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Jul 27, 2007

Belize Bank turns to London court for U.H.S. money…

Story PictureThe Government’s involvement in the financial affairs of Universal Health Services has provided ample fodder for the Opposition United Democratic Party to attack the administration of Prime Minister Said Musa. And tonight the U.D.P. is using the third affidavit of Belize Bank’s Philip Johnson in connection with the injunction sought by the Association of Concerned Belizeans and others against the Government’s settlement of U.H.S.’s multi-million dollar debt. According to the document, because of the A.C.B. claim and the Government’s failure to make any payments, the bank acted on its “freely negotiated right to arbitrate disputes with the Government under the March Settlement Agreement” through a tribunal in England. Johnson goes on to assert that the tribunal was appointed by the London Court of International Arbitration on July fifth. It is our understanding that Belmopan initially indicated to the tribunal that there was no dispute because Government has acknowledged the debt and therefore, no Government lawyer appeared before the panel to make any submissions. But the arbitrators proceeded and went so far as to make a partial ruling. This afternoon Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow says the Johnson affidavit reveals what he believes is Government’s strategy to resolve the number of legal issues arising from the U.H.S. loans.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition
“The government it seems was initially represented when the arbitration court wrote to the government asking them to make some preliminary submission. Apparently they did that and just said well we don’t really think there is a dispute because we acknowledge the debt. And the arbitration court said, no that’s not enough, you need to address us on these particular points so that we might determine once and for all whether we do have the jurisdiction, the arbitration tribunal records that the government did not respond to their request for the government to make submissions, so they proceeded in the absence of submissions from the government, which as I said suggests that the Government fully well knows what it is doing and intends to have the arbitration tribunal in the U.K. rule against it as a way of propping up its desire to pay this money.”

Janelle Chanona
“What would be the motive for that?”

Dean Barrow
“Because the Government wants to pay the money. Remember that it is true that the Prime Minister has always said that the money is owed, he is the one who signed all the documents and I suppose he can’t say anything else. But his position has always been that the money is owed and that the government has to pay. It is only the pressure of the people of this country and the protests that were held in Belmopan that caused him to back off of the position, at least at the time when he tried to get National Assembly approval for what he wishes to do, which is to pay the money.”

Janelle Chanona
“It would still need to come back to the House though.”

Dean Barrow
“Oh yes, it would still need to come back to the House in terms of voting the money to be paid and that’s where obviously there’s going to be trouble all over again.”

Also of note is that the L.C.I.A. appointed arbitration tribunal asserts jurisdiction in the settlement of all disputes stemming from the Settlement Agreement and the March loan signed between the Government of Belize and the Belize Bank.

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