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John And Julius

November 29
10:35 2019

John And Julius

“Some people may be asking – why are you doing this, do you want to tie your hand, as many people believe we will form the next government. I think it is very important for not only this government but for future governments to ensure that we work within the budget, that we work within the constitution, that we work within the law and that we should always be held accountable for our deeds, for our actions and that if we do not follow the law, that we should be held accountable for it and have to pay whatever the law prescribes.”
–Hon. John Briceño, November 21, 2019.

The lawsuit filed by the Hon. John Briceño and the Hon. Julius Espat is a historic one, but will it be effective? Will this lawsuit change the fast and loose manner in which our politicians have been playing with our money since 1998?
Belize, as a developing country, is not where it needs to be and it is certainly not where is should have been 38 years after independence. The primary reason why we have lagged behind is the way in which our politicians have handled our money.

No one can pinpoint when it was that the Belizean voter became willing accomplices in the reckless spending of our taxes but the recruitment drive was such that it is now an acceptable practice that politicians can do as they wish with our money; as long as they cut us in!

John and Julius’ lawsuit revealed that in total $1.3 billion may have been spent without proper authorization by Mr. Barrow (our Minister of Finance since 2008). The disclosure that $1.3 billion of our money may have been spent without the proper approval barely caused a ripple in the public discourse; this is because many of us partook in the feast and we would now be nothing more than hypocrites to complain about it.

It’s important to point out here that the spending of our monies without a Supplementary Appropriation Bill is a gross violation of the Constitution of Belize. It is also important to point out here that both parties have made it a habit of violating the Constitution in this manner; this is why this lawsuit is of such intrigue. Could this really be a change of tack in the handling of our taxes? Or is it about optics?

Since becoming the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Julius has been fierce and unrelenting in his belief that the use of public funds must be a transparent exercise if we are to avoid the fast and loose behaviour that we saw between 1998 and 2008. The truth is that 2008 to 2019 has made the aforementioned period seem like child’s play. Julius has been asking the Barrow administration to account to the Belizean people but the Barrow administration has done everything in its power to frustrate the PAC. It seems that Julius was left with no choice but to turn to the Courts.

The trouble with all this is that the Constitution does not prescribe any penalties for such offences and the politicians have made sure to leave an escape hatch in all the legislation they have passed in the House. The worst that can happen to Mr. Barrow as the Minister of Finance is poor political exposure. Mr. Barrow has already shown us that he can handle such political exposure: remember Penner? Remember the BTL settlement? Remember Faber’s Road?

John (the man who hopes to take over from Mr. Barrow), has been saying to anyone who would listen that as Prime Minster he will not hesitate to jail those who mishandle our money. We have all heard about how above board our politicians will be once they are elected – the problem is that once they are elected they become gods. John should therefore not be offended when people take his commitment with a grain of salt. Every time we get a new Prime Minister, we embrace him believing that he is the messiah, only to be disappointed. By joining Julius in this lawsuit John has given us a little more confidence that he means what he says.

The fact that our leaders have been able to ignore our Constitution says a great deal about who we are as a people and how much we have come to revere our politicians. We are a docile people, bred that way by the British so that we would not ever challenge their colonial status.

Our post-independence leaders have reinforced that docility, and to make matters worse they have bred an entire generation of politically dependent Belizeans. We can’t say anything about our poor political leadership or we risk our scholarship, our job, our boost and pantry, our land! This is no way for a people to live.

The Chief Justice has reserved his judgment until early 2020 and all indications are that John and Julius will win. There will be declarations and press conferences and then there will be business as usual. The Belizean people won’t do a damn thing about the abuse of our taxes. We are a people who lust for glory but we are not prepared to make sacrifices.

John and Julius made history with their lawsuit; they will soon get a chance to handle our taxes. It is then that we will know if their lawsuit was about optics or if it was about righteousness! Until then I am leaning toward the latter!

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