I will continue to advocate …

by Glenn Tillett

I am reproducing the following column which was published in the Belize Times several years ago because I was told that a judgement in this matter may be nigh. I have been told by some that my suit is simply me carrying a brief for Lord Ashcroft in his fight with the Barrow administration over the seizure of Belize Telemedia Limited. I am aware that I am that proverbial blade of grass underfoot those giants, but I am neither tool nor fool. I am confident that mine is an act borne from principle and I am encouraged that increasingly I hear ordinary citizens like myself expressing their dissatisfaction with Social Security funds being used for the furthering of political agendas. It is long past time that the fund be managed by a board on which the political executive representatives is not the majority and can over-ride the employers and employees representatives at will.

This week I am spending time in the courtroom of Acting Chief Justice Samuel Awich listening to attorneys spar over the interpretation of certain “Acts” or laws while Senior Counsel Lois Young tries to avoid looking at me. My mind wanders at times, especially when Dr. Lloyd Barnett gets up and starts speaking in a voice almost devoid of inflection or emotion.

Dr. Barnett is Lois Young’s attorney, and by all accounts he is an attorney’s attorney. He has yet to change expression as far as I can see, and as I mentioned, he rarely changes inflection either. Even though his arguments are well constructed and sounds eminently logical, listening to him is as interesting as watching paint dry.

Lois, on the other hand, goes from grimace to grin in a cavalcade of expressions depending on whether or not she agrees or disagrees with the various points in the submissions.

I am the claimant in the case and I vacillate between moments of utter boredom when I verge on the point of falling asleep to the drone of Dr. Barnett’s unchanging tenor and tone to moments of fleeting anger as I think how the collection of potential, talent, skill turned expertise resident in the court room could be put to more positive use fighting the rampaging poverty that is killing Belizeans at a record rate.

We are all gathered before Justice Awich because I am asking the Belize Supreme Court to declare the decision by the Barrow administration to have the Belize Social Security Board purchase $50 million worth of Belize Telemedia Limited shares unlawful and void. I am also asking the court to prohibit Lois Young and Net Vasquez from taking part in any future decisions by the Social Security Board on whether or not to invest in BTL so long as they remain government representatives to Social Security Board and maintaining their positions with Telemedia.

Lois Young is famous or notorious, depending on your perspective, for collecting millions of dollars in fees representing the Barrow administration. She is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Belize Social Security Board, and is the company secretary of the Board of Directors of Belize Telemedia Limited.

Net Vasquez is the Chairman of the Belize Social Security Board Investment Committee and the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Belize Telemedia Limited.

Last November the pair used their respective casting votes to break their deadlocked board and committee on whether or not to “invest” in BTL. In the case of the investment committee, the two government appointed representatives were for the purchase but the man and woman representing the employers and workers whose contributions make up the fund disagreed.

In the case of the SSB’s board of directors the four government representatives voted for the proposal but the two employers’ representatives and the two workers representative balked.

On Monday Justice Awich heard arguments on the admissibility of three applications by both the claimant and the defendants. I am writing this Monday night and by the time you read this on Wednesday, on Thursday he will have ruled on the applications. Whether or not the case continues further will depend on his acceptance or rejection of the defendants’ application to strike out the action due to an archaic, anachronistic law that basically says that you have to give the public authorities thirty days notice that you are going to sue them.

The law was no doubt useful way back in 1893 when it was originally enacted but it is hardly necessary or applicable today. The filing of a suit is not an irrevocable process. The parties can settle at any moment. Because the court procedures have long since been amended to allow for mediation, the respondents are made aware of the grievance from the moment they receive notice of the action and can move to vacate it at any time. They do not require any statutory notice or time limit anymore.

In this case my attorneys filed on November 9th and there’s still time for Lois Young et al to address my complaints thereby making a ruling redundant or otherwise unnecessary.

The fact is that at the heart of all this is the Barrow administration’s penchant for political tribalism, nepotism, cronyism, victimization and authoritarianism.

Over fifteen years ago I wrote an admiring piece about Lois Young when she became the first woman to be named Senior Counsel. Back then I thought she stood for principle and rectitude. Today I think the opposite.

Back then Lois Young wouldn’t have needed anyone to tell her that you can’t serve two masters equally.

Back then Lois Young didn’t need anyone to tell her that to use an anachronistic law, a relic from the colonial era, to avoid a full ventilation of the issue of how $50 million of Belizean workers’ money was put at risk, is shameful and to be despised.

Heck, just 4 short years ago Lois would’ve been the one filing suit in the Belize Supreme Court, on behalf of the workers and the tens of thousands of ordinary Belizeans who have contributed to the Fund, and depend on it for their retirement.

Damn it man, wasn’t it just 4 years ago that Lois Young thought our workers’ representatives, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, were heroes and people to be respected and listened to?

And who could’ve imagined the possibility back then that today she would be the one defending the oligarchical interests that is now the Barrow family, friends and cronies?

And you better believe that her ex-husband would’ve been standing right next to her…well, you don’t have to imagine, we’ve seen that play before.

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