Today the House of Representatives met in Belmopan, but, not to vote on the ninety million dollar UHS debt. That sitting has yet to be called and the Belize Bank Limited is determined to collect what is owed. Courtenay Coye LLP Law firm has written to the Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, on behalf of the Belize Bank Limited. In the letter, Belize Bank asserts that after the 21 days of the CCJ ruling, GOB is expected to cough up the ninety million dollars. The letter also speaks of comments made by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his cabinet colleagues with regards to the CCJ ruling. The CCJ ordered that the Government pay the debt using monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. For monies to be used from that Fund, parliament must approve it, which means that it must be taken to the House for the elected officials to vote on. How that turns out is a totally different matter. The Bank says that the comments made by some UDP Ministers can be interpreted as contempt of court, so today the media had the opportunity to ask PM Barrow about it.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I am very much aware of what I said and I was aware when I was saying what I said so I dismiss that out of hand, certainly with respect to myself. In terms of his saying to the attorney general that he wants matters dealt with as soon as it comes up with the certificate, I am repeating matters will be dealt with, not in the way he wants. There is clearly not going to be any payment unless and until the house votes to appropriate the money. He and Allen and Overy can holler until the cows come home I am satisfied that the state of the law, the state of our constitutional and statutory arrangements is such that that money cannot be paid, cannot be extracted from the consolidated revenue fund unless and until parliament votes to so appropriate it. So what Courtney is suggesting is that as soon as he gets his certificate and he sends it the money is to be paid, that will not happen. Cannot happen in my view, you can’t go higher than the constitution but you look at the finance and audit act I can’t, no warrant can be issued for money to come out of the consolidated revenue fund except by way of a vote of parliament. It may be that there area headings from the annual appropriations act under which certain things can come; this is not one such. So there is no doubt in my mind that depending on how parliament goes we clearly will be back in court — and I will say nothing about that.”
Several entities have expressed that the Government should pay the debt as ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice. While the National Trade Union Congress of Belize has said that the Government must obey the court ruling, the umbrella union also said that payments should be made in installments.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Well the NTUCB said the money should be paid in installments whether, in fact, that is possible by way of the vote of parliament is another matter but I have as I made clear to the Chamber of Commerce, I do not quarrel with those people who hold the opinion that the money should be paid how can I quarrel with them the fact is that in the normal course of the court ought to be paid so that’s not an issue but the NTUCB went on to say while it is their view the money should be paid in installments but pay it that there ought to be some kind of an inquiry as to how we got here and I think they are focusing on the issue that most sticks in the craw of Belizeans how we got here with nothing to show for it. I don’t want it appropriate Minister Boots’ famous line that there is not even a blue pill to show; I don’t quite understand the significance of the color blue in that regard but there are those who probably know better than I do but that’s the thing with the NTUCB; I thought their resolution could not be quarreled with in the least. We are quite clear that the monies have to be voted by parliament, there are all sorts of arguments with the other side as to whether parliament’s vote in a certain way is obligatory we’ve announced to you and the world that once we get the certificate we will come to parliament with the supplementary allocations. I don’t see that there is any risk that if we take a couple of weeks before we, in fact, summon the meeting that that could be misinterpreted as a desire or determination on our part not to call the meeting at all– the meeting will be called.”
Barrow said that he does not foresee the matter being brought to the house later than January 2018.