November 28, 2003
Fur to Fly when Privy Meets: BACONGO charges reckless endangerment

Belize Reporter newspaper

The British multi-national engineering giant AMEC, BECOL and Fortis Inc., of Canada will be hard pressed during next week's Privy Council Chalillo Dam hearing (December 3rd and 4th) to defend themselves against charges of endangering human life by deliberately omit-ting vital geological data on the proposed Chalillo dam.

Maps prepared by these companies and submitted to the Belize government for the Environmental Impact Assessment of the controversial dam on the Macal River reveal that a number of geological fault lines were deliberately erased.  The missing fault lines crisscross the site where the Chalillo dam is now being
built.  Documents submitted to the court include a map prepared with Canadian taxpayer dollars by AMEC, which shows where fault lines next to the dam site were erased.

In comparison with the original Bateson and Hall map, upon which these maps are based, show that the Fortis/AMEC map does not include these prominent faults.  A dam break at Chalillo could send a hundred foot high wall of water sweeping through the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena a few miles below the dam
site with catastrophic effects.

Critics, who have pointed out the faulty geology from the very beginning, now also say that failure to correctly assess the site's strengths and weaknesses has become a serious cause for alarm.
For years both Fortis and AMEC have defended their original geological survey of the area, denying reports that the study was seriously flawed.

AMEC originally identified the entire dam site as composed of a granite sub-surface, but after extensive searching contractors have not been able to find any granite at the site. Instead they have found shale and sandstone.

Drilling at the site has also revealed water flowing underground. This could be due to extensive underground cave systems or fissures in the earth.  The absence of a solid granite bedrock presents the night-marish possibility that the dam could in time become a giant sump-hole under the tremendous weight of
accumulated water.

Earlier this month a fissure in the ground, some 60 feet deep at the dam site, was explained away by BECOL officials as caused by a dislodgement of boulders due to torrential rain. Some geologists however do not agree. The fissure appeared around the time of a number of reported tremors around Mexico and Central America, and could have been caused by an earth tremor, they say.

From the very start Chalillo has been a lie, a mistake piled upon the earlier mistake of the Mollejon dam. Chalillo has also been, from the very beginning and also along with Mollejon, the particular baby of finance supremo Ralph Fonseca.  Like Fortis, it is time for Mr. Fonseca to consider his best option:  that is, to resign, to go quietly before he brings down the entire government - and the Peoples United Party with it. The reality of what has happened in London, and what is to come, is not just that Mr. Fonseca and the government have been caught out but that they most probably face true condemnation in December, condemnation not just for lack of sticking to legally binding environmental guidelines but also, very likely, harsh condemnation for attempting to ursurp the laws of Belize by passing legislation to bypass judicial process, legislation which directly confronts the Constitution of Belize.

The Belizean people must also by now realize that they have been taken for a ride not only over Chalillo but over many other issues as well. Those whom I call “First Belizeans”, a favoured few who have been handed huge chunks of the assets which belong to all Belizeans and who are prospering very nicely indeed under the PUP government, should begin to question the legality of some of the assets which have been passed to them. It is one thing to legitimately acquire government assets through open and transparent tendering process but quite another kettle of rather smelly fish to take over government assets without any legal process what-so-ever.  They should consider that an action which can succeed in the Privy Council over an environmental issue could also most likely succeed equally on issues to do with the illegal handover of government property without either transparency, legal tender or due process of any sort.

To label as a “bribe” the sale of the government printers to the former manager of the Printers at the very time in which that manager was involved in a labour dispute with the Governemt would be quite unacceptable and certainly not true but, when that sale is salted with a DFC loan to allow this officer to make the purchase, then it can only be said that such a transaction is “indiscreet” at the very least.  And its timing is so blatant that it suggests that the government feels it can do what it likes, when it likes, and that the assets and laws of Belize are no more or less than fodder on which to fatten itself. The President of the Privy Council commented last week that BELCO/Fortis had received from government "benefits of the provisions of the Third Master agreement” that he had “never seen before” in any contract.

Perhaps this alone should give all members of the government, and particularly Prime Minister Said Musa, pause for very serious thought and reconsideration not just of its immediate future but the future of the country as a whole.  The outcome of last week's case could be a crossroads, with one path leading back to democracy and sanity, the other onward to olligarchal dictatorship and disaster.  Perhaps in the near future a national unity government will be called for and a person respected by all political persuasions, such as Jorge Espat, could be asked to form such a government.

This current government has reached the end of the

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