Prime Minister Caught in Crossfire as BSI/ASR Rejects Sugar Inquiry

Prime Minister Caught in Crossfire as BSI/ASR Rejects Sugar Inquiry

And with BSI/ASR’s denouncement of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), it seems Prime Minister John Briceno is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Yesterday, before the government announced its appointment of the commission, and the approval of the TOR, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association held a fiery press conference calling the Prime Minister a liar and calling on him to immediately approve the COI’s terms of reference. It is a situation that requires a balancing act as the three other cane farmers’ associations do not support the inquiry, and say that it is only geared at satisfying the BSCFA. Meanwhile, the BSCFA is also up in arms, saying that the Prime Minister erred in his comments on the COI when he stated there was a lack of consultation.  The BSCFA is now demanding that the Prime Minister take heed, and appeal the recent court ruling that found portions of the Sugar Export/Import Regulations unconstitutional. The demand by the BSCFA came with a threat, reminding the Prime Minister that they do have a vote in elections.  We asked the Prime Minister if he had gotten around to listening to the BSCFA’s press conference. 

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I don’t listen to them.”

Reporter: Not anymore ? 

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Never did. If there’s one thing I must be grateful for my father he taught me about hard work from when I was a very young boy when I used to work at the cane fields so I’m not phased by hard work but at the same time it’s my passion and it’s something that I love doing to be able to see how we can solve problems and how we can make this country more forward. Every step that I take in my mind I think that I’m doing the right thing as to how we can -. I don’t want to go like in a back and forth with the people from the BSCFA. My father was the leader for many years of the BSCFA and I know the militancy of the BSCFA. But when they get personal it’s best I ignore them. So I’m not going to be in a back and forth. But they do have a right to say what it is they want. Do I agree with them ? Absolutely not. The issue of the commission of inquiry as I pointed out to them back then that we’re going to do it within one month but one month later it came to my attention that there were not consultations with the associations, the other associations and nor with BSI. If we had not done that then that would have gone to court and it wold have been squashed and that’s the very point I was trying to make to the BSCFA. So BSCFA they got what they asked for.”

Now that the COI is being opposed by BSI and the three other northern sugar cane farming groups, the question is whether the COI will even proceed. PM Briceno says the venture is now in limbo and was unable to answer if the move may be dead in the water. 

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well I don’t know because the commission of inquiry we can’t force you to participate and if you’re only going to be listening to one group and we can’t listen to rest of the industry then it is of no use.”

Reporter: Sir the uncertainty won’t be accepted well by the BSCFA.

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “What BSCFA has done was play in the hands of other people and because of thinking emotionally instead of looking at the facts and how is it that we can get this thing done. They have refused to listen so this is the result.”

The Commission of Inquiry is now expected to review the value chain of the sugarcane industry to establish benchmark costs, determine efficiencies, and recommend measures for improvement.

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