The Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture has issued a release condemning, in no uncertain terms, a move by elements of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association to register that Association under the Companies Act.
The release states that the unsanctioned move by members is a “blatant attempt to wrestle control of the Association and its assets from the farmers.”
The news broke earlier this week that the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, recognized under the Sugar Industry Act and certified by the Sugar Industry Control Board, had been duly registered under the Companies Act, with five subscribers listed.
The clandestine move has caught the Management of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association completely by surprise.
Ezekiel Cansino, chairman of the BSCFA Board of Directors, told The Reporter that it is a very complicated situation which, even at the level of the Committee of Management, is difficult to understand.
The move to incorporate their association under the Companies Act was done without their knowledge or consent. The directors learned about it after the deed was done.
They have been advised by their attorney, Chris Coye, that the move is illegal and unnecessary because the BSCFA is already recognized under the amendment to the Sugar Industry Act.
Cansino said that they have confirmed that the move was orchestrated by Orange Walk Branch Director, Alfredo Ortega.
Cansino described the move as a power-grab. “It is another move to gain power in management. It is clear that what they are looking for is to break down the administration of the Association.”
Today Alfredo Ortega confirmed that he did support and is still supporting the registration of the BSCFA under the Companies Act, but insists that it is not a takeover.
It is being done only to protect the Association and its assets. Ortega says there is no new company, just the one registered Association.
But who is at the helm of this Association, now registered as a company?
That’s not quite clear at this point. According to Chairman Cansino, “On the registration of this Association under the Companies Act, it is clearly written that an interim committee of management will be taking over the Association, and we were told by the subscribers that they were informed that they could take over the Association.”
There were, at the registration of the company, five subscribers – two Branch Chairmen, two Branch Councillors and one canefarmer.
According to Ortega, “These gentlemen only have to say that they are pleased that the same Committee of Management is managing the Association. And it will be so. If they choose not to say so, then there can be changes.”
Ortega insists that his efforts are not aimed at breaking up the Association, but to strengthen it since it now has legal status and is not just a body certified under the SICB.
Under the new structure of the BSCFA, the general assembly would be given enhanced power to select the Chairman, vice-Chairman and Secretary of the Committee of Management. Currently the management structure is determined by appointment from the branch directors.
So what happens next?
The Ministry of Agriculture has condemned the registration of the Association as a company, and has stated that the SICB will recognize only the Association prior to its registration as a company.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has stated that he will move with dispatch to delist the (new) BSCFA from the Companies Registry. He described the unsolicited and clandestine move as “madness!”
Meanwhile, the Reporter has been able to confirm that at least two of the five persons who registered the company have resigned.
The BSCFA, under the current Committee of Management, has called a general assembly meeting for February 22, 2015 at which the current Committee of Management will ask the general membership to approve reprimands against those involved in the clandestine coup.