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Aug 2, 2006

P.U.P. wants Price off Commission of Inquiry

Story PictureOn Tuesday, the first public hearings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Development Finance Corporation made for hours of must see tv … but tonight critics in Belmopan are trying to pull the plug on the whole affair … or at least its chairman. A press release issued by the People’s United Party secretariat this afternoon reads in part:

“The P.U.P. calls upon Mr. David Price, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the operations of the D.F.C. to immediately recuse himself from the Commission on the grounds of bias. The P.U.P. is satisfied that … the interviews [to the media since his appointment in March 2005] disclose that Mr. Price has so conducted himself that he cannot faithfully and impartially inquire into the operations of the D.F.C.”

As for their reasons for the unusual action, the P.U.P. accuses the commission’s legal advisor, Lois Young-Barrow, of “antagonism and hatred for the Government”, traits that will “prejudice her ability to objectively advise the commission.” The P.U.P. further contends that during the civil unrest in 2005, Price advised the National Trade Union Congress, an organization that “made serious allegations of wrongdoing against the Government and had called for its removal”.

The release goes on to say that if Price does not immediately step down, the P.U.P. will call on Prime Minister Said Musa to revoke the Commission on the grounds of bias and, if this is not done, will “expeditiously file legal action” for his removal. The P.U.P. says that it, and I quote,

“views the start of the inquiry as the start of a political witch-hunt and persecution of members and supporters of the P.U.P. by members of the commission and their legal counsel who have demonstrated a clear political agenda against the government”.

Attached to the release are purported copies of correspondence between Price and the N.T.U.C.B. in early 2005 and a letter from Lois Young to Price on how a forensic auditor should be appointed.

When the commission was set up last year, the union nominated Merlene Bailey Martinez, the Government of Belize put forward Herbert Lord as its representative and David Price was mutually agreed on as Chairman by both sides. It is not clear why the P.U.P. chose this time to change its attitude toward Price as presumably they thoroughly considered his qualifications before the Prime Minister appointed him. When we contacted Price for comment this afternoon, he told us “the commission is fully engaged in carrying out its mandate and as far as any party press release is concerned we have no comment at this time”.

In its first session on Tuesday the testimony of witnesses made it clear that one of the Commission’s key areas of interest will be the issue of preferential treatment given by the D.F.C. to supporters of the P.U.P. government.

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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