The Belize City Council today unanimously voted for a new Deputy Mayor. Bernard Pitts Junior has replaced Eric Chang, who has remained out of the country since he left Belize on September third to visit Taiwan. Today, Mayor Darrell Bradley told reporters that Chang’s prolonged absence has impeded the Council’s performance in the area of Works, for which Change was responsible, and Chang’s absence could not any longer be acceptable.
Darrell Bradley, Mayor, Belize City
“The Council voted unanimously to select somebody else as Deputy Mayor particularly because we require that the Deputy Mayor be within the jurisdiction. I asked him to come back, he did not come back. I communicated with him in writing, the seriousness of this; I communicated with him over the telephone, the seriousness of this, he still did not return and so we need to do what is in the best interest of Belize City. I want to make it clear that we are still not been able to make any determination in relation to his involvement apparent or otherwise in relation to the immigration issue; we still don’t have a report, we don’t have him giving an account of what had transpired even to exonerate himself and it’s still unclear as to what we have done and the inquiries that we have made what his involvement is and so we took the line that we require the Deputy Mayor to be in Belize; he collects a salary as Deputy Mayor, he has an office as Deputy Mayor, he holds a very key position in terms of discharging some functions; when I am out of office we need that person to act as Deputy Mayor and it is unsatisfactory that as Mayor, I can’t get an indication from him when he will return. After the meeting I communicated by email to Eric again to advise him as what had transpired and to advise him still that notwithstanding the decision of the council to remove him as Deputy Mayor, he is still an elected official and he owes an obligation to members of the public to return to the jurisdiction as quick as possible.”
Bradley says that while the information received against Chang is reliable, there is no evidence to corroborate that Chang was involved in any wrongdoing and his replacement was based solely on his absence, not on any allegation.
MAYOR DARRELL BRADLEY
“We do not have any concrete evidence in relation to Eric Chang’s involvement in any immigration allegation scandal issue; that is not within the possession of the council. We have had serious and credible reports as it relates to what his involvement is. We made inquiries as to what his involvement is. I raised the allegations with Councilor Chan when we spoke on the phone, he didn’t respond in any kind of way that was substantial or credible. He indicated that the reason for him being outside had nothing to do with this, it was personal, it was owing to family members being taken ill and he had to be where he was. I framed this in the way that we framed it because of that absence that we are taking this decision because we require our Deputy Mayor to be within Belize. I had asked him to return to Belize last week Friday; I did this in writing, I did this via telephone; he has not returned to Belize City and so we take this decision today. “
And while all that exists against Chang at this time are allegations of his involvement in hanky-panky, Bradley says that he hopes that investigations will determine the truth.
MAYOR DARRELL BRADLEY
“Councilor Chang is part of an investigation but his response is not the beginning or the end of that investigation; there are other persons who are inquiring into this matter. I have heard the press statements which have been released including from the police, including from agents in the FIU, including from other regulatory functionaries within this jurisdiction probing into this matter; there is an immigration investigation. So that if he comes back into this jurisdiction, he may make certain statements but that is not the end of it. His role and his explanation is part of our review process but that’s not the whole of it. We have commenced our own review; we take this decision given the considerations that his name was called in this and also primarily because of his prolonged absence and the fact that he has not indicated to me a date when he will return to his jurisdiction. If he told me that, ‘well you gave me by last week Friday; I couldn’t return by last week Friday but let me come back the following Wednesday or let me come back the following Friday?” I am not immune to these kinds of situations. The fact that he could not tell me when he would come back to Belize was troubling.”
Mayor Bradley and Councilor Chang left Belize together on September third and visited Taipei, Taiwan up until September 10th, when they both were scheduled to return. That was before the passport in question was delivered to prison inmate, the person now infamously referred as “Citizen Kim”. Chang remained in Taiwan from that time onwards. Bradley categorically denied having any knowledge of the scandal and “anything that would demean” his office as Mayor, and he would “not support any Councilor doing that”.