The corruption at the Social Investment Fund which resulted in the halting of the Dangriga Market Project has gone unremarked lately. That’s because the issue has been completely overshadowed by the passport and visa scandal implicating not one but two U.D.P. junior ministers. But the people of Dangriga have not lost sight of what has become a public travesty. The market was to have been completed by now, but instead it is just a shell. That’s plenty bad enough, but according to Dangriga Mayor Gilbert Swaso, what’s worse is that there seems to be no real will to get it done. On Friday, Swaso was on the steps of the National Assembly. He told us that Prime Minister Dean Barrow has refused to meet with him.
Gilbert Swaso, Dangriga Mayor
“It is now fifty-five days since the corruption of SIF caused the Dangriga Market to close down. Since that time we have met with the Project Steering Committee of the entire Belize Municipal Development Project at which point they are saying that they will not go outside of the norm, which is the normal process of doing procurement, assessing the market before they then select a new contractor to start the market. That process is the normal process that they would carry out at the beginning of a project. We have continued to indicate to them that the Dangriga project is not a new project but a project that was ongoing and that Dangriga has met all the requirements as stipulated by our contractual agreement and it was SIF that terminated the market and SIF and the government are to seek any recourse to commence the market as early as possible. Since then I have called and written to SIF. I have called and written to the Prime Minister. The letter that was written to the Prime Minister was to have an audience with the Prime Minister and on the seventh of October the Prime Minister responded by a phone call to me indicating that he doesn’t want to see me and he doesn’t even want to meet with me in relation to any issue. At that point when he finished talking I mentioned to him that it is not Gilbert Swaso who wants to meet with him…it is the Mayor of Dangriga to represent the people of Dangriga. And he insisted that he does not want to have an audience with me or see me in any way or form.”
“He told you that in exactly those words?”
“Yes. Exactly those words! That is what he was saying. My point is that it is my humble opinion that as the Prime Minister he should have granted an audience to the Mayor of Dangriga. But in essence my humble opinion is that I was not speaking to the Prime Minister but rather speaking to the leader of the United Democratic Party. That in my opinion is a shame on the Prime Minister and disrespect and disregard to the people of Dangriga.”
Since Swaso didn’t get his desired audience with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, it’s very doubtful that he will get one anytime soon. That’s because on Sunday the P.M. left for Los Angeles where he will undergo surgery for three herniated discs. He will likely be out of office for at least one month.