Faced with growing unease, controversy and outcry over a recently passed Petrocaribe Bill, the Government of Belize has launched a public relations media blitz. The PR initiative is led by UDP legal advisor Michael Young and Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, and it has met with not much success.
The business sector and unions have declared that they do not support the Bill. On Wednesday, the Vision Inspired by the People, VIP, declared that as a Party it is prepared to take to the streets to protest against the Bill. And the People’s United Party is on record as opposing it since it was introduced and pushed through its stages, all in a matter of days.
PUP Deputy Leader and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Julius Espat, has indicated that his Party will continue to fight the Bill in every arena, even though it has already been approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Espat told the Reporter that the Petrocaribe Bill is a response to a claim which he filed in October 2014, on behalf of the Opposition. That claim sought to restrict the government from further spending of Petrocaribe funds, claiming that the drawdown of $114M since 2012 was illegal since it had not gone before the House of Representatives for approval.
The Petrocaribe Bill 2015 seeks to make that claim moot, by stating that “it shall be lawful for the Government of Belize to borrow money from ALBA Petrocaribe (Belize Energy) Limited in any amounts without the prior authorisation of the National Assembly.”
The Bill also states that “No limitations shall apply to the use of the money borrowed from APBEL.”
The Bill has drawn particular criticism from many quarters because it also retroactively legalizes , all the spending which government has done since 2012.
According to Espat, those provisions violate the spirit of the Constitution of Belize, the supreme law of the land.
In an interview this week he sent out a call for support, stating that “Our fight is really a fight to save democracy. When a Prime Minister of a country can go to these levels to pass these draconian laws that are not for the benefit of the Belizean people, then we all have to join together as one – the independent parties, the People’s United Party, the media, the social partners have to come together because this is about the future of the country.”
The Reporter has received information from credible sources which indicate that there will be some form of protest, likely a national demonstration, within the next few weeks.