The private sector has voted for a national shutdown of all businesses if the Government of Belize does not adhere to several demands in regards to good governance. A Special General Meeting was held last night which saw the participation of one hundred and twenty four members of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BCCI. For the first motion, seventy nine members voted for the shutdown while forty voted against. The second resolution listed on the ballot for members to vote on was to whether or not have Senator Mark Lizarraga participate in the Senate Inquiry into the Special Audit of the Ministry of Immigration and Nationality if it is reconstituted as directed and the Terms of Reference are strengthened. For that poll, eighty two members agreed while thirty seven disagreed. After the meeting we spoke to the President of the BCCI, Nikita Usher.
“It was overwhelmingly supported to give us the mandate for the closure on the governance issue and the senator not to participate in the hearings. You’re dealing with a group that is made up of two parties and definitely that is not an easy task. I’ve always maintained that in the cabinet the Prime Minister is fortunate that he has all his members of his team, in the case of us in the business community we have to try and manage a team that is made up of two parties and I think that we did that quite well today and that the process worked for itself. The mandate from our business community is that the senator is not to participate in the hearing unless we get the changes that we want. Nothing beats a try but we will put forward our changes and if it does not fly then we will not go that way but the mandate is for a business closure if we do not get what we are asking for.”
As you heard, Senator for the Private Sector Mark Lizarraga will not be participating in the Senate Inquiry until the terms of reference are strengthened. Even so, the Chamber will attempt to introduce a motion to make those changes to the terms of reference and composition. Senator Lizarraga explained what the next step is.
“Championing for these same things for perhaps 20 years so I’m just carrying the baton right now. I feel good that the membership tonight were clear, they voted consistent with the results of the poll. In the poll it suggested that if the terms of the special select committee were not to the liking of the members I should not participate and tonight it was obvious that they instructed the chamber to inform its senator that he should not participate in the select committee hearings given the terms and composition so that is my mandate right now, I will not be participating in the hearings if the terms and composition do not change. On the second matter it was consistent with the result of the polls that members were saying if they don’t get the things that they were championing for accountability and transparency that they would have a one day close and that they are in full support of it. We are going to be sending in our draft proposed amendments to the motion that was passed suggesting where we want to see the changes made and proposing the language that we want to see included in the draft, we are going to be sending that to the clerk of the National Assembly soon saying that we would like this motion to be tabled at the next sitting of the senate and hopefully the president will allow those amendments to that motion to to be tabled and to see if the senate would accept the changes. I think the business community has said clearly that they are not satisfied with the terms and the composition of that committee so I have to respect the views and wishes of the business community in that matter and so I will stick at that for now in that the vote tonight was clear, the overwhelming support was that we do not support the present terms and composition of the special select committee and I was instructed by the business community not to attend unless those terms and compositions are changed.”
The Special General Meeting began at about five thirty yesterday evening and ended at around nine o’clock and during the meeting we noticed several members exiting the meeting rooming saying that the meeting was becoming a political circus. Speaking on the meeting was Senator for the Opposition Valerie Woods.
“I do consider that the chamber put out its motion and it was very clear what the motion would be. What is unfortunate is when we try to amend motions it would have created some confusion at the last minute, that is going to happen with any organization. I am very grateful as a member of chamber that we stuck to the original motion and we voted on what was sent out. The truth is in the interest of time everybody gets busy, so when we took the time to look at the poll and we took the time to look at what the motion would have been we came prepared because we did our research on that to amend it on the floor naturally would create some confusion but it’s really a testament I think to the members that participated, they did their homework, they looked at the motion and they voted their conscience.”
During the meeting, members of the Belize National Teachers Union Belize Branch held a vigil at Fort George Memorial Park. Today marked the eight day that teachers are on strike. A meeting between the Council of Management for the BNTU and Prime Minister Dean Barrow is scheduled to take place this afternoon in an effort to break the impasse.