Citco in disarray! Dirty laundry exposedFriday, 29 August 2008
By Lisbeth Ayuso
The United Democratic Party (U.D.P.) which is just seven months into its term as government and with seven months to go before it faces the nation again in the March 2009 municipal elections, is today facing one of its most serious internal challenges.
Its leader and Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, left the country on Wednesday on personal business and senior executives, including ministers have chosen to keep quiet about the entire ordeal.
Tension inside the U.D.P. and the Belize City Council, which has been brewing for weeks now, took a turn for the worse this week when garbage collectors, the city administrator and even a U.D.P. Senator, went head to head publicly with City Mayor, Zenaida Moya.
The embattled mayor was picketed on Tuesday morning, when a several Belize Waste Control (B.W.C.) workers, took to the streets and protested in front of City Hall.
The mayor was in Belmopan that morning lobbying central government to hand over a $250,000 cheque she desperately needed to meet payment for garbage collection carried out by B.W.C.
The workers claim were not paid for a month because the Council had failed to pay the company.
The protest that day opened a version of Pandora’s Box at City Hall and by the following day Wednesday, it was the City Administrator, Englebert Perrera’s, turn to tongue lash the Mayor.
The Mayor had blamed Perrera for the B.W.C. workers’ protest in front of her office.
She said it was politically orchestrated from within her own council and indicated that it was because of Perrera’s refusal to sign a check, that the B.W.C. employees went after her.
Perrera, who did not take the mayor’s allegations lightly, took his case to the media and told the nation that he refused to sign the check because he was advised by the Council’s local bank that there were no funds in the Council’s bank account, making a signed check worthless.
The public squabble got nastier on Wednesday when Perrera called the Fus Ting da Mawning show on WAVE Radio, the United Democratic Party’s (U.D.P.) mouthpiece, to tell his part of the story.
Perrera in his telephone call to the radio station, made it known that it was the Mayor and her fianc? who had gone into his office at City Hall to try to put pressure on him to sign the check for B.W.C. In the interest of honesty and transparency, Perrera said, he refused to do so, since the funds were not available.
But Mayor Moya disputed that piece of information in a call to the show later that morning. She claimed the money had been secured and placed in the Council’s account.
Thimbriel allowed the Mayor to give her explanation and then suggested that she should get her act together, as she (Thimbriel) had been receiving numerous calls complaining about the Mayor, and the way she performed her duties.
Mayor Moya calmly addressed Thimbriel’s concerns but Thimbriel became angrier as the conversation progressed and then berated the Mayor for what she described as “a number of things” that she should attend to. Thimbriel’s on-air squabble with Moya eventually led to the Senator’s resignation.
This latest explosion of words comes only a week after Councillor Mark King publicly accused the Mayor of questionable practices. Among them the rental of heavy-duty machinery between her brother and the Council as well as a garbage clearance agreement between Minister Edmund Castro’s wife and City Hall.
In a press conference called by the Mayor, she produced documents that seemed to repel the rumors of financial wrongdoing and explained her actions in regard to Mrs. Castro and her brother.
The week before that, the Mayor openly admitted that the Belize City Council had a cash flow problem and revealed that the tourism head tax on which the City Council relies, had not been paid for months.
The Belize Tourist Board responded to Moya’s revelation by stating that her financial reports were not up to scratch, and because of that, had withheld the funds. In the end, a partial payment was made, which enabled the City Council to carry on.
The innuendos and undermining all seem to be pointed at the Mayor. As Councillors and Ministers jockey to endorse their mayoral favorites, fingers are being pointed in every direction and the dirty laundry has been piling up in the public’s eyes.
Fully aware of what is going on, but helpless to stop it, the party’s Central Executive has been working at damage control by binding all Councillors and City Council employees to keep quiet by taking an Oath of Allegiance.
The oath binds those who subscribe, to restrain from discussing internal party matters with the media, says Minister Anthony “Boots” Martinez.
Not wishing to comment on the politically charged atmosphere surrounding City Hall, he did express regret at Senator Thimbriel’s resignation.
“Without knowing, I am sorrowful for the party. I spoke to her this morning and I asked her to re-consider. I think she is excellent for the job, for the party. I wish she didn’t resign.”
Ms. Thimbriel did not wish to comment on her resignation but did say she is taking “a couple weeks” off as personal time.
In the midst of all this, the Association of Concerned Belizeans has called on the Belize City Council and all other municipal bodies to immediately prepare and present to the public the audited financials for their respective municipalities, in the interest of transparency and accountability.
The Mayor has said in the past that she welcomes an audit and confirmed to Reporter that she has already requested one. “It will be made available to the public as soon as it is ready,” said Moya.
Ministers of government, Councillors, and party administrators the Reporter tried to call, would not comment or simply chose not to return our calls.
One thing seems clear however. The internal strife within the City Council has rocked the party and could do structural damage as well, if this cut-throat infighting continues.http://www.reporter.bz/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=2992&Itemid=2