The Prime Minister was on damage control mode today, responding to a number of controversies that have surfaced over the past weeks. Another is the admitted report that coast guard vessels were used to ferry members of sports teams privately owned by the Minister of Defense, John Saldivar. There are reports that the donors of the vessels are not happy with the situation, but Prime Minister Barrow was measured in his criticism claiming that while the Minister has ensured that it will not happen again, his intentions were good natured.
Rt. Honourable Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
“I can say with confidence, with conviction, that very clearly the minister genuinely did not think that he was doing anything in the slightest bit improper and the fact that the Admiral, the person immediately in charge of the vessel felt the same way I think it has to count for a great deal. My own opinion, my own sense of what ought to be done and not what ought to be done differs of that of the minister, I would not have done it, but I respect as I said genuineness of his feeling that it was ok and lord, even if you don’t’ agree with him, I would have said it not a federal offence but since the US is involve let me not use that terminology, it is not anything to, in my view, keep going on about the minister certainly knows now that that cannot be done again.”
As for Minister Faber who was asked for his opinion on Saldivar’s move yesterday, he too was meticulous when responding.
Honorable Patrick Faber – Deputy Prime Minister of Belize
“It depends on what agreements were made and I know indeed for instance in my own constituency we had summer camp and we took the young boys from Collet some years ago about thirty of them who would never ever get to see the Ocean and never ever get to snorkel and to swim and there is a Coast Guard station I think around the area where they are the camp was held up there was and the Coast Guard assisted with transportation for the young boys to the spot but if I understand Minister Saldivar correctly there is no crime in that and unless there were some specific in the agreement in the donation for the vessel to the government of Belize then I don’t see any major wrong doing there but I have not seen those agreements and I don’t know the details of those agreements where they might have said this you can’t use the vessel for x, y, z, I simply don’t know.”
The Leader of the Opposition however has a different view on the situation. He explained to the media yesterday that the act is an abuse of authority and resources and it is symptomatic of a larger problem under the Barrow Administration.
Honorable John Briceno – Opposition Leader of the People United Party
“Again this another shameful and disgraceful act of the UDP government this is the way they have been behaving since 2008 and because they have intimidated the media for so long nobody was making a big deal about it, we can remember I when I was the leader back between 2008 and 2011 we were pointing out where ministers were using minister vehicles, their personal vehicles on election day for village council elections using it for political party work, and the Prime Minister did nothing about it, we have seen where minister have abused their powers for instance former Deputy Prime Minister when he has issued large tracks of land to his families and to his cronies, we have seen where people have been compensated almost to the point of being illegal hundreds of thousands of dollars and the Prime Minister was aware because every cent that the ministry of land would pay for compensation goes to the minister of finance, every month the minister of finance gets a list of the names of the people that are going to get paid and how much and then the minister of finance signs it passes it on to the financial secretary for them to pass over the money this is a practice that the UDP has been doing since 2008 and I believe now that the Belizean people are getting enough here we have now no other than the minister of defense using these boats that have been donated for a specific purpose for our security and the fight against drugs and the minister of defense is using those vessels for his own personal use, for his football team or basketball team whatever team that he has it is wrong and what he is doing he is putting this country at risk because the donors I’m told are very upset and the donor can very well decide you know what if this is what you are going to do, if this is the abuse you are going to have we are going to stop assisting our country, again I call to the Prime Minister to take action and he needs to do what is right, these abused in office must stop and I can assure you that a new PUP government will ensure that these things do not happen again we cannot continue to govern this country as if it belongs to you and that the people’ assets are your personal assets.”
A press release issued by Saldivar’s Ministry held that the Coast Guard does engage in forms of assistance by providing transportation for various groups.