The term, conflict of interest is described as a situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest. This term has been frequently used recently by the Government and the main opposition with the Barrow administration claiming that Senator Eamon Courtenay is engaged in a conflict of interest as a legislator and an attorney for Lord Michael Ashcroft. Today, we asked Lead Senator for Government Business, Godwin Hulse to weigh in on the issue of conflict of interest.
“Let me start by saying that when there was the proposal and the motion for a senate investigation the honorable gentleman got up and gave a long ______ on the fact that I should recluse myself from the voting because it was a conflict of interest and he cited section 121 of the constitution which says that you should not put yourself in a position where there could be such a conflict and A said to place themselves in a position in which they have or could have a conflict of interest, B to compromise the fair exercise of their public or official functions and duties and then he continued to say that by voting I would be in a conflict position. I assured the senate that I would not participate in the debate but I would vote because I could not see any conflict. To have a conflict of interest you have to define what your interest is. My interest was to have a senate investigation no ifs buts or maybes. My interest was to ensure that that was done within the structure of the law which required two persons from my side of the senate. As history has shown and time has shown I voted yes the committee was constituted and they serve on the committee and it is going well so history if you like has exonerated me with respect to that interest. But I go further and this is absolutely important, you could never know my interest if you didn’t give me an opportunity to express that interest and the only way I could express that interest is by voting. If I voted no then you can say I had no interest in the investigations, by voting yes it was clear that I had an interest so that is the first thing. Second case is last senate, the very bills that were passed to protect the assets of Belize, of the Central Bank really; the Honorable Gentleman got up and said who is defending Belize who stands in the defense of Belize and he called me out because prior to the 2008 election my name as Godwin Hulse I placed on a challenge to some of these same issues, I won’t go into the details, at the supreme court and subsequently. After the election I discontinued he asked why, legal costs are expensive and this was not chamber paying this was Godwin Hulse. I was standing up for the people of Belize, I was standing up in defense of the people of Belize. I site those two things because these are his words. At the last sitting where the two bills were I discussed there was a resounding yes in support by all members of the senate there was a division called for and everybody said yes, including of course senator Courtney. He not only said yes he stood up and gave his position. In giving his position however he did say that the law could affect him professionally and privately and he also cited that it could be unconstitutional. In calling for the vote I rose to say I am not going to get into the legal dabbles but I know that as per the constitution and he said could be unconstitutional because it intends to correct something that has already happened, my response to that is that parliament can make bills with retrospective effect and I sited the section; matter closed.”
Love News asked Senator Hulse to simplify the matter and indicate whether there is indeed a conflict of interest surrounding Senator Eamon Courtenay.
“So now you ask me if there is a conflict on his part and this is what I’m saying; lets define what his interest is. His interest and all our interest as a senator and a law maker and part of the legal section of government our interest is to make laws for the peace and wellbeing and good governance of Belize that is our interest, We are paid, all of us are paid to do that including the good gentleman. In our private interest then there should be no conflict with those laws and if there is a conflict we should declare that conflict so let’s try to examine that a little bit, you said for the lay men. He voted for a bill to become a law to protect the assets of the Central Bank in foreign banks that is in the interest of all Belizeans. He has said clearly he hasn’t changed that position, I understand that he is saying however that the bill affects his interests as an attorney and his right and his constitutional right to represent a client that is what I am understanding and I trust I got it right. The problem I have with that is that the bill does embody penalties to prevent you from doing that that is the mechanism being employed that is the mechanism being used to prevent anybody from trying to help anybody in any to get at our Central Bank assets that is the gist of the bill. So if you are going to challenge that then the bill has no weight, no meaning, no standing because you cannot say I support that nobody challenges but there is no penalty if anybody challenges because people will challenge.”
Senator Hulse went even further to explain what transpired in the Senate when the Central Bank of Belize International Immunities Act 2017 and the amendment to Chapter 167 of the Crown Proceedings Act 2017 were brought before the Senate.
Senator Courtenay remains steadfast in his position that there is no conflict of interest while the Leader of the Opposition has expressed full support for Courtenay.