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Nov 30, 2012

New ombudsman, sexual exploitation bill and US$7 million loan tabled

The government’s counter offer is posted on the Central Bank of Belize website. But the bond was not the only item of business attended to at today’s House Meeting. Eight bills and two motions were vetted into a compact session. There was a frivolous argument over two ambulances that were donated by a group in Chicago four months ago, but are yet to reach Belize.  But the allegations of malpractice at the Northern Regional Hospital coupled with bills on human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, only underline the importance of human capital and social welfare of women and children. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

 

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Eight bills were introduced at today’s house meeting in the capital, five of which were amendments to existing bills. That list included the Money Laundering and Terrorism Prevention Bill, the Domestic Banks and Financial Institution Bill, The Crime Control and Criminal Justice Bill and the Income Tax (Avoidance of Double Taxation) (Caricom) Amendment Bill. The Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation Minister, read the Bill against Trafficking in Persons.

 

Anthony Boots Martinez, Min. of Human Dev., Social Transformation

Anthony Martinez

“Belize is unfortunately no exception. Human trafficking laws have been on the books in Belize since 2003 and they have been used to successfully convict three persons so far. However, there is consensus among those who implement the current law and advice has even come from the international community that our laws on human trafficking need to be strengthened. And that is precisely what my government is proposing to do with this new Bill. This Bill seeks to repeal the existing Act and replace it with a more robust piece of legislation. Included in the Bill are stiffer penalties for human trafficking and related offenses as well as the expansion and clearer articulation of the offenses that are punishable under the law.”

 

And instead of a partisan group in the gallery, St. Anne’s Primary school students witnessed the introduction of the Commercial of Sexual Exploitation of Children Prohibition Bill.

 

Anthony Boots Martinez

“What we are dealing with here is the buying and selling of children for prostitution and or pornographic purposes. It is about adults profiting from the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Commercial Sexual Exploitation is one of the worst violations that a child can face and as a government, we have the duty to protect our children from such violation.”

 

But the main motion focused on a Road Safety Project loan in the sum of seven million, two hundred and forty-eight thousand U.S. dollars from the Caribbean Development Bank.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The establishment of a demonstration corridor along the George Price Highway, formerly the Western Highway of Belize to improve the safety of road infrastructure. The demonstration corridor runs from the roundabout at the junction of Central American Boulevard with the George Price Highway; along the George Price Highway to its junction with the Hummingbird Highway in Belmopan; along the Hummingbird Highway to its junction with Constitution Drive in Belmopan and thereafter around the Belmopan ring road. And whereas the main objective of the project is to reduce deaths and serious injuries associated with road traffic accidents, which will be achieved through the improvement of the road infrastructure along the demonstration corridor, changing road user behavior through increased awareness and understanding of the issues, traffic law enforcement support, post crash response support and road safety management  capacity building.”

 

Cabinet recommended Lionel Arzu for the post of Ombudsman.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Mr. Arzu is forty-five years of age and falls within the age limit prescribed for the post in the advertisement. Now, therefore be it resolved that this honorable House, having perused the curriculum vitae of Mr. Lionel Arzu and being satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be appointed as ombudsman, recommend to the Governor General that Mr. Lionel Arzu be appointed as ombudsman for a period of three years with effect from first January 2013.

 

But the sparks began to fly when the Leader of the Opposition chided the PM on the Bond issue.

 

FRancis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

“The US treasury and the IDB are not prepared to support specific actions that Belize would like them to support in this matter at this time. And I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that temper tantrums thrown by our prime minister in moments of frustration do not help the process; in fact, they further erode the confidence of the international community in the restructuring exercise. Calling out the IDB president and the US president is, in my view, personal. It’s petty and offers no answers to the Belizean people. And keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, that this is the same IDB President and Mr. Moreno has been the IDB President now I believe—if I’m not mistaken for about eight years and has been very helpful to Belize in many other initiatives. The reason we are in a crisis situation after almost five years of U.D.P. government is because of their absolute failure to grow the economy, to attract investment, to create jobs for our people. The 2007 bond issue, the first bond issue, which si the 2029 bond, provided savings of some four hundred million dollars and over the last four years, this U.D.P. government has enjoyed unprecedented oil revenues of over two hundred and fifty million dollars. All of this, Mr. Speaker, squandered on budgetary support—necessary, but because of their failure to grow the economy.”

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“During the course of operations, whether it is that the opposition would want us to daily or weekly say to the Belizean people, the negotiations are ongoing. That clearly doesn’t make any sense. From time to time, we are sure to speak to the media and, via the media, to the general public. The economy of the country, which he throughout his Jeremiah, lamented is not growing—the economy of this country is growing at a far greater rate than had been anticipated so that the scenarios that were initially put forward, premised as they were on a particular rate of growth, have had now to be changed because they have exceeded that growth rate. I was extremely sober in what I had to say; both with respect to the IDB and to the US treasury. But if he thinks that I am going to cower like he does and like the P.U.P. does and that I will be able afraid to stand up to anybody for Belize, he better think again. I made clear that what I said, I had said to President Moreno directly on the phone. Belize, as long as I am here, will not be afraid to stand up for itself, to stand on its proper dignity.”

 

The issue of recent health problems facing pregnant mothers during and after childbirth at the Northern Regional Hospital was a prime concern of PUP’s Marco Tulio Mendez.

 

Marco Tulio Mendez

Marco Tulio Mendez, Area Representative, Orange Walk East

“I expect that the minister would respond to these women that have been denied the right to continue bearing more children. It is a heavy, heavy cross to bear and I hope that he responds to those children that have severe brain damage, that won’t be able to obtain their God talent in this life. They have been denied that right.”

 

Pablo Marin, Minister of Health

“The statement was made, you paid that ad on the TV to be run, you paid that ad. The letter you are talking about, you are the one that wrote that letter so you are the one and the way you are talking right here…”

 

Mike Peyrefitte

“What’s your point of order member?”

 

Marco Tulio Mendez

“No member shall impute improper motives; I have not written any letter. It has been signed by the patients; they are the ones that have signed it. They have the—this is their signature. The letter that I wrote was to the medical council.”

 

Mike Peyrefitte

“Member, if you didn’t write the letter, I’ll give you a chance to say you didn’t.”

 

Pablo Marin

Pablo Marin

“You know that you wrote that letter.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Jose Sanchez.

 

The next reading of the bills is slated for December fourteenth.

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2 Responses for “New ombudsman, sexual exploitation bill and US$7 million loan tabled”

  1. Storm says:

    1. Hon. Fonseca, I rarely agree with you, but I mostly did today. Public tantrums at the highest level have not served us well. PM knows what is required of us to earn IDB and US support, and he has failed to reach that bar.

    2. Hon. Marin, the supposed letter is a diversion, it just does not matter. What matters is a crisis — a life and death crisis — at the Northern Regional Slaughterhouse, what have you done to solve the problem and prevent any more tragedies there? What are you doing for the many, many victims of that scandal? WILL ANYONE BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE LIVES THAT WERE SERIALLY AND SYSTEMATICALLY DESTROYED THERE?

  2. Belizean says:

    Very good issues. Now we need follow up.

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