Attorney Demands Response from PM Briceno on Ignored Correspondence
Attorney for Waterloo Investment Holdings Limited, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, has written to Prime Minister John Briceno, demanding a response on several correspondence that have gone ignored by his administration. The letter, dated Friday, June 16, explains that on several occasions Waterloo has written to the Government requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act. On January 23, 2023, Waterloo wrote to Cabinet Secretary, Stuart Leslie, requesting access to copies of Minutes of all cabinet meetings at which any of the intended developments proposed by our Client, Portico or Stake bank were considered and or discussed. On January 17, 2023, a letter was also sent to CEO Kenrick Williams, requesting copies of the minutes of the NEAC meetings that approved and granted Stake Bank Environmental Compliance Plans on September 19, 2013, April 23, 2015 and September 7, 2017, respectively. That very same letter required several other documents, but has also admitted that they were provided with their initial request regarding a meeting of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee. A third letter was sent on February 3, 2023 to Prime Minister Briceno, regarding the Blue Bond Agreement. That request for the name of each adviser, special adviser, attorney or other firm or professional who was paid a fee, commission or payment of any kind whatsoever by or on behalf of the Government of Belize in relation to the negotiations relating to and leading to the execution of the Agreements and how much each such firm or professional was paid. There was another letter dated February 9, 2023, where Waterloo requested answers from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Orlando Habet. The responses they sought were to ascertain whether the Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye Projects indeed each received ECPs which included permission to construct causeways, and to determine what the circumstances were surrounding Alegria’s departure as Chief Environmental Officer. In that letter, they also asked for several documents relating to the Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye Projects developed by Stake Bank Enterprises Ltd and or its Affiliates, as well as the Ocean View Grand Development on North Drowned Caye. There was another request made for the minutes of all National Environmental Appraisal Committee (“NEAC”) meetings relating to Waterloo’s proposed cruise port terminal and cargo expansion project near Caesar Ridge Road, Port Loyola, Belize City. On the reported backdrop that all these requests have gone unanswered, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, wrote, quote, “I am obliged to point out that this adamant refusal by your government’s relevant officials to respond to our Client’s requests for information under the Act highlights the unfair treatment our Client is being subjected to by the Government of Belize and will be relied upon as a ground in support of our Client’s subsidiary companies’ claim under the UK BIT Treaty of 1982. We draw your attention to section 21 of the Act which provides that it is an offence against discipline for a public officer to ignore a request under the Act without cause and therefore renew our request that the appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against those officers who have failed to address our Client’s requests … if you do not ensure that the relevant officials respond to our Client’s FOIA requests or to cause disciplinary action to be brought against those who refuse, our instructions are to seek an order of mandamus from the High Court compelling you to cause them to be disciplined under the Act.” End of quote. With that, Prime Minister Briceno was informed that this letter is a pre-action warning that judicial review proceedings will be sought if nothing is done to remedy the situation.