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Prime Minister Briceno Comments on the Dr. Manza Saga

The APSSM says that the treatment of Doctor Marvin Manzanero by the Briceno Administration only demonstrates the evils of political interference into the work of public servants.

The APSSM says that the treatment of Doctor Marvin Manzanero by the Briceno Administration only demonstrates the evils of political interference into the work of public servants. The Association is calling on the Government to act accordingly and follow the rule of law. It is for this reason, the APSSM says, it condemns in the strongest possible terms the placing of Dr Manzanero on administrative leave and the continued efforts to displace him from his post as DHS.  There have been major public backlash against the PUP but Prime Minister John Briceno does not believe that the Manzanero wrangle will affect the PUP’s chances on March third. The Prime Minister told Love News that Doctor Manzanero is not being fired, he simply can’t be the DHS all his life. Here is how Briceno explained it.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “No it will not affect the outcome of the elections. As I’ve been saying to everyone I am very grateful to the work that Dr.Manzanero did as the DHS but like in everything there’s time when you have to go, you do not take a position for the life. I’m not going to be Prime Minister all my life likewise with the DHS. It’s not a position that you get for all your life from time to time you move. But the fact is that when we were elected and we had a new minister they wanted a different approach to be able to contain or control the spread of COVID. COVID was getting out of control, it was over 5,000 people that were already infected and we had to take a different view, a different approach, a different strategy and so they felt that Dr.Melissa Diaz was the right person and now when we look forward now that we can see that it was the right decision because right now we have less than 200 persons that are infected. Her record speaks for themselves. But we point out we did the right decision in changing strategy and bringing new leadership in to the post of the DHS.”

Reporter: He is on administrative leave right now can you elaborate on that please? 

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well I don’t think I am in a position to be able to elaborate on that because I don’t know all the facts but again you know we have had an acting DHS under Melissa Diaz and she has done a stupendous job by any measurement that you give and I think we should speak happy including Ms. Willoughby should be happy that we had somebody that managed to reduce the rate of infection in Belize and that record speaks for itself.”

The former President of the Public Service Union Attorney Jacqueline Willoughby Wright disagrees. Like the APSSM, Willoughby Wright says that it is shameful and wrongful and is calling on the Government to correct before the expiration of the administrative leave placed on Dr. Manzanero.

Attorney Jacqueline Willoughby Wright, Former President of the Public Service Union:No political minister or even a CEO ought to be able to come in and to pander with the system because it is not suited to their liking and it is plain as day what’s happening here. So what will now happen and the next thing they may consider to do – well I won’t even say that because I don’t even want to give them the direction let them figure it out but the fact of the matter is when his administrative leave is done I’m excited to hear what will be next in terms of what the investigation may have yield, in terms of what happens in the office because I know for a fact that the issue of the “acting” went to the commission with a letter whilst he was in office. To say that he was not in office, this foolishness has got to stop. Where the union sits and where I as a past trade unionist sit it is unacceptable, it is unjust and it is unfair.”

Willoughby-Wright says that the decision to make allegations against Doctor Manzanero is politically motivated and a travesty against a man who has served in the public service for years.

Attorney Jacqueline Willoughby Wright, Former President of the Public Service Union: “What is happening to Dr.Manzanero is a travesty, it is demoralizing to other public officers who strive to be HODs. First they’ve taken away our permanent secretary then now what you want to do now ? You want to tinker with the whole situation with the HOD which is legally the only established office a regular public officer can strive to be , so no. The process is all wrong. The only correct thing they may have done and as I said it’s the administrative leave and as I said that speaks to motive in my opinion. 

Reporter: In terms of Dr.Diaz is it your legal opinion that she is acting illegally in carrying out the functions of that office ?

Attorney Jacqueline Willoughby Wright, Former President of the Public Service Union: “Well she wasn’t given an acting appointment by the commission. So she may be performing in the office but under what capacity ? Who pays her? Because in accordance with the regulations and in accordance with the career manual it clearly states that only the Public Service Commission can give an acting appointment and only the Public Service Commission can then authorize payment from the consolidated funds for a person who is in acting position. So without more was she given a formal acting position from the commission ? Because I’m certain she would not have been able to be given one on the 19th because on the 19th of February Dr.Manzanero was alive and well and in his office so there would be no cause for her to be getting an Acting. So what was she doing ? Holding over ? Performing ? What exactly was she doing ?

We asked PM Briceno for a reaction to Willoughby-Wright’s and his was his response.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “I find it quite ironic that Ms. Willoughby finally opened her mouth because when the UDP government was breaking all the laws, including the public service, she kept her mouth shut so Ms. Willoughby is supposed to shut up right now. I mean we are going to do what is right and we are going to fix it. I mean again, we are very grateful to the work that Dr.Manzanero has done and it’s not that we are firing Dr.Manzanero I mean we’re just putting him at a different post because now we have somebody else taking over the post of the Director of Health Services.”

We are told that the post of DHS is vacant as Dr. Diaz has returned to her original post in Belize City as the  Deputy Regional Health Manager and Primary Health Coordinator.