Senate Showdown: PM Confirms Meeting Despite Opposition Objections
Despite objections from the opposition, the Senate meeting scheduled for February 8 will proceed as planned. Prime Minister John Briceno confirmed the decision today, saying that the objections registered are baseless as there is precedence. On Wednesday, UDP Lead Senator Michael Peyrefitte, indicated that there has to be a minister in the Senate, and that Senator Chris Coye is only a Minister of State. According to Peyrefitte, a Senator without a ministerial post cannot weigh in or vote on money matters. His concern surrounds the departure of the Leader of Government Business, Eamon Courtenay, from Cabinet. Peyrefitte wrote to the Senate President asking for a rescheduled meeting, and the threat to boycott the next sitting if the matter is not rectified. According to the Prime Minister, Peyrefitte’s lodged complaint is nothing but hypocrisy.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I could say a lot of things about this chairman but I’ll just answer straight. If you were to look back in history it was the United Democratic Party government that had Fred Martinez as the Leader of Government Business in the Senate and also having him attend Cabinet meetings for that very same reason. In our instance it’s slightly different in the sense that we maintain Senator Courtenay maybe he’s afraid to debate Senator Courtenay and want to get him out of the Senate but Senator Courtenay has the confidence of our government and is prepared to continue to serve our government as the Leader of Government Business. And so there’s nothing much more to it.”
Reporter: But the fact that he is no longer a minister does that not post a challenge to the standing orders ?
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I don’t think you listened to what I just said earlier. The first Government to do that was the United Democratic Party government between 1993 and 1998 when they had the late Fred Martinez came in and he was the Leader of Government Business and they gave him Cabinet privileges to attend Cabinet meetings. So basically it’s a precedent that’s been set but who said its’ wrong ? Because who said that ? Just because he said that ? Please man. Like I always say if I need a lawyer that’s certainly not the person I’m going to use.”
PM Briceno added that Senator Courtenay has special Cabinet privileges and attends Cabinet meetings.