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Jun 13, 2012

Compensation only for Telemedia and B.E.L.

The court ruled on Monday for a second time that the acquisition of Belize Telemedia Limited was null and void, but fell short of ordering consequential relief. So it’s possible that the government may need to reacquire the company for a third time. Attorneys for the former owners of Telemedia as well as the government both feel that they received a Supreme Court victory. But the government remains in the driver’s seat of the Telecom Company. The Prime Minister says he is delighted with the Supreme Court judgment. Barrow says that he is now preparing to negotiate compensation regarding both B.T.L. and B.E.L. He told the media that he and Lord Michael Ashcroft had been in discussions for over a year and recently Fortis attorneys have also signaled an interest in dialogue.

 

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“I agree with you Jose in that the judgment left a lot of questions answered, but the central issue, the core issue of the ownership of B.T.L. and by extension B.E.L. is not any longer in any dome. The government and people own those utilities. And while there was pronouncement against the specific assumption of control order made by the Minister, no relief was given; in fact the judge specifically and expressly refused any of the relief that the previous owners sought. In my view that then is checkmate. I don’t see that we need to go back to the house to fix anything, but don’t hold me to that. I will, of course, have to get the considered opinion of the lawyers. And if it turns out that to make an assurance down the shore, we should go back to the house, we will. If the judge had found that we didn’t own the thing, we would have gone back to the house to reacquire it. We will never ever let go of the ownership of those utilities in name of this government and the people of Belize. Nobody can say to us now, well you know unless you can agree with us, we are going to seek some sort of enforcement order and try to get back the companies. But I don’t want to be unfair to Fortis or the previous owners of Telemedia. Fortis approached us offering to mediate in good faith. We are at a point where they want some sort of a confidentiality agreement signed so that when the negotiations are concluded—or rather if the negotiations fail—that things they might have said or information that they might have released in the course of the negotiations will not be circulated by the government. We are trying to work on that in a way that is consistent with our obligations to the Belizean people. But while I think they also have a challenge in court and while they did not say that as an inducement for the government to agree to the negotiations, they will drop their claim; I have the clear sense that it is an absolutely good faith approach that they have made. So if I’m correct in that, the issue always would have been and remains simply then the question of how much we have to pay these people for what we have taken, but for what is now forever and eternally ours. Amen. In that context, I don’t see how the judgment can make any difference. We are now arguing over numbers; over compensation and shared evaluation. And that exercise was not anything that was in the least bit referred to by the judgment nor could it have been. So really, sincerely, I think practically speaking; it makes no difference. In terms of the Telemedia people, again, I know that a great deal has been made of the fact that I have spoken to Michael Ashcroft. I will say to you that the approach was from Michael Ashcroft and this was an approach that was made well before the elections—maybe as long as a year before the elections. There have been intermittent little flurries that if you were an eternal optimist would have thought that it could have led somewhere. Up to this point, they haven’t. But I absolutely as well do want to see negotiations proceed. Michael Ashcroft did every damned thing he could to cause us to lose the elections, you know. But it was never personal and it still isn’t. We have Telemedia, we are never ever going to relinquish control, but we must pay the people for what we have taken and we must pay them a fair price. Question again is how to determine that fair price in a manner that both sides can be satisfied with. I will end by repeating what I said to you last week; that while the negotiations on Telemedia haven’t gone very far, the effort is still very much alive and with any luck we will be able to progress that effort in the same way as we expect to progress the effort on the B.E.L. front.”

 

A number of other issues were raised this morning and we’ll have more later on. 

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