The Commission of Inquiry tasked to look into the sale of government assets was sworn in this morning during a brief ceremony at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. Leading the commission is Attorney Andrew Marshalleck. In Marshalleck’s introduction he explained to the media what are the tasks at hand and what can be expected from the inquiry.
SC Andrew Marshalleck: “The task of the commission as I see it is conceptually a straightforward one. Of course the steps that will need to be taken in getting these tasks performed might well be more complicated depending upon what you actually find in the course of the inquiry. But the task so far as I can understand it is to identify all sales of government assets between October 2019 through November 2020, determine how the sales came about and to measure those sales against applicable rules and procedures to determine if all appropriate rules and practices and procedures were followed. The way forward as I see it is once Mr.Martinez is sworn in the business of the commission starts and the first task will be appointing a date for the first meeting and identifying the first witnesses that we will be summoning to attend before the commission to answer our questions regarding the matters raised by the terms of reference. As a matter of logistics it will also involve identifying a venue and arranging for the live streaming of the proceedings. The Prime Minister has mandated that the proceedings be in public, of course given the COVID environment we’ll have to make appropriate arrangements for that to take place and will likely involve something along the lines of what is being done now where the proceedings are live streamed and once those logistical constraints have been resolved we begin the hearings. We will go where the evidence leads us and hope that the inquiry can be concluded as expeditiously as possible. As I understand it there’s no limitation as to the witnesses that can be summoned and questioned by the commission. I mean that includes everybody, that includes Prime Ministers, that includes Ministers, that includes public officers, that includes private persons. The work of the commission must be led or informed by the information that is discovered so we will go where the evidence leads us and the public officers who will be summoned to testify, the other persons, witnesses who will be summoned to testify will be those people who we believe that can assist in the discovery of the relevant evidence.”
Also present at the swearing in was the Minister of Public Service and Political Reform, Henry Charles Usher. Minister Usher assured that the inquiry is serious business and they will ensure that the public is duly informed on the findings of the inquiry.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service and Political Reform: “I think it’s important for the country’s sake to know what happened and remember the period that the commission is looking at is November 2019 to October 2020 so in that period we need to know exactly what transpired with these government assets and I think there are three important principles at play with the commission. First of all the commission is independent, you’re acting independently so that as a body they can look at all, summon witnesses, question witnesses and make recommendations. Two, it will be open so that the public will be able to see these proceedings or through live streams be able to witness what’s going on in these proceedings and three they’ve been given a task to have the proceedings wrap up as soon as possible so it will not be dragged on and on. It’s important that we have those three principles in this place for this commission; they’re independent, they’re open and it is efficient. So to the question of whether we’re looking in the past and just trying to not move forward absolutely not. It is about moving forward but we need to know what happened in that period and that’s why this commission has been appointed by the Prime Minister. We know that the union has made public statements about what they felt happened very right before the elections and certainly in the year before the elections in November 2020 so yes the union did precipitate in terms of us looking at these assets or the disposal of these assets but as to why the period because we believe that that is the period when the most corrupt practices happened during that when the past administration realized that they were going to lose that these practices happened and that’s why we are keeping the scope within that time. Certainly well the chairman is a Senior Counsel so in terms of legal advice I don’t know what better legal advice we could get but we will provide the support for the commission meaning that whatever secretarial work, secretariat will be done through the ministry and we will make sure that they have the support to carry out their task to make sure that the press office assist us in making it live stream, finding the venue, things of that nature so we will be providing support for the commission.”
The commission is made up Chairman Andrew Marshalleck, Marcello Blake and Luke Martinez.