Commentary: Time for the Belize Government to Take Back All the Ports Given Away for Nothing

By Wellington C. Ramos

I have never heard of any sane government, except my country Belize, giving away its port facilities and airports to a private business or businesses in this world to operate, because they are needed to secure the nation's national security interest and bring in huge revenues for the country and people.

When the People's United Party was in power under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Said Musa, this was done in 2002 and subsequent years after. Not only were the ports given away but the agreements that were signed are not available to the Belizean people to know the terms of these agreements, as if we are living in a Communist country. One would think that in a democratic country like Belize, agreements of this nature should have been brought to the Cabinet, the House of Representatives and the Senate for approval.

In the first three years of the Dean Barrow administration, I wrote several articles to take back Commerce Bight Pier and return it to the government so the people from my town of Dangriga can benefit by working and going fishing like they have been doing for years to feed their families. Nothing has been done since then and now these same people have the audacity to sue the Belize government for breach of contract.

Commerce Bight Pier is naturally deep and is ideal to build a Coast Guard training facility and conduct other naval operations. This port has been left idle for many years now and all the shipping operations have been transferred to Big Creek Port in Mango Creek, which is about forty miles away from Dangriga Town.

This is now costing the oil and citrus industries more money in transportation to ship their goods out of Belize. They would prefer to ship out of Commerce Bight because it is closer, cheaper and more convenient. The Dangriga residents who used to work at this port have also lost their jobs for all these years. The area where this pier is located has the potential for eco-tourism investments, large motels, hotels, beach resorts, boat and shipbuilding and other investments that can attract tourists to Dangriga Town and provide meaningful employment for the residents.

In the first four years of the Dean Barrow administration, so many lawsuits were brought against the government to try and block government action against monopoly businesses in Belize, supported by the People's United Party who they financed over the years and they came close to winning the last election.

The new representative for Dangriga Town is Anthony Ramos who replaced Arthur Roches, who had promised to return Commerce Bight Pier to the people of Dangriga but was unsuccessful. Ramos also made promises during his election campaign to deliver certain items to our people and Dangriganans are tired of failed promises and no results. The only way to get back this port, all the other port facilities and the Philip Goldson International Airport is to take them away from the businesses in the best interest of the Belizean people and government.

Now that the businesses are taking the government to court after making millions of dollars without paying the agreed fees to the government and people of Belize, it is now time for the government to take back all the ports in the interest of our country and people. Our government must never allow any individual, individuals, business or businesses that do not have our country's best interest at heart to take advantage of us.

The ports were given to them illegally, without the approval of the Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly in Belize, which is in violation of our constitution. Secondly, the ports are part of our national security interest because guns, ammunition, drugs, grenades and other banned contraband items can be brought through these ports as long as they remain under the ownership of private businesses. While we sit and wait in vain, guns and all different types of weapons are being used by our youths to kill our innocent citizens on our streets daily.

Taking back the ports is something Belizeans will be proud of; to make some sense out of all this nonsense that has been taking place for years now.