Serious allegations have been made in print and television media in Belize in respect of grant funds provided by the Oak Foundation to UNIBAM.

In the Amandala of July 21, 2013, at pages 15 and 30, in a column entitled “Right to the Point”, the columnist states that “that the monetary donation UNIBAM received from a certain foundation came through the Oceana account and was written on an Oceana cheque.” She goes on to state that Oceana was “ the means via which the said foundation siphoned their money to them.” The columnist then goes on to say that “Maybe I should publish a copy of the cheque.”

On Monday, July 22, 2013, on the Rise and Shine Show on Plus TV, Louis Wade Jr. referred to these allegations as a “powerful revelation”. He went on to state that according to the Amandala guest columnist, “money for UNIBAM came through Oceana.” He then went on to say that “the money from Oak Foundation did not go directly to UNIBAM, they did not want it to be tracked… the money was laundered, washed, sidetracked through Oceana.” He also says that “the Oak Foundation under the leadership of Imani Fairweather” “channeled the money to Oceana as a legitimate reef issue and then channeled the money to UNIBAM.”

In both media pieces, the innuendo is that the process by which grant monies given to UNIBAM by the Oak Foundation via a re-grant from Oceana was done in a clandestine and nefarious manner. Such suggestions are insulting and reprehensible. UNIBAM would not usually respond to such outlandish allegations but values its partnership with both the Oak Foundation and with Oceana and cannot allow these claims to go unchallenged.

The Oak Foundation made a small grant to UNIBAM through Oceana Belize with the full knowledge and co-operation of its Vice President in Belize. Such a practice is not unusual where the recipient group and funding amount is small and the cost of processing and transfer of funds too onerous. We are assured that in the same re-granting process via Oceana, funds were also given to other organizations in Belize such as Haven House, a shelter for women, Alumni 90, a group supporting infrastructure upgrades at the Belmopan Comprehensive School and UBAD Foundation to support radio broadcast during Reef Week. It is ironic that the Vice President of Oceana in Belize did not see fit to mention that detail. detail.

For anyone, particularly one with access to full disclosure of the matter, to characterize such a regranting process which was facilitated by Oceana Belize in a transparent manner as “siphoning” or as “laundering” or “washing” is irresponsible, scandalous and disingenuous. UNIBAM is pleased to be able to have the support of Oak Foundation, an organization with a solid track record of funding human rights issues worldwide. We are also satisfied with the assurances that Oceana International has provided our Board of Directors that “Oceana has a strict non-discrimination policy in regards to sexual orientation as well as race religion and sexual orientations”. We are grateful for their kind courtesy in facilitating the re-granting of funds to our organization as well as to other organizations in Belize.

In the zeal to put forward another point of view on any issue, which is a democratic and fundamental right guaranteed under our Constitution, truth and fact must not fall prey to distortion and misrepresentation.