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March 16
09:24 2019

Major Lloyd Jones (Ret’d)

““You are running a YES campaign and you are in the N.G.O. May I ask who is funding your campaign?”
— Teacher at the BNTU’s ICJ Forum, March 8th 2019

Last October the Barrow Administration recruited, from Havana, the one Assad Shoman to rescue its ICJ mis-education campaign. Mr. Barrow felt compelled to do so because Sedi Elrington had landed the said campaign on the rocks due to his unguided tongue and his growing impatience with the Belizean people.

Assad’s engagement came 30 months after he was thrown off Belize’s Joint Negotiation Team as the PUP’s representative because he disclaimed the very PUP that he was supposed to be representing. A few days after Assad’s firing [April 25, 2016] Mr. Barrow indicated that he would reach out to Assad for his “remunerated services” regarding the Guatemalan issue.

It took Mr. Barrow 30 long months to reach out to Assad because Mr. Barrow still viewed Assad as a PUP even though Assad had denounced the PUP. Mr. Barrow’s hiring of Assad in October of 2018 was therefore not out of love for Assad but merely a matter of expediency. Mr. Barrow needed to rescue his YES campaign and there was only one mercenary on the market!

After 30 months of seeming irrelevance, Assad was clearly eager to demonstrate to Mr. Barrow that his trust was not misplaced and so he hit the ground running. But he soon found himself, as Sedi did, under heavy fire. The heavy fire that Assad encountered was not state sponsored nor was it sponsored by foreign interests; Assad ran into a nascent but solid grass roots resistance.

The Belize Peace Movement [BPM] may have caused Assad to change course but the BPM must not lose sight of the fact that Assad had learnt bitter lessons in 1981 when his Heads of Agreement failed due to heavy grass roots resistance [Lumumba, Socorro, Nuri, Sandra, et. al.]. But in 1981 it was clear to the average Belizean that Assad was in the service of Washington and London. In 2019, having learnt his lesson in 1981, Assad wishes to mask the true identify of his masters. But now, as in 1981, there are patriotic Belizeans who will not allow him to do so!

When Assad arrived last October he began to work with the Referendum Unit which was established by the Barrow administration to prosecute the ICJ “education” campaign. The Referendum Unit was supposed to provide the Belizean people with an education on the ICJ option, not tell them how to vote! However, it became evident, as soon as they left the starting gates, that their mission was to secure, for Mr. Barrow, a YES vote on April 10th.

Mr. Barrow, wanting to appear balanced in his drive to the ICJ also created a Referendum Commission which is supposed to provide broad guidance to the Referendum Unit. However, there are some members of the Referendum Commission who have been clamouring for that Commission to move away from its neutral [on paper only] position. Those people met resistance from a sizeable block of social partners who indicated a reluctance to continue to serve on the Commission if it were to be anything other than neutral. The last attempt to move the Commission to a YES position came at its meeting of January 21st 2019.

Magically, that very same day, Assad sends out a press release announcing the launch of a new organization called Citizens in Defence of Sovereignty [CDS]. Perhaps it was mere coincidence that, when it became clear that due to the objections of the social partners, the Referendum Commission would not authorize the Referendum Unit to run a YES campaign, the CDS was introduced publicly.

The selfsame Assad who, on behalf of the Referendum Unit, was only giving the “facts” is now pushing, through the CDS, for a YES vote using the very same “facts.” If Assad, using the very same presentations and messages he delivered on behalf of the Referendum Unit, is now pushing for a YES vote, what does that say about the true purpose of the Referendum Unit?

Assad’s CDS has proven to the Belizean people what they suspected all along: that the Referendum Unit’s “education” campaign is in fact a poorly disguised YES campaign! The CDS smacks of the now defunct and politically exposed ACB [Association of Concerned Belizeans]. They too professed undying love for Belize and as soon as they achieved their true ends they disappeared: will the CDS be any different?

Interestingly the CDS was only formed on January 4th 2019 as a company limited by guarantee. The subscribers are Assad and his able helper Jordan Craig [who happens to be in the employ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs].

Something interesting is happening here because a few weeks ago when a member of the BPM visited the Companies Registry, he reportedly was informed that no such body exists. There was on record only a “Citizen in Defence of Belize”, which happened to have been registered “long ago.” A few weeks later there is a brand new file at the Companies Registry showing CDS as having been duly registered on January 4th 2019.

If we are to believe the documents in CDS’ company file, Said Musa wrote to the Attorney General on December 21st asking him for a license for CDS to “dispense with the word “limited” from its corporate name.” On January 4th 2019 the Attorney General by way of a letter signed by Francine Burns [Deputy Registrar] approved the request and CDS was registered that very same day. Such great efficiency on the part of the Attorney General, wouldn’t you say? Particularly given the fact that this was all done over the Christmas holidays!

There seems to be something peculiar about Assad’s CDS. At the Belize National Teachers Union’s [BNTU] ICJ forum on March 8th, Assad was asked by a teacher to disclose the source of his funding. Assad was clearly startled, but rather than answer the question he proceeded to make a buffoon of himself. He refused to disclose his financiers but quite bizarrely he promised to do so at a press conference to be held the next day [Saturday] at 5:00 PM. Assad never called his “press conference,” choosing instead to give the middle finger to the Teachers. Assad is clearly afraid to tell the Belizean people which hidden master he serves.

Assad’s CDS is clearly a special purpose vehicle: an entity designed to allow GOB and the Group of Friends to fund the YES campaign whilst appearing to hold a neutral position. A check with the Registrar of NGOs on March 12th revealed that CDS is not a registered NGO although CDS’ press release was cleverly worded so as to give the Belizean people the impression that it is. In fact when the teacher quoted above asked her question Assad did nothing to clarify that CDS is not a NGO!

What CDS is; is a “not for profit” company limited by guarantee. This is an important distinction to make because NGOs have strong statutory oversight which includes a duty to file, on an annual basis, its financial reports. However “non-profit” organizations do not have to disclose this information to anyone. It seems then that Said Musa created for Assad the perfect legal creature to mask his money trail!

Assad and Said might think that they one-upped the Belizean people but Assad should be mindful of the Money Laundering Act and he should guide the financial affairs of the CDS accordingly because November 2020 is nigh.

On February 28th 2019 the PUP’s Western Caucus demanded that the Barrow Administration clarified its relationship with the CDS particularly as it relates to the financial support it has been receiving. However, neither the GOB nor the CDS has found it necessary to shed any light on the nature of their relationship.

The PUP, in support of the Western Caucus, should put on record that it would launch a rigorous and thorough investigation into the CDS and its sources of financing when next it comes to office! The investigation should in particular seek to determine, if any and if so, which entity [foreign or domestic] was seeking to influence the outcome of Belize’s ICJ referendum by funding the operations of the CDS!

In 1981 Assad came with the Heads of Agreement. In 2019 he comes with the CDS and the ICJ. As he was in 1981 so is he in 2019!

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