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Apr 15, 2021

Unions’ Rep Speech Cut mid-Live Stream!

The Commission of Inquiry has been adjourned indefinitely. That’s because the unions’ representative, President of the N.T.U.C.B. Luis Luke Martinez excused himself and informed the chairman that they wouldn’t be participating further until things were resolved with the government.  He gave that notice just before the live stream of his presentation was dramatically cut off.  We’ll hear from Chair Andrew Marshalleck a little later on in our newscast, but first we take a look at what transpired at the House of Culture during today’s hearing of the Commission of Inquiry.  Martinez kicked off today’s proceedings reading a letter that the P.S.U. penned to the Prime Minister.  The strong statement condemned the government for continuing the “fire sale of government assets without proper public disposal processes.” He was to end his statement by recusing himself from the inquiry, but he didn’t get to do that because the live feed, via the Government Press Office, ended suddenly.  To add further insult to injury, the video feed was also scrubbed from the Facebook page and is no longer available on that forum. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more about this morning’s proceedings.

 

Luis Luke Martinez, Member, Commission of Inquiry

“The P.S.U. called for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and address wrong doing. We signed up in good faith with a view of exposing and holding the wrong doers accountable. We did not sign up for what appears to be a political show that will be limited to name calling and political…”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

This was the abrupt end to the live stream of the Commission of Inquiry this morning – the audio was cut and video faded to black as Commissioner Luis Martinez – the unions’ representative – made a statement on behalf of the Public Service Union. The scathing remarks which hit out at government’s decision to sell assets without proper accountability pushed someone to pull the plug on the live broadcast. Here’s how Martinez began his strong criticism of the government.

 

Luis Luke Martinez

Luis Luke Martinez

“The Public Service Union wishes to express its outright disappointment in the Government of Belize for what we respectfully consider a mockery of the Commission of Inquiry, as we continue to witness the fire-sale of public assets whilst we are in this process.”

 

Some of the assets Martinez speaks of, according to these documents dated February twenty-second and twenty-fourth 2021, include the approval of sale of four aircraft and three firearms from the police armory in Belmopan. This document shows that  Prime Minister John Briceno as the Minister of Finance approved the sale of “unserviceable” airplanes: two Grumman Gulfstream G2 and two Hawker Sidley HS 125’s for five hundred and forty thousand dollars to an aircraft mechanic identified as Glis Marin. Also approved for sale on February twenty-fourth were the sales of one nine millimeter pistol for six hundred dollars to Cayo Central’s Area Representative Alex Balona; one Rugar brand bold action rifle at a cost of one thousand two hundred dollars was approved for C.E.O. in the Ministry of Home Affairs Kevin Arthurs; and a nine millimeter Cherokee brand pistol for five hundred dollars to Denbigh Young. The documents were signed by Ruperto Vicente of the Vehicle Care Unit – the same man who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry and owned up to have mistakenly listed assets as unserviceable. It is unclear if there was any bidding process for these items. Last Friday, PM John Briceno was asked about these sales.

 

John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño [File: April 12th, 2021]

“This was brought to my attention to say that this offer was made and that we should accept it. What we are trying to do right here is that those planes have been out there and that they are losing value every day. The B.D.F. is telling me that ones they are spending over a hundred dollars to take care of it in a year. When they brought it out to my attention and say it best you sell it and I was under the impression that this was the best offer we got, and that is why I approved it. Now, as to the issue of the guns, can we improve, of course we could improve? I am not infallible, I am human.”

 

But Martinez, and by extension, the P.S.U., didn’t buy the PM’s “I am only human” defense. Today, Martinez criticized government’s lack of transparency and what they call abuse of power, slamming  the offices of the assets and utilities manager, as well as Financial Secretary for these decisions.

 

Luis Luke Martinez

“During the past four months, we have witnessed the sale of vehicles, aircrafts and even guns to CEOs and Ministers, without following the proper public disposal process. We have seen whereby the asset and utilities manager, acting via the office of the financial secretary, continue to abuse his power and discretion to render assets unserviceable when in fact information received say that they are in good condition.”

 

Martinez went on for about two more minutes before he was cut off and the Commission of Inquiry ended without its formal proceedings.  Martinez’ closings words, before the transmission was stopped, expressed P.S.U.’s dissatisfaction with the government’s actions, calling out Prime Minister John Briceño for championing the cause before he was elected, but has now failed to do anything about it since he has been elected.  Martinez called for Ministry of Finance officials to be held responsible.

 

Luis Luke Martinez

“Mister Prime Minister, on February thirteenth, 2020, whilst you were the Leader of Opposition, you clearly stated that your party had planned polices to break the cycle of systemic corruption to work for the betterment of the country.  You must therefore understand their skepticism which is merited unless you wish for us to forget the period of 1998-2008. The abuse of government assets currently stands in the millions of dollars and it is time for all the key players in the Ministry of Finance to be held financially and criminally responsible. Enough is enough! We can longer continue to stand the stench of the pit of corruption that exists when it comes to the sale of the people’s assets.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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