By Marion Ali
The People’s United Party (PUP) this week released 10 pages of a document, which it described as a “secret agreement” that Dean Barrow, in his capacity as Prime Minister, signed with Fortis as part of the government’s overall settlement to rcquire Belize Electricity Limited.
For his part, PM Barrow reduced the latest allegation to be nothing more than an attempt by the opposition to gain political momentum.
At a PUP press conference on Tuesday, former PUP Senators Lisa Shoman and Anthony Sylvestre, outlined the reasons why their party is convinced that the document – a Deed of Confirmation and Assurance – is a secret deal.
The document, which originated from the Ministry of Finance, bears Dean Barrow’s and his brother, Denys Barrow’s, signatures.
Shoman explained: “As part of the settlement to the legal challenge to the constitutionality of the expropriation and nationalization of the shares of BEL, the PM bound the government and the people of Belize by this deed, this written instrument that is signed, sealed and delivered to Barrow’s own version of the much vilified Accommodation Agreement. But this time going much further and guaranteeing a rate of return to BECOL and Fortis for electricity supplied by its own hydroelectric facility in Belize for a remaining term of the power purchase agreement for another 20 years or so.”
What the document effectively does, Shoman laments, is tie the hands of the PUC and the Court, committing the government to indemnify BECOL against any losses. She pointed to clause 2.2 of the document, which states in essence that BECOL will be allowed to carry on business in Belize “without interference and, pursuant to the terms of existing agreements relating to the operation and management of the Mollejon and Chalillo, Vaca hydroelectric facilities, including those provisions fixing the rates to be paid by BEL for electricity supplied by these facilities.”
But Barrow, who the media sought out an hour later to explain, started off by saying he disclosed the entire agreement when he presented the Electricity Acquisition Settlement Bill in the House Meeting (of September 2, 2015). He then argued that the agreement with Fortis is nothing different from any other agreement of this nature. As he put it, it is “par for the course”, or the norm.
“Every single document related to that settlement with Fortis was disclosed at the time of the settlement – was attached to the Bill that we took to the House to legislate the settlement … and what they describe as concessions or facilitations – each particular item was thoroughly discussed in the debate that took place at the time we passed the law.
Business Senator Mark Lizarraga publicly contradicted that statement this week, claiming that the pages which have now surfaced were never included in the packages provided to Senators for perusal. Lizarraga also noted that the Senate meeting was on September 4th, and the new pages of the document released was signed by Barrow and his brother, Denys Barrow as witness on September 8th – days after the House and Senate meeting. He said this is a classic example of the government not presenting documents in their entirety for proper perusal and ventilation in House and Senate matters – an issue they have lobbied against for years.
Barrow explained this week that the documents simply underscored the fact that the government was not after BECOL.
Point four of the document states: “The Government shall, at its own cost and expense, execute and so (or procure to be executed and done by any other necessary party) all such deeds, documents, acts and things as BECOL and/or Fortis may from time to time require in order to give full effect to this Deed and shall procure the convening of all meetings,
(Con’td on pg. 47) )