By now most Belizeans will have seen what happened at the public consultation on the 9th Amendment Bill held in Dangriga on Wednesday. As opposition to the proposed bill has mounted countrywide, government’s stance has become more aggressive and on Wednesday reached to the point where Chairman Patrick Faber actively attempted to gag those who oppose the bill, while giving those UDP cronies who support it free rein. Today we caught up with member of the Committee and PUP Leader John Briceno, who walked out on the consultation in protest of the Chairman’s actions.
John Briceno – PUP Leader
“Well it was a very frustrating night because from earlier it was evident that the chairman, Patrick Farber, wanted to muscle the people from really speaking out, he basically wanted to hear a yes or no, it was obvious that there was a set up between himself and the UDP representatives because as soon as he picked up the mic even long before the Solicitors General officers started to explain the amendment Minister Hulse and a group of militants UDP’s jumped right in front on the line and that’s not even about an hour before we even had to start to ask questions so there was some sort of collusion from going on and it was getting more and more frustrating because whenever anybody started to ask a tough question s about the 9th especially when it comes to sections 2.2, where it is making parliament superior to the constitution, they know that they are very weak and that they have no defence and that is where they have been trying to muscle the people. Whenever anybody wants to bring the issue that what does this have to do with jobs because they need a job, that the government promised them five thousand new jobs or that the infrastructure is breaking apart, that the Dangriga Town council has not been doing their work and that the town is in a mess and it is dirty and that they are dissatisfied with the government, whenever anybody tries to bring that up he would shut them up but then yet he would allow the supporter that are friendly to his government to go off up and attack the precious government and to talk about how great this government is and it has absolutely nothing to do with the 9th, so from earlier my colleague honourable Francis Fonseca was very annoyed and had called the chairman’s attention to it and pointed out that we are here on consultations, that we are here to listen to what the people had to say but by the time that I stood up it was way too much, here is a gentleman from Hope Creek , Mr. Coleman wanting to make two points and he said he has been standing for three hours waiting to speak and all the chairman was allowing to do is to state his name, any organization he represents or village and to state yes or no and he said no am not going to move, I’ve been here for three hours and that’s when I asked for the mic, I got a mic and I started asking Mr. chairman, Mr. chairman I need to say something and a signal was given to cut off my mic and when it was cut off I looked at the technician and I say to put back my mic and he put it on but yet Minister Farber, his PR person right next to the technician they cut off my mic so my mic came on and off for about three or four times and that is when I saw and said this is crazy that I am a member of this panel, I am a member of the committee and I have been spending for the past three of four weeks every Wednesday night listening to the Belizean people and then yet I am allowed not to speak and so I stood up and I told the Chairman that I need to speak and I have to speak then he also became very disrespectful then he wanted to tell me that I can’t speak until when he is ready to allow me to speak and at that time I realized it was useless to continue the consultation and it has become a circus that the government had people lined up just to say yes and yes because they support and they are not even sticking to the very issue to the essence of the 9th Amendment and we felt that the best thing we can do is walk out.”
According to Briceno, the consultations degenerated to the point where they are little more than a government controlled sham.
John Briceno – PUP Leader
“It is a sham from two angles I am certainly on the issue of not allowing the people to speak and the Government already has an agenda but I would like to that I had been in these consultations and I am convinced that more and more citizens are concerned to the amendment to the Constitution especially the new section 2.2. It is no longer about the utilities it is about where they are making the politicians more powerful than the Constitution itself and that is something that no Government should have. I believe that the people of this country are very concerned and I believe that if it would go to a referendum the majority of people would vote no to the amendment. As to whether I will continue I think I have a legal and moral obligation to the people that I am going to go in there and I am going to sit there and I am going to fight for them to be heard and if the chairman continues to behave in that rude way I am going to continue to stand-up for them and to insist that we should allow the people to speak their mind as to how they feel about the 9th Amendment.”
The UDP has released propaganda claiming, contrary to reality, that a majority of Belizeans support the 9th Amendment Bill. To us, that is a clear indication that the UDP will pass the bill anyway. Briceno says that if that happens, there are steps that the People’s United Party will take.
John Briceno – PUP Leader
“This Government lives in a delusional world for them to think that they are doing such a great job when the unemployment is so high. It is evident that the Prime Minister is using this as a charade because they are not consultations anymore it is just for them to pack up the area and have them saying that they do support. I am convinced that the majority of the people do not support the 9th Amendment. The party yesterday passed a resolution where we are rejecting the amendment to section. We in the National Assembly will vote no against it. Secondly we believe that as more people reject the amendment there is a possibility that there will be a mass movement in protest against the amendment and we will certainly support that. I also want to go on record from now and state that the new P.U.P Government once we are elected we will amendment that section of the constitution 2.2. That means that even if we don’t have the super majority that is required we are still going to put it and then we are going to put it to the U.D.P to decide whether they want to support the change yes or no.”
As we said before, it was an extended interview with Briceno, and in our next segment CTV-3 surprises the PUP Leader with the news that the UDP have finally found someone to challenge him in Orange Walk Central. We’ll have his comments.
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