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A countrywide shutdown of businesses – that’s what a majority of the members of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry voted for and supported in a special general meeting held on Wednesday night. Like the BNTU, the Chamber has been lobbying for specific reform measures including that a Senate Special Select Committee investigate the Auditor General’s report, the establishment of the Integrity Commission, a reconstituted Public Accounts Committee, the enforcement of the laws that call for the appointment of the 13 Senator and the signing of the United Nation’s Convention Against Corruption. The Chamber, in response to the Government’s slow commitment to those measures, decided to step up the pressure. They did so by putting two resolutions on the table for the members at their special meeting.

Resolution 1 asked whether they agreed that Senator Lizarraga should only participate in a Senate Inquiry meeting if it is reconstituted as the Chamber has proposed, with the Government having only 1 representative along with the Opposition and each Social Partner.

Resolution 2 asked members if they would support a national shut down if the Prime Minister fails to accept their demands.

Both resolutions received a significant majority support, giving the Chamber's Executive Council the mandate to propose a date for the shutdown if the Prime Minister refuses to accept their proposals.

Following the Chamber’s meeting, the media met President Nikita Usher and Business Senator Mark Lizarraga and asked them how the decision will impact their call for reform.

Screen_Shot_2016-10-13_at_8.06.52_PMNikita Usher – President  Belize Chamber of Commerce

“The Senator is not to participate in the hearing unless we get the changes that we want, nothing beats a trial but a failure, we will put forward our changes and if it is not satisfied then we won’t go that way but the mandate is for a business closure if we don’t get what we are asking for. Yes, the Chamber will be deciding on a date in which we will be deciding on what day to close and that is because if you notice that the government on his issue there are about four issues that we have to wait some deadlines on dates and so the Chamber did not get the mandate to move a closure for each one and so our motive right now is to try and see if we can have what consolidated date we’ll be using as a closure.”

Screen_Shot_2016-10-13_at_8.07.02_PMHonorable Mark Lizarraga – Senator Business Sector

“I feel good that the membership tonight were clear and they voted consistently with the results of the poll that is suggested that if the terms of the Special Select Committee were not to the liking to the members that I should not participate and tonight it was obvious that they instructed the Chamber to inform its Senator that he should not participate in the Select Committee hearings given the terms and composition so that is my mandate right now and I will not be participating in the hearings if the terms and composition do not change, on the second matter again, it was consistent with the polls that members were saying if we do not get those things that we are Championing for; Accountability and Transparency that we are in fact going to have a one day close and that they are in full support of it.”

Now, over the past few weeks we’ve witnessed protests by the Church leaders, demonstrations and rallies by the teachers and marches by the Opposition, which have rocked the Barrow Administration. But a one-day countrywide shutdown of businesses, and in the first instance as proposed by the Chamber, would further cripple the Government’s leadership and seriously call into question the UDP’s ability to govern.

A Chamber release issued today also pointed out that their organization is consulting closely with the Institute of Chartered Accountants to ask them to provide a list of members who are willing to serve on the Integrity Commission. The Institute has responded that they will need to have a proper consultation with their members and, by vote, seek suitable candidates for nomination. In the past, we have heard Prime Minister Barrow claim that finding an Accountant to serve on the Integrity Commission is near impossible since all are unwilling. The Chamber clearly doesn’t agree.

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