Leader of the opposition, John Briceno has responded to yesterday’s letter from the Prime Minister accusing of personal attacks. Briceno’s letter opens with the statement, quote, “Most of your letter was, as usual, full of personal attacks and big words which by now I would have thought you would have realized impresses no one but the person you see in the mirror. Your response for a man who holds the office of Prime Minister is a disservice to the people of Belize.” End of quote. Briceno continues, quote, “you deliberately sought to paint a picture that is divorced from reality. Let me remind you of historical facts rather than fantasy. First, the People’s United Party did not support your 21 Supplementary Appropriation Bills. They were passed with the votes of the Government side only. The truth is that the PUP decried the fact that you provided no disclosure of the underlying expenditures, and we strongly criticized you for bringing the Bills after you had unlawfully spent the monies. The fact is, even if you do not wish to accept it, that social partners also complained bitterly, and continue to demand full transparency. Other points were brought out in Briceno’s letter regarding transparency and accountability which we will flesh out for you in our evening news. For now, we can tell you that Briceno struck back at the Prime Minister’s checkmate by telling him that he will have to comply. Briceno wrote, quote, “It was not lost on me that in your very long letter, you did not deny that you violated the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act. I remind you that it is a criminal offense to violate the provisions of the Act. The ugly truth is that in all your diatribe, the fact remains that you have become the very thing you swore not to tolerate. You, Mr. Prime Minister, are the greatest hypocrite of them all. Less pride and more humility would have better served the people and the country. Lest you have convinced yourself otherwise, I repeat each and every demand that I made in my letter. My Party will not rest until you have complied.” End of quote.
Now to give you the backdrop to this letter from the Leader of the Opposition; Briceno first sent a letter to the PM on Friday, February 14 telling him that the PUP will vigorously oppose any proposed amendment to validate the Government’s illegality Briceno went on to state that before any such Bill should be tabled in the House of Representatives, the PUP will insist that there be a Commission of Inquiry into the scandal and a forensic audit into this unconstitutional expenditure. It is a major declaration by the PUP since the Barrow administration will need their support in carrying out the Chief Justice’s ruling to have the constitution amended to accommodate the supplementary budgets that went without the approval of the House of Representatives. Interestingly, Briceno copied several agencies in the letter name, the InterAmerican Development Bank; the Caribbean Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, OEPC Fund, the European Union, the Republic of China on Taiwan and the Diplomatic Corps. Late yesterday evening, a response to Briceno came from the Prime Minister and from its content, it is safe to say that the PM was not pleased in the least. The Prime Minister has called the PUP outrageous hypocrites and frauds ever known in the modern politics and governance of our country. As it relates to the supplementary bills, the PM wrote, quote, “One of the principal points in your screed of a letter, is the unbelievably self-righteous rant about the so-called illegality of Supplementary Appropriations. I point out that all Supplementary Appropriations were fully debated and overwhelmingly approved by Parliament during my tenure as Minister of Finance. Your pretend anger in this regard is a nauseating example of the patent and knowing falsity of your position.” End of quote. As we noted, Briceno made sure to copy multiple financial agencies in his February 14 letter. Again the PM was not pleased as he wrote, quote, “As I went through your letter and its tissue of transparent innuendos and falsehoods, its whited sepulcher nature, I was especially struck by something. And it is the unfathomable effrontery and gall of your sending your jeremiad to the International Financial Institutions. After all, it is a shameful historical fact that the World Bank had by 2007 officially terminated all lending, cut off all cooperation with Belize under your People’s United Party. This happened, the Bank made clear, because of the PUP’s serial misdeeds and utter lack of transparency and accountability regarding WB funds. It was left to my Administration and its good faith performance to restore the lending program with the World Bank. That program is even now continuing and only a couple of months ago two new projects were approved for financing.” End of quote. In the end, all this back and forth are just words because the PM will need the PUP to support his amendments to the constitution. According to the Prime Minister, and we quote, “For the avoidance of any doubt I make the following clear to you. My Administration considers the Chief Justice’s ruling entirely unsatisfactory, not least because there is as yet no reasoned, written judgment produced. We intend to appeal and seek a stay and there is, in any event, the Chief Justice’s own 6-month suspension of his injunction. We, therefore, have no intention of seeking any Constitutional amendment any time soon. It, therefore, follows that your attempt to lay down conditions for any cooperation you might consider giving the UDP is merely another empty charade. If you actually meant to be taken seriously, I tell you now that-no doubt fittingly-you are on a fool’s errand.” End of quote. This is a developing and fluid situation which our newsroom continues to monitor.