August 9, 2003
Dramatic Privy Council Ruling

By Meb Cutlack (Belize Reporter newspaper)

It may not yet be obvious but last week's Privy Council ruling may well signal the end not just of the Chalillo dam but also of this present PUP government.  What is already abundantly clear is that the Government's hasty action in passing the self-serving Macal River Development Act has flown in the face of internationally accepted legal practice and brought not just the Government of Belize into disrepute but shone a spotlight of disgrace on the entire country of Belize.

The Privy Council last week did more than simply allow BACONGO to proceed to a full hearing of its case against BELCO and GOB in December. It signalled to the Belize Government its doubts about the “unusual” relationship between BECOL and the Government of Belize.

The President of the court expressed his concern that the Macal River Development Act sought to prevent the Privy Council decision from being acted upon. The Attorney General of Belize, Godfrey Smith, then gave assurances that the Government would abide by the ruling of the court DESPITE the new Act. This about-turn should, in itself, signal Fortic Inc of Canada that the game is up and that they had better rethink, and rethink quickly, the entitre Chalillo dam project.

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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