Yesterday we told you of a letter dated May 6, 2017 that was sent to the President of the Public Service Union, Eldred Neal accusing him of being racist and demanding that he resign immediately or be prepared to face repercussions. The letter referred to statements that Neal made in a private conversation that was recorded. Neal was apparently engaged in a conversation with Marvin Mora, the former President of the NTUCB. Mora told the media today that while he was unaware that the conversation was being recorded, he believes that the recording was tampered with.
“I want to openly and sincerely apologize to the Garinagu people. If it is that there is anything in there that they believe that I said that they believe is also insulting or demeaning to their culture, their people I have absolutely nothing else but admiration for the Garinagu people. I’ve been working as you know on the reparations committee for years and in there we have also championed the cause of the Garinagu people so I have absolutely nothing against the Garinagu people. I do not believe in racism if that is what you want to hear and if some of the things that are attributed to me in there sound demeaning I give you my 100% assurance that I said nothing in that conversation that was in fact demeaning or insulting to the Garinagu culture or to any other indigenous culture.”
“Speaking specifically, certainly when I listened to the recording, and I had four other people listen as well it seems as that you are saying “so after six o’clock those (expletives ….) had to hit the bus and haul their (expletives) out of town.”
“I reiterate the same thing that I told you; that portion I did not say. I was interjected, somebody made a remark and I guess you know who it is because it was only three people were having that conversation.”
“Yeah but at the same time Eldred Neal is heard saying in a whisper, unless someone has tampered with the recording, Eldrige Neal is saying in a whisper ” did you hear that? Did you know that?” when you were explicating in a very stringent voice that those (expletives) had to haul their (expletives) out of town.
“Right. I don’t know what all has happened to that recording. I’ll be honest I did not even know that there was someone recording that particular conversation but let me bring you to the premise of what we intended to do when we approached Mr. Neal. As you know the NTUCB has its own internal issues and as you know and you’ve seen the utility unions struggle to maintain its own fraternity, we work together and because of that fraternity sometimes we make decision in unison. For example one of the biggest decisions that we made at that point in time was to try to identify somebody with the skills, the aptitude and the know-how with the educational background to hold the office of the president because I was ousted. So we identified a young lady and you hear also that young lady being mentioned in that recording who we were endorsing and she is of the Garinagu culture and her name is Fay Nicasio, I guess you heard the female voice in there saying “we want her to be president and for her to run.” and that is one of the reasons we approached Mr. Neal because we wanted to find out from him why is it was that he removed that young lady as a delegate from the PSU. So we could not put her or eliminate her to run for president because she was removed as a delegate so that is the premise that we approached him with. So I am asking you to make sense out of nonsense; why would I be insulting the Garinagu people and at the same time I am asking him to put back someone as a delegate to be the leader of the NTUCB from that very same culture.”
Our correspondent, Harry Arzu spoke with the President of the National Garifuna Council, Sandra Miranda to get her feedback on the issue.
“I am so disappointed that this day and age that I am hearing such a conversation. It seems that some of us are still living in the mentality of the slave masters because we are carrying out their wishes. That I could not believe that I would hear this from leaders within the public service union that represents the public service of Belize. I am so disappointed. One comment made by the leader of the Public Service Union, and again Mr. Neal is a frequent visitor to Dangriga and his business flourishes because of Garifuna Settlement day and Garifuna activity and Garifuna money so that again is something that he should have thought before throwing those derogatory comments. One comment, this is about the Public Service Union, why comment on Mr. Luke Palacio who is from the Teacher’s Union? It had nothing to do with the Public Service Union but because Luke is Garifuna he was attacked. I think the attack was made solely on Garifuna. Then he spoke about cultural war. Cultural war with who? Is the Garifuna at war or is he at war with himself? So we need to look at these comments and see the effects and this clearly means that there is a discrimination against Garifuna within the Public Service and who knows if its only in the Public Service. I don’t know what got into his head. It seems that they were between leaders because from what I heard I heard three voices so I’m not sure who they were but what is evident is that one is the leader of the Public Service Union and if there are other unions and if it was not only Public Service Union there then I ask if you have Garifuna, and you will have at least one Garifuna in your organization, just be fair to that person.”
Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno is no stranger to having his private conversation recorded without his knowledge as it was done to him over a year ago and he too came under pressure for things he had said. Today, during a press conference, Briceno noted that leaders have to be vigilant of what they are saying these days as these are the times we are living in.
“This is the time that we live in so we need to be guarded at all times because in some instances your friends are recording you. So it just makes public officials to be more guarded and more careful on what it is that they say and even if they want to give a sexist joke, or a racist joke it is no longer acceptable in our society. I don’t think they should lose their jobs but I think that by saying these kinds of derogatory remarks that can divide the union I think that probably they need to do the right thing and step aside and try to give a chance to the union and to be a part of the healing process so that the union can move forward.”
The letter to Neal bears nine signatures of members of the Council of Management for the PSU including Herman Pastor Jr, the 1st Vice President and the 2nd Vice President, Kenneth Mortis. The letter goes on to get even more serious as these members are demanding his resignation and putting it to him that he should desist from seeking re-election at the upcoming AGM. If Neal fails to adhere to these demands, the letter goes on to say, quote, “Please note that your failure to honor this request will result in appropriate action been taken at the appropriate time.” End of quote.