Earlier this year the People’s United Party presented its Shadow Cabinet. The Shadow Cabinet is a list of representatives from the opposition who would be keeping a close watch on specific ministries of Government in an effort to demand accountability and transparency. Yesterday Love News spoke with Area Representative, Cordel Hyde who holds the shadow Cabinet portfolio for Natural Resources, Petroleum and Poverty Alleviation. Aside from speaking of another land scandal that is about to be revealed, Hyde spoke about the huge amounts paid in land compensation, saying that the names of the persons compensated need to be revealed as well as the amount they collected.
“We need to know who all got that money, and for what purpose, we need to know the circumstances behind the distribution of that money because the truth of the matter is that that is an extremely high figure and it’s scary when you consider that when the government of Belize came into power in 2008 the government of Belize owed $70 million for land compensation payments, now the numbers showed that they paid $70 million over eight years so you would think that at the end of that period you would owe pretty little or nothing. They are saying that we owe over $100 million for land compensation payments after we’ve already paid out $70 million dollars. We need to know where the heck that money went and to whom and we need to demand back that money. The government wants us to be content with them saying that they are investigating this, with all due respect to the present Minister of Land and I have no reason to doubt her integrity but the government can’t investigate itself, we saw that already with the honorable Hulse with the shenanigans at the Immigration Department, there was an internal investigation, we were told that everything was all well and honky dorey and they sorted it out, they came with some new provisions and made it even harder for ordinary honest Belizeans to get those kinds of papers and then the audit report came out and we saw 700 pages of unadulterated corruption.”
Hyde went on to assert that the Government ministers are aware of the scams going on within the Lands Department as he made reference to a statement made by former Lands Minister, Godwin Hulse. Adding to that, Hyde says the Prime Minister was disingenuous in a recent press conference when he was questioned about the oversight of land compensation.
“He knew of these kinds of land compensation that some of them were brought to his attention and in his words, they are scams, he conceded that there was a fleecing of the public funds and so it begs the question why didn’t he tell the Prime Minister from then what was happening and if he did why didn’t the Prime Minister act until now, why did he have to wait for us to be overwhelmed with this kind of shadiness and this kind of evidence forcing him to act, why didn’t it happen before ? But there is greater consideration too because the Prime Minister in his press conference some time ago that he doesn’t know what’s happening at the Ministry of Natural Resources, he doesn’t work there, annually they transfer the allocation for land compensation payments and that is the end of that for the Ministry of Finance but the financial secretary in an interview a couple weeks after said something quite contradictory and different. The financial secretary said that the list of claimants for land compensation claimants were taken to cabinet along with the amounts that were paid out and the outstanding amounts he went further and said that cabinet then decides the amounts to be paid. In other words cabinet knew all about the land compensation payments, they knew to whom the payments were made and they knew the amounts and if cabinet knows all about the land compensation payments, to whom they were paid and the amounts then it means that the Prime Minister knew, it means a lot of people sat around that table and never asked any questions even as Andre Vega was getting $400,000 and Sharon Pitts was getting $400,000 and Ran J limited was getting $1 million nobody bothered to ask what these people were getting these kinds of money for, how they could be so lucky, how could such good fortune befall them nobody bothered to ask and that is scary because the $70 million is a lot of money.”
With both the PUP and the current Government having won back to back political victories in recent history, Love News asked Hyde how does the current situation compare to what transpired under the PUP’s Musa administration.
“When you compare what the PUP spent in Land Compensation payments over their ten years in government PUP spent something like $35 million dollars, they doubled that in less years and in just two years, in the election years of 2012 and 2015 the government of Belize paid out $30 million dollars in land compensation permits, almost as much as the PUP spent in ten years, what happened there? In fact last year alone they spent $20 million dollars in just six months because in that press conference the government had the CEO for the lands department said that she suspected that things weren’t going right and so she suspended the land compensation payments and I assume it’s after the house was dissolved and the Honorable Minister of Natural Resources at the time didn’t have the authority to direct the traffic in the lands department, that is $20 million in six months. Where did that money go we need to know, the people of Belize need to know how that money was spent.”
In a press conference held in October with the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, Vanessa Retreage who is also current Minister for Lands, it was noted that an audit had been conducted and the report would be released. According to Retreage until further checks are made all compensations for lands will be suspended.