCJ in no way - came in even close to endorsing the motives of the ex- Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. What they said was that 'we don't have the evidence before us as to the motives, so we will refrain from speculating' but when they went on to say what we do have before us - are the actions. I just read a part of the judgment again - the cloak of secrecy surrounding what they're doing, what they were doing - the fact that the ex-Prime Minister had absolutely had no intention of ever bringing this before the public - man come on, one and one is two, you know. You got up and you said that 'I accept the judgment of the court' but you still tried to infuscate, still tried to prevaricate, you still tried unfortunately, to lie and to suggest that the court gave you a blye in one respect - the court gave you a blye in no respect. The court was completely condemnatory on what you did and you need to acknowledge to the people and concede to the people that there's this other aspect of the judgment. The court said what you did was so outrageous that it shocked the public conscience in this country. You Mr. member of Orange Walk, you want to sweep this under the rug. The court said it shocked the conscience of this country but the court went on to say that let us see if in addition to shocking the domestic public conscience - it would also shock the international public conscience - that is the basis the court said in which we would then have absolutely no choice but to refuse to enforce this award. And the court found that even by all the international legal norms - what you and the leader of the opposition did - shocked universal conscience. You are not just a domestic and a local pariah - you are an international outlaw. You talk about laws passed by this government, that has been found to be unconstitutional - laws passed by the national assembly. You talk about the acquisition of Telemedia, everything was done 'en la plena luz del dia' - in the full light of day. We are not like you and I certainly, I'm not like you. Nobody can talk about Prime Ministerial governance in the way the CCJ absolutely harpooned you, absolutely skewered you, and absolutely eviscerated you.

You talk about my having represented Ashcroft when I was at the position and at the private bar - there was absolutely nothing wrong with that. The point I will make with this though - even as I represented Ashcroft, every time you during that period as Prime Minister, member for Port Loyola spoke about all your shenanigans and Telemdia and Prosser and so on, every time I got wind of any deal that you had done, I stood up here and I made it plain - Mr. Ashcroft can pay me as a professional to represent him in court. When I come to this house, I stand for the people of this country. And I will denounce Mr. Ashcroft every time in collusion with a corrupt People's United Party government he does anything wrong. Then you expect to get a free pass by coming here this morning and saying 'well I resepct the judgment of the court' - no man. Do what you're supposed to do, do what follows logically, don't just respect the judgment of the court - resign. Mr. Speaker was extremely liberal with you all - oh you're leaving? You can't take it? Better you go but don't come back."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House
"Sit down!"

Hon. Dean Barrow
"I need to express the hope Mr. Speaker that this departure will not be followed by any return, not now, not ever."

Of course, Musa did come back – he was just taking a lunch break.


Hon. Julius’ Special Motion Rejected By Hon. Barrow

And he came back to support freshman parliamentarian Julius Espat who was trying to introduce a highly unusual motion to change the membership of the public accounts committee – so that it includes civil society representative. The prime minister told us he would fight it – and sure enough he did, but Espat fought back – and, in the end, many voices were raised, even the House Speaker’s! Here’s how that heated back and forth went:…

Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South
"It is something new for Belize, what we are trying to do here with this motion Mr. Speaker, is to propose a joint public accounts committee. Why are we asking for a proposed public accounts joint committee - it is because the public accounts committee has not functioned since 1981. Mr. Speaker this is a serious issue because all we hear and I am speaking on behalf of the Belizean people - is the bickering that we do here, back and forth but at the end of the day there is nothing concrete that we are proposing to be able to change the system so that we can stop what we're doing here. We need to start working for and on behalf the people of Belize, this is a serious motion we're doing and I am humbly requesting that 'daddy Barrow', the leader of the opposition and the honorable member from....(interrupted by UDP's) - we are not in the UK gentlemen, we are in Belize so he is 'Daddy Barrow' now. Daddy Barrow, who is Queen's Square area rep, I am humbly requesting from him that we seriously look at this issue to change the problems and the things that he has said about and we are asking to be changed so that we can stop speaking about them. The people of Belize need to be given the power to analyze it on their own."

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"Mr. Speaker, I am very sorry - this motion is entirely and wholly misconceived, shot through with procedural and substantive errors from beginning to end and I, after I finish speaking, will ask you for a ruling because it is my submission that it is out of order and has to fall without the merits being debated."


Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition
"If you believe that it is fundamentally flawed then bring your objections to the house and lets us fix it.


Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House
"He's objecting to it, member."


Hon. Francis Fonseca
"He's engaging in a debate Mr. Speaker. There is a process you follow when a motion is tabled, you know that very well."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte
"The procedure member is that if it is not procedurally correct - any member of the house can object to that. Not every motion that is brought...what do you mean based on what? Do you want me to rule now without even having to hear from the Prime Minister? Because to tell you the truth, member - the Prime Minister didn't need to speak, I already know based on what is happening here what will be my decision."

Hon. Dean Barrow
"So, Mr. Speaker please, I...."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte
"Now the member from Cayo South will be able if he wants to, to respond to the objections."

Hon. Julius Espat
"I will respond to what the Prime Minister said about looking at the motherland - he made a comment that we are following..."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte
"Member for Cayo South, this is your motion you know, you have a chance to respond...."

Hon. Julius Espat
"I just want to explain to him one thing..."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte
"Wait your turn. Mic Off!"

Hon. Dean Barrow
"You can't change the rule which says that the balance on that committee reflects the balance in the House - that is a fundamental principle of democracy - majority rule. How can you come here and try to hoodwink the Belizean people and suggest that what you want to do is to make things more transparent when in fact you're looking to up end the first principle of our democracy. Mr. Speaker as I said, utterly and totally misconceived, error from beginning to end and this motion has absolutely no chance in my respectful submission to you. The whole purpose of bringing forward this motion is to take away attention from the fact that as chairman of the public accounts committee - he has not been doing his job."

Hon. Julius Espat
"Think about your people Mr. Prime Minister - we have been complaining for too long and you need to put systems in place that can correct you and can correct us. The Belizean people are tired of the rhetoric, they want systems in place that can work for us. If you are serious - you would join us and make sure everything is done your way, Daddy Barrow. Make sure it happens for your children, make sure it happens for the Belizean children."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte
"Member from Cayo South, can you give me five minutes - let me tell you something - let me tell you what this is not and I don't respond to emotions, I don't respond to talk shows, I don't respond to nothing like that. I don't have to go to England, India or America or anywhere like that - we have the standing orders of Belize and I am saying that there's an objection which I take myself. You have not proposed the section that you want to amend - why didn't you do that?"

Hon. Julius Espat
"This motion will not go away so let the Prime Minister join us to find a way to do it his way so that it can benefit the people of Belize."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte
"You can carry it for as long as you want but once - let me tell you something - the National Assembly is not a testing ground to see where......" (interrupted)

Hon. Julius Espat
"Well the people of Belize are dying because you don't want to get through representation for them - that is the problem. We cannot send our children to school, that is the problem and if we don't realize that problem then we are wasting our time - that is the problem!"

Hon. Francis Fonseca
"We've heard a long lengthy objection - a very technical objection from the Honorable Prime Minister - he has raised valid concerns about the motion - the question is, can we agree that there is a need for us to reform this Public Accounts Committee? My sense is that there is a general perception among the Belizean people that there is a need for such reform and the question is - how do we move forward? If the Prime Minister and his government is saying no and that they are happy with the current status and structure of the Public Accounts Committee - there is no need for change, then that will be the end of the debate. But if there is, the objective of the motion, is to put on the table - the need for reform, and we are prepared to work with the government to achieve that reform. The Prime Minister is a very good lawyer, and he has done his research - if he can assist in the process of making this motion better and enhancing the objectives of the motion - we welcome that."

And just as he said he would – at the end of the debate on procedure, the House Speaker ruled that the motion had too many irregularities and omissions to gain passage and so it was defeated before it could be introduced.


Hon. Julius Vows To Fight On “Until He Dies”

After that quite resounding defeat, Espat stomped out of the House – and we thought he was calling it a day. But we found him just outside the chamber, he said he was just taking a break – but he isn’t taking any break on his campaign to bring transparency to public accounts:….

Jules Vasquez
"The motion has been left on the floor- you're leaving the House meeting early?"

Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South
"No no, I'm taking a break."

Jules Vasquez
"You have to be extremely disappointed."

Hon. Julius Espat
"No, it was expected - it is the rule of the majority over the people of Belize that was shown in there and that is the problem."

Jules Vasquez
"If I infer properly into the words of the Leader of the Opposition - your leader - he seemed to have thrown you under the bus, he seemed to have conceded that there were considerable structural flaws and he would like us to find a work around."

Hon. Julius Espat
"The problem Jules is that our country is being run by attorneys and that doesn't solve the problem of the people on the ground. When you go to the criminal courts, and everybody knows that the person is a murderer, the judge knows it, the jury knows it, the defence attorney knows it and the prosecutor knows it and he gets away because of technicalities - it hurts us. This is a clear example of where attorneys are manipulating the system and he said it in there - to make millions of dollars, when in reality the Belizean people are suffering and that is the core of the problem. We don't want to be led by attorneys like Dean Barrow who can manipulate and interpret anything to their advantage - that has to stop. This motion will not go away, I will table it 50,000 times in a different format if I have to - I am willing to die to make sure the Belizean people get what they duly deserve. Our interest is to find out if the money was spent efficiently, or if it reached the end. If that is a demonic or idiotic proposal - then I would like to give them a mirror in that House to see what idiotic and demonic is all about."

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