REPORT #134 Nov 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

by Meb Cutlack

More than a year, ago, in this column I suggested that Dito Juan, former Minister of Lands in the UDP adrriinistration, should be held legally accountable for his actions in disposing of large portions of Belize's patrimony.

Let me quote the Deputy Prime Minister and present Minister of Natural Resources and Lands, John Briceño, in the House last week.

Said he: "When you look at the record of the plague that man (Dito Juan) did to the patrimony of this country, he should be in jail. To give the full report as carried by Channel 5: "It was downright dull in the House of Representatives this morning until the Deputy Prime Minister Johnny Briceño introduced an amendment the National Lands Act which would allow the Minister to delegate his powers to a subordinate, namely for the signing of documents, which now require his signature.

The move is intended to alleviate the bottleneck in the Ministry of Lands, and although the Leader of the Opposition Dean.Barrow supported the initiative in principle, he took the opportunity to denounce the cancellation of land leases by the government.

"The Deputy Prime Minister, however, lashed back against the previous United Democratic Party government, and former Minister of Lands Dito Juan. For an unsuspecting audience, Briceño's comeback was House of Reps theatre at its finest."

Dean Barrow: "In terms of the particular function of delegation that this Act contemplates, I don't have a difficulty with that. I hope that the person that the Minister appoints will be less bloodthirsty than others in the Minister's ministry.

If some sanity will now be brought to this process we will applaud that- but nothing can ever make up for the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lives that have been destroyed by the wholesale cancellation of leases engaged in by this government."

Johnny Briceño, Minister of Natural Resources:

"Madame Speaker, I sometimes wonder where the Leader of the Opposition was over the past five years when they were in Government.

"Because if he was so concerned about these things, why did he not do something about the previous Minister of Natural Resources, Dito Juan.

"When you look at the record of the plague that that man did to the patrimony of this country, he should be in jail."

Briceño went on: "Just before the elections in this country he gave away acres of prime land in the cayes, including to himself, selling those lands for less than fifty dollars an acre - prime land in front of the beach. That is what they did! He has land in Mountain Pine Ridge again that he sold to himself for a pittance.

"When we look at what happened in Georgeville where the government acquired a hundred and fifty acres of land at a cost of more than half a million dollars for village expansion and the then Minister of Lands took ninety acres of that land for himself, Madame Speaker. I wonder where the Leader of the Opposition was at that time.

"When we look at the Caribbean Shores area, every piece of land was given to U.D.P. cronies, land that was sold for one thousand five hundred dollars. If you were to go into that area, that very same land is being sold anywhere between thirty to sixty thousand dollars. That is what the U.D.P. did over the last five years."

It was confirmation from about as high a source that there is in government today, that it is within the power of any Belize born citizen to take Dito Juan to court for the abuse of his/her patrimony.

The proof is all there in the Lands Department and while politicians may feel loath to go to law against a former Minister in a previous administration for whatever reason, that should not stop any citizen from taking action.

The truth of political life in Belize is that until a stand is taken against graft and corruption among politicians and their cronies, such graft and corruption will continue to flourish unchecked.

Just one real prosecution without heavy political overtones but based on criminal law - could lead to a lot more thought prior to abuse and a lot less of the unchecked manipulation by politicians that we have become so used to.

I do believe that this present government under Said Musa is doing its best, with its new shadow ministries behind each Minister to keep an eye out for excesses.

For this they should be applauded, but the government and the system need the assistance of all Belizeans.

New Leadership - new Hope

The recent U.D.P convention and the election of Dean Barrow as party leader have already given a feeling of new hope and direction to the U.D.P party and to politics in general in Belize.

Dean is to be congratulated on his outstanding victory and also on mending relations with those sections of the media that the previous U.D.P. leadership so stupidly sought to scorn.

As Dean Lindo once remarked to me: ."In a row between a newspaper and a politician, only the politician can be the loser!

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