“Avarice cripples virtue and lies in ambush for honesty.”
- pg. 205, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas, by Maya Angelou, Bantam Books, New York, 1976
Three attorneys who are on Lord Michael Ashcroft’s payroll began a public quarrel last week about who was loyal to Belize and who was not. It was very difficult for the masses of the Belizean people to take these fussing attorneys seriously, because they have a personal history of friendship, apart from the common denominator of Lord Ashcroft’s checks.
On the UDP/Telemedia side was Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and his antagonists on the SpeedNet/Ashcroft/Briceño/PUP side were Godfrey Smith and Eamon Courtenay. Smith began the practice of law in the 1990’s as an attorney in the P.M.’s Barrow & Williams law firm, while it is known to all and sundry in The Club that Eamon Courtenay and the P.M.’s trusted younger brother, Denys, are the very closest of friends, so much so that they used to host a television show together.
Now, before we proceed, let us consider the high probability that lawyers in Belize think that we, the people, are envious of their wealth, privilege and power. That is how they have been accounting for all our criticisms with respect to their ethics, their politics and their tricks – jealousy, rank jealousy.
Well, suppose that that is even and indeed the case, that we are green with envy, the fact remains that Barrow, Smith and Courtenay are all on Lord Ashcroft’s payroll, and have been for years and years. Since he became Prime Minister, Mr. Barrow receives his Ashcroft money indirectly, from the Barrow & Williams law firm by way of the Belize Bank, but receive it he does.
You must understand this about Lord Ashcroft – all he cares about is money, and he believes that money is all the lawyers and politicians are about, so that is what he uses to influence and even control them. You cannot say you are independent of Lord Ashcroft if you are depositing his checks.
In last weekend’s issue of the Said Musa/Ralph Fonseca newspaper, the editorialist said that we at Kremandala inveigh against Lord Ashcroft because we owe him money and do not want to pay him. This is a deliberate and outright lie, but we must respond in the context of the present discourse.
We had diligently avoided Lord Ashcroft’s financial claws until the Belize Bank loaned KREM Radio $75,000 in 1994. That loan was secured by Evan X Hyde, who repaid the loan over a period of years through advertisements in Amandala, Belize’s leading newspaper, for Lord Ashcroft’s several businesses.
The hook in the 1994 loan bait was an accompanying demand that Evan X Hyde sell a shadowy entity by the name of Sagis Investments, 10 per cent of KREM Radio for the price of $25,000, a price specified by the Sagis lawyers. This matter ended up in the Supreme Court of Belize 14 years later. The learned Chief Justice, Dr. Abdulai Conteh, ruled that KREM Radio should return the $25,000 to Sagis, plus pay interest accrued over the 14 years. The total amounted to $45,000 plus. KREM Radio proffered a check for same to Lord Ashcroft’s lawyers, the said Godfrey Smith and Elson Kaseke, who outright refused it. In the case of KREM Radio, what Lord Ashcroft wanted, quite uncharacteristically, was not money: he wanted shares so he could get inside of the Zinc Fence.
Ashcroft, Sagis, and all their attorneys both Belizean and British, took the matter to the Court of Appeal, where two out of three Justices ruled in their favor and ordered KREM Radio to prepare a share certificate for ten per cent in Sagis’ favor. Unable to afford the Privy Council, KREM Radio complied.
The point we wish to make is this. The lawyer/politicians do not have any philosophical compunction, as does Kremandala, about allowing British bankers to enter their governments and subsidize their law firms. Kremandala does have such a philosophical compunction, and even with that, Lord Ashcroft forced his way inside the Fence. Those lawyers who do professional work for Lord Ashcroft are hardly sinners so to do. When they begin to point fingers at each other, however, motes must absolutely be cleared out of eyes and sins must absolutely be washed clean in the public confessional before stones are thrown.
We are neither friendly to Smith and Courtenay nor are we hostile to Prime Minister Barrow. This is just a case where facts are stubborn things, really stubborn.