Association of Beneficiaries and Retired Public Officers Protests in Belmopan
Members of the Association of Beneficiaries and Retired Public Officers are protesting in Belmopan today while parliamentarians debate the budget. The association wants money held by the Public Service Workers Trust (PSWT). The association says it wants the public service workers’ trust dissolved and beneficiaries compensated in cash. There are beneficiaries of the trust whose salaries and increments were frozen by the government between 1995 and 1997. Giovanna Moguel was in Belmopan today and has the following story.
Giovanna Moguel for Love News: At ten o’clock this morning, just as the members of the House of Representatives were gearing up to commence the three-day budget debate, Members of the Association of Beneficiaries and Retired Public Officers (ABRPO) began filing in front of the House with placards and signs. The purpose was to voice their strong demand for the Government of Belize to dissolve the trust. President of the ABPRO, Hubert Enriquez, explains that while the Government of Belize has agreed to dissolve the trust… they are simply taking too long.
Hubert Enriquez, President, Association of Beneficiaries and Retired Public Officers: “Late last year the Prime Minister did mention that in fact they’re going to take action to dissolve the trust. Now public officers want the trust be dissolved simply because of the fact that we have a trust now but it is not serving the needs of beneficiaries and so people have heard that they get cash instead of giving projects they want their monies to be paid to them in cash as is required by law. And so we’re here today because one we want the trust to be dissolved and we want speedy action because the government has said yes they want to do it but it’s taking too long. I mean the past three month and nothing has happened as far as we’re concerned and even so whilst this matter is taking place the trust is still continuing to operate as normal. And so we fear that in fact if it continues the way it is by the time the matter is resolved there’ll be no funds left in the kitty to be able to pay any level of compensation to most of the deserving public officers who are beneficiaries.”
Giovanna Moguel for Love News: The protesters also called for urgent improved attention by the government to the recommendations made by ABRPO to support the implementation of the government’s decision. The Public Sector Workers’ Trust Fund was established by the Government of Belize in compensation for public sector workers who were affected by the salary increment freeze which was implemented between 1995 and 1997. The Fund was managed by a Board of Trustees and was intended to be for the sole benefit of the affected public sector workers.
Hubert Enriquez, President, Association of Beneficiaries and Retired Public Officers: “We are saying that listen what we want to see happen is that first of all there’s a decision taken by government to take necessary legal action to do so but also to – it will take a while to have the trust finally dissolved but what we want to see happen is that the new trustees named because with the current trustees they will not do what is necessary to have it properly dissolved and so we want new trustees to be named who will be persons named by the beneficiaries because we are the persons who really have suffered this loss. So we want to be involved in overseeing the whole process of the resolution.”
Giovanna Moguel for Love News: The cries of the protestors did not go in vain. About an hour and a half after they commenced, Prime Minister, John Briceño and Minister of the Public Service, Henry Charles Usher, took a break from the debate and addressed the crowd.
John Briceño, Prime Minister: “As you know my position has been from the beginning that we believe that this trust is supposed to be wound up or let us shut it down so that you guys can get your money. You need it, you’ve already retired but unfortunately it is in the courts, it’s in the court of appeal so that’s why the Government would have to wait until it’s done finished that case.”
Giovanna Moguel for Love News: ABRPO has advocated for payment to be made in the money, arguing that any other form of compensation would be like a slap in the face for their long years of hard work. In this exchange between the PM and one of the ABRPO’s members, she pleads for the government’s cooperation so she can receive her money before she inevitably passes away.
Participant, Peaceful Demonstration: “I don’t want to die before I get my little bit of money. I really need my money and I think all of us need it too but I don’t want to close these eyes because I want to use it myself. That’s what I’m talking about okay ? I love you all.”
Giovanna Moguel for Love News: ABRPO’s public protest comes after years of advocacy and lobbying by the Association for the rightful compensation of public sector workers affected by the salary increment freeze. The beneficiaries of the Trust Fund have waited for 27 years, and many of them have since retired, with some even passing away.
It is hoped that the Government of Belize will take urgent action to resolve this long-pending issue and compensate the beneficiaries in a manner that is just and equitable. Giovanna Moguel for Love News.