Open Letter regarding the government of Belize education campaign

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17th September 2018

Christian Salazar Volkmann
Resident Representative
UNDP
3rd Floor Lawrence Nicholas Building
South Ring Road
Belmopan

Dear Representative Salazar Volkmann,

It is with considerable disconcertment that we at the Belize Progressive Party – BPP, find it necessary to present this letter of concern.

By way of the UNDP’s role as the implementing organisation concerning the “Referendum on Border Dispute” Project (00109024), you are undoubtedly fully aware of the importance concerning the impending referendum scheduled for 10th April 2019; involving Guatemala’s unfounded claim to sovereign Belize territory. We understand by way of not only the project documents but also via your recent public pronouncement on 6th September, that the intended output of this project is to ensure the people of Belize have greater access to objective information on the referendum and that the State has improved capacity to undertake an effective nationwide referendum. Accordingly, given the existent situation, this is where the foundation of our concern derives.

As I trust you are aware, the BPP and its constituent principles have been and remain; at the forefront of analysing, assessing and rendering a well-researched perspective; as it relates to the impeding referendum question. Much to our chagrin, despite repeated requests to the Government of Belize (GOB), for inclusion in their Referendum Education Campaign, our sincere entreaties have fallen on; intentionally deaf ears. Additionally, the GOB has conducted several information sessions nationwide, none of which have afforded the public an alternative perspective to their one-sided, singular narrative concerning this existential issue.

Not only is this an unfortunate reality, it is disconcertingly disingenuous and most importantly; an extremely dangerous approach by the GOB, which is indicative of the negligent behaviour it has exhibited throughout. We hold this position, being fully convinced, that on a matter as significant as this, it is imperative that the Belizean public, be afforded a comprehensive offering as to the pros, as well as the cons of this decision; that shall inevitably, bear significant impact on Belize’s future.

In addition to the willful and abhorrent negligence displayed by the GOB, our level of consternation and trepidation is heightened with the news of the government receiving not only an initial US$250,000 from the US Government’s CARSI Economic Support Fund on 8th July 2018, but very recently an additional BZ$1.3 million from the British Government earlier this month. Given the indisputable track record of corruption which is unfortunately synonymous with the manner of governance that is par for the course in Belize, we must question what, if any, parameters were affixed to the grants, as it relates to:

(1) mandating that opposing views on the issue are included as an integral part of the campaign and

(2) ensuring that good governance principles regarding: accountability, transparency and the sound fiscal management of the funds is safeguarded.

This is where we direct our appeal, specifically to the UNDP in its capacity as the implementing agency; tasked with providing technical support towards ensuring that adequate awareness and preparedness for the national referendum, is realised. Given that the GOB’s information sessions and engagements with the public; have neglected to afford entities which hold an alternative perspective to the GOB’s “yes” campaign, the opportunity to participate. We trust this does not sit well with the UNDP; for in order to fulfill your mandate, such irresponsibility on behalf of the GOB, certainly can neither be overlooked nor countenanced. It is in such regard, the Belize Progressive Party – BPP makes this appeal to not only the UNDP, but also the two aforementioned donors, namely the US Government by way of its Embassy in Belize, as well as the Government of the United Kingdom via its High Commission in Belize, to hold the GOB accountable. I am quite certain taxpayers in the aforementioned donor nations would be disenchanted, at best, to know that their governments have contributed such considerable sums of money to an effort which; if allowed to continue as such, will be likened to that of a GOB financial “black-hole” or even the all-too-common and inexcusable, “government slush fund”.

In sum, the BPP makes this petition to the UNDP, not only because of your institutional mandate, but also in terms of your sense of civility. We contend that if your organisation is earnest in its commitment to provide neutral support; to what is essentially an indisputably defining, national undertaking; it is incumbent on you, to correct the gross injustice that’s being willfully perpetrated, against the people of Belize.

I shall therefore reiterate, on behalf of the BPP; as well as any other brave entity, that is committed to presenting an alternative viewpoint to the skewed, singular narrative; that is being intentionally forced upon the Belizean public, laced with total disregard for neutrality; that we be heard and given due acknowledgement on this matter.

Today, BPP demands our rightful seat at the table, affording to us fair, participation as an integral part of the Referendum Education Campaign. We therefore solicit your support, in realizing the timely manifestation of such. In effect, failure to honour this entreaty; would fly shamelessly in the face of the theme – Democratic Governance – under which the UNDP is duly involved.

Thank you for your kind attention, as I await your reply.

Regards,

Frank Edward Paco Smith, Jr. (JP); BA, MBA, MSc, MPM
Chairman
Belize Progressive Party – BPP

cc: British High Commissioner to Belize – H.E. Peter Hughes
US Embassy – Chargé d’Affaires – Mr. Keith R. Gilges
Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Ambassador Alexis Rosado
Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Minister Wilfred Elrington
Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs – CEO Pat Andrews

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