Yesterday Prime Minister Dean Barrow hosted what he referred to as a quarterly press conference at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. It was a staged event complete with cheering and goon squads, but the big story is not so much the PMs carefully crafted soap opera, but the message he sent out on several critical issues. Last night we touched on the ongoing bus crisis and on the leader of the nations amazing comments regarding the squatters who were forcibly removed from their homes. Tonight we bring you more from the press conference, and start where we left off with more on the squatters. The Prime Minister claims the media was duped; the squatters were all frauds, none of them really lived there and the children were just putting on a show for the cameras.

deanDean Barrow Prime Minister of Belize

“That was a story that was too good to pass up and that was a story that, what’s the old say, if it bleeds it leads, that was a story that had to be reported in the way the squatters that I thought were trying to manipulate public opinion had to be reported in the way they wanted because that was how it would play to waves of sympathy and to raise reviews and I am not quarrelling with you for having done that you know, but I am pointing out to the public that in my view that is exactly what you did. If the majority of children that were out there were taken there, were not there inhabiting, occupying any of the structures, were taken there by these people in an event to play you and to play the government and to play public opinion, you don’t expect me to point that out.”

While the footage tells a completely different and heartbreaking tale, thats the Prime Ministers story and hes sticking to it. From there the Prime Minister moved on to the referendum on offshore and onshore drilling in protected areas. Some months ago Barrow promised that if 17,000 signatures could be collected supporting the call for a referendum, then he would bow to the will and voice of the people. So now that more than 17000 signatures have been collected, thats what hes done, right?

Audrey Matura Shepherd VP Belize, Oceana

“Unfortunately we feel as though we were just togged along, togged along, the Prime minister done a very good job on keeping us at bay, thinking that we will eventually dialogue. We were also told to go and see if you will have your ten percent for the referendum when we get the ten percent they say you won’t be able to get the sixty percent. So we begin to realize that it is not genuine, but we know sometimes a lot of it is politicking and the heat of the moment reaction and the Prime minister has also gone on record saying he’ll ask people not to come out for the day of the referendum which is so un-democratic for a democracy, this is the way how people exercise their democratic right.”

Dean Barrow Prime Minister of Belize

“Well explain to me, I want them to explain to me how that can be anti- democratic, isn’t that what democracy is about? Isn’t that all about? How can it be anti-democratic? To say to our supporters you know what don’t bother with that referendum the government has a position. Would they have preferred we ask our supporters to go and vote now.”

Somehow ignoring the fact that more than 17000 Belizeans have registered their support for the referendum, the Prime Minister aimed his venom at Oceana, claiming, in how own words, that they cocked up the whole thing.

Dean Barrow Prime Minister of Belize

“They claim well we haven’t gotten very far, fair point, but government has said it is willing, let us engage, let us negotiate and hold us to that, you can’t say that you want to do that and then you trigger a referendum in which you are asking people to say ban offshore drilling period, ban drilling in the protected areas. How you want to talk to us about a partial regime when you are asking the people to say no regime at all, with respect to those two issues. I don’t find that un-democratic but I certainly find it inconsistent and intolerable. Because the coalition has caught up as far as I’m concern doesn’t mean that government relinquishes its duty to proceed in any event, to try to find some balance to strike a middle grown, to ensure that we can exploit the natural resources of this country but that we do so in a responsible and safe as possible way.”

Well have more on these stories and on the Prime Ministers press conference in tomorrows newscast.

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