In recent months, the Elvin Penner passport scandal followed by the visa hustle, the Castro Airports Authority cheques and the “hotbed of corruption” in the land departments, among others, have shaken the Barrow Administration to its core. And the Prime Minister has been found defending every scandal because of the razor-thin majority in the House. Today, with the same openness that he acknowledged the effect of the scandals on his administration, the Prime Minister also admitted that if it continues unchecked, he may be forced to seek a new mandate from the people, even though it is not something he will accept with relish. And if that happens, says PM Barrow, there is every possibility that his administration would fall.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Every time I take action, as I tell you am sworn to do and as I am telling you I will continue to do, there are political repercussions because of the slimness of the majority. I bear that well in mind as I take the actions that I take. Ultimately if I have to take more actions and it results in two persons or perhaps three persons who are in the House, resigning from the party thus triggering either bye-elections or a general election, I will simply have to do what my duty and conscience tell me I must do and live with the consequences, which will no doubt be a loss of the consequent general elections. I am not going to go there easily as I said, but if I have to, I will go there.”
Prime Minister gets candid on corruption in his administration
The House of Representatives had a full agenda for its special sitting today. It is the second sitting since the start of the new year convened primarily to avoid blacklisting by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. But the big stories tonight take us outside the House where the Prime Minister took questions from the press. We start with what is perhaps one of the weakest moments for the Prime Minister. His administration has been rocked by scandal after scandal, and through it all Prime Minister Dean Barrow has remained stoic. Still embroiled in the immigration scandal, at the start of 2014, the Prime Minister was faced with the Belize Airports Authority cheque scandal, when in defense of his Minister of State, Edmond Castro; he infamously said it was distasteful, but not corrupt. Barrow has weathered it all without discernible fracture in his emotional façade. But today, outside the national assembly, the PM was a rare open book as he acknowledged the terrible toll, that the consecutive scandals, has wreaked on his administration. Barrow says that in the face of it all, he is distraught, not only on a personal level but for his party.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“And there are times when indeed I feel that my troubles are being caused more by the difficulties that the behavior or the actions of some of my ministers, the difficulties that sort of behavior has resulted in. I am very worried indeed because I am absolutely convinced that the government is doing a phenomenal job with respect to the kind of public spending that I have told you about, with respect to the improvement on the quality of life, with respect to employment creation, with respect to the success against crime, with respect to being able to solve the huge issues of the day: ASR, B.S.I., the B.S.C.F.A., the super bond; matters that are extremely weighty and critical in terms of the national interest. And on that basis, I would have felt that notwithstanding the well-known difficulties of anybody trying to get a third term—and which would have to be present in any case—I would have felt that at this early juncture we would have been able to feel pretty good about where we are—delivering goods and services, making sure that people can see tangible improvements. But there is no doubt at all in my mind that the scandals have threatened to swamp us, they have threatened to cause us to come undone and naturally that is a source of great regret because to some extent, it is self-inflicted. I have been personally extremely hurt because I at the top of the pyramid run completely straight and that I believe is well known. But when indeed I have to defend or appear to be defending behavior that is the opposite of straight, my personal credibility takes a great hit.”