Senate hearing on Portico deal postponed again

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: Janelle Chanona, Chairperson- Senate Special Select Committee on Portico Definitive Agreement

by Marco Lopez

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 22, 2024

The scheduled Senate Special Select Committee sitting on the questionable circumstances surrounding the signing of the Portico Definitive Agreement was postponed again today. This time, the chairperson of the committee, Senator Janelle Chanona, explained that, since parliament is currently still in recess for the Easter holiday, the committee was advised that any decision coming out of its scheduled hearing may be subject to legal challenge.

The committee decided to postpone the meeting until after May 5, when the parliamentary recess will end.

Three persons were set to testify today: the signator to the agreement and main principal of Portico Enterprise LTD, David Gegg; one of the landowners at the project site; and also the former Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria.

During an interview today, Chanona shared that the committee is committed to being transparent and executing the tasks at hand – that is, to produce a report based on the testimonies received at the hearing.

She stated that she was notified by the National Assembly just a short time before the scheduled hearing that there would have to be a postponement of that session, which had been scheduled since late March.

“Friday at 6:00 p.m. we  were forwarded a legal memo from the Attorney General’s ministry indicating to the President of the Senate that there are two things that would prevent today’s meeting. One is that the Senate has been on recess since Holy Week; and two, as a result of being on  recess, the committee should not be working, because the decision taken at the committee meeting may be legally challenging,” Chanona shared.

She said that in responding to the letter, she outlined the committee’s terms of reference, which emphasize expedience in the execution of the work by the committee to finalize these proceedings.

On Sunday evening, a reply was sent to them which indicated that a decision had been made that all committee meetings, special and otherwise, were to be put off until the end of the recess period.

“We definitely share the interest of everyone that we would want to err on the side of caution, and so last night we moved very quickly to inform the witnesses. We had some key witnesses planned for today. We shared that this was a technicality that was brought to the committee’s attention, and now we are looking at a new date,” Chanona said.

That date will be a date after May 5, 2024 – when the parliamentary recess will end.