A Sitting of the House of Representatives has been scheduled for Friday, December 8. It is then that parliamentarians who present themselves will either vote yes or no or abstain from voting with regards to the ninety point six million dollar UHS debt owed to the Belize Bank Limited. The CCJ ruled that the Government must pay the bill. The monies must come from the Consolidated Revenue Fund which means that an appropriation bill must be proposed in the House of Representatives for parliamentarians to vote on. Prime Minister Dean Barrow said his government will carry out the ruling of the CCJ, but the outcome of the voting is a different matter. Several organizations have called on the Prime Minister to respect the rule of law and pay Belize Bank Limited. The Belize National Teachers Union, BNTU, is doing the same. We spoke to President of the BNTU, Senator Elena Smith.
Elena Smith, BNTU President
“Let me first say that as BNTU we have been doing some canvassing of our members and some of our executive officers so the position I’m going to share with you right now is what we’ve gotten so far; we still need to consult a little bit more. But BNTU is of the view that while in 2005 we were not supportive of the agreement that was made, we still maintain that position that we feel that the manner in which it was done was not the proper manner and so we stay with that. As it relates to the payment, the judgment that was given we feel as a union that that judgment must be honored, whether the agreement was done unlawfully is another matter. The court has made a decision its given its judgment and so its the highest court that we as a country agree that we would go to if we had cases to go further and so we believe that the rule of law must take effect and so the government then is obligated in our view to pay the debt that is owed.”
“Is the BNTU saying that parliamentarians are obligated to vote ‘yes’ to approve the appropriation bill that must be tabled during the next sitting of the house to approve to approve the payment?”
Elena Smith, BNTU President
“Well as was hinted by the Prime Minister the court cannot mandate or dictate how they vote it would be dependent on as he said voting their conscience. Noting that we as a BNTU we cannot say to them that they must vote a certain way but we can say to them that they must be responsible and whether it is that they do not agree or don’t want to the fact remains that both governments have a hand in this matter. We were initially owing $30 million and then we got an increase of $52 million as it relates to interest and so those persons who were in power during the time when the interest grew are responsible for that portion and those who were before but it is one government so whether it is PUP or UDP its one government. The government made an agreement, the government was given a judgment that we must pay and so I believe that I don’t know how they are going to fix that matter of the agreement but the matter of the judgment is one that we believe that they must do. So I don’t know how that will be addressed, I’m not any legal mind I don’t have any expertise in parliamentary procedures or things of that sort but I’m sure the Prime Minister will find a way to deal with the matter I am hoping he will because he must consider that if we do not pay what is owed interest will continue to accrue and soon it will come to the point where what we owe the bank will be far more than what is in our budget and we can’t afford that.”