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Jun 4, 2021

Senator Courtenay on Commerce Bight Port Lease

Eamon Courtenay

Another matter that went before the Senate today is the Commerce Bight Port. Government’s Business Senator Eamon Courtenay opened by sharing that the port was leased for sum of five million dollars to Recological Systems Limited two days before the general elections. Courtenay contends that then Minister Edmond Castro shouldn’t have awarded that lease because it wasn’t tabled before the national assembly which had dissolved by that date.  But U.D.P.’s lead senator fired back to say that Castro was well within his rights.


Eamon Courtenay, Senator for Government Business

“Whereas the minister leased the said port for twenty-five years for the sum of five thousand dollars upon grant an annual sum equivalent to one percent of the gross revenue of the port’s financial year and whereas Recological has had no history of owning or managing ports in Belize or elsewhere; And where as the said port has been valued for three million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars and having an annual rental value of three hundred thousand dollars; And where as the finance and audit reform act prohibits the disposal of assets which includes the leasing of public assets in excess of two million dollars without obtaining the approval of the national assembly within one month of its execution and where as the former minister could not have placed a motion for  approval of the leasing of the port for the lease of the port to Recological with the approval of the National Assembly with the National Assembly having been dissolved on the sixth day of October 2020.”


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Lead U.D.P. Senator

“With this motion the government seems to want to indicate to the public that this was something done in secret, under the cover of darkness, behind some closed smoke filled room. That is not the case. Let me say, first of all, under the Constitution of this country, when the National Assembly is dissolved, the constitution makes it very clear that the executive continues its business. So, even after you have dissolution of Parliament, the Prime Minister continues to be the Prime Minister and the minister of Ports continue to be until there is an election or swearing in of a New Prime Minister. So, there is absolutely nothing wrong or strange for Minister Castro signing a port license for Recological.  Secondly, the Commerce Bight Port and the opening of that port came to Cabinet. There was a two year discussion surrounding this matter and yes it was a part of a campaign promise to the people of Dangriga that the port would be open.  From the Interpretation Act to the Finance and Audit Act, I cannot find, and I would willingly concede to you if you could show me that clearly leasing of the land or a sub-lease from government to a statutory person to another person can be considered to be disposal of that asset. It hasn’t been disposed. This land where this port sits has been leased to the Port Authority since 2002.   If you don’t like the lease or license or whatever just cancel it. Just cancel it. Why do you need to come to the National Assembly to do this? It doesn’t pass the threshold of the need to come under the Finance and Audit act at all at all. So, I would say it has no standing to be here.”

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