The United Democratic Party will tomorrow hold a demonstration in Belize City. The Opposition says it will hold the demonstration despite being denied permission from the Police. When UDP Chairman Michael Peyrefitte wrote to the Regional Commander of Eastern Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police Howell Gillett, he was told that permission to protest after being duly considered was denied because (quote) “we will be unable to provide adequate security for the event. Therefore, we are unable to accede to your request at this time.” (Unquote). That letter was sent on August 18. On August 19, a day after, the UDP fired off a press release in which it says that it (quote) “rejects this autocratic authoritarian move by the government to infringe upon our Constitutional right to protest this government failed policies” End quote. This morning, we asked Peyrefitte if ACP Gillett’s explanation was good enough. Peyrefitte said outright he did not buy the police’s reasoning.
Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: “That’s *expletive* and so we are going to have to find a way to send our message without breaking the law and still do it in the form of a protest that cannot be a one that would technically require a permission from the Police Department. There are many ways to protest quite legally without the need for permission and that is what we will attempt to do.”
Dale McDougal, Love FM News: How do you respond to the criticism, sir, that the Opposition by and large is weak and they don’t have a moral standing on these issues?
Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: “But, it’s confusing because some people say, “We’re not hearing from the Opposition.” “You all are not doing enough.” And then we say okay, let’s have a demonstration where we can bring the issues to the forefront. “Oh well, why are you guys doing this? This is not smart. You have your own problems.” So, people who will criticise people for wanting to take a stance and wanting to make issues come to the forefront are just people who will criticise no matter what. We can’t listen to that. Well, we choose to protest in front of a gas station, partly, you have to admit, for the irony and the optics of it. We’re talking about so many months, days, weeks, that the price of fuel on the world market has been falling and yet, we cannot get a lowered price on fuel when that is something that in many ways literally flies the economy. The Minister of Finances’ family is heavily invested in gas stations. They’re the only ones making the money. The people are not getting a break. The Minister of Finance has the choice to reduce the excise tax, if you will, on the fuel. We want to demonstrate in front of a gas station because that is a pertinent issue. We want to demonstrate that that gas station represents, along with the high cost of fuel, the high cost of living for people in this country. And those are just two of the myriad things that will be protested against. I think we need to add to our list that we are protesting the fact that we can’t even get permission to do a legitimate protest.”
In addition to the UDP’s call for the Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams to go, the party insists that its voice will be heard.
Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: “If we are not given permission to protest, well that is another reason to protest because we should not be muffled. We cannot be muffled and it is another example as to why the Commissioner of Police needs to resign because he has gone completely from police to politician and he has allowed politics to do this. We checked the records. We never at any one time denied the PUP or any organisation the right to protest when we were in government. It is not something that you should deny people. We are going to go out there. Let our voices be heard. This is a democracy. This is not Russia. This is not Bulgaria. I mean this is ridiculous. Let us go. Let us have our voices be heard and then the people will decide whether or not we have a legitimate voice or not at the next election or to continue a debate on a conversation as to the state of affairs of the country. That’s what happens in a democracy. When you go through the legitimate processes and you duly ask for permission, you are told the time is too short, you need to give us more time. We come back. We write another letter. We apply through the legitimate process of getting the permission to do a peaceful process and you deny it on political grounds. Isn’t that as well playing with fire, Mr. Vasquez? Isn’t it playing with fire that you, as the Commissioner of Police, decide that you want to muffle opposition voices against your Government? That in itself is playing with fire. We would not be having this type of discussion had he just granted the outline request to have the protest.”
Senator Peyrefitte also responded to criticisms that the party’s internal problems may preclude the party from sending a strong message in large numbers. He says that the UDP is obligated to do its job.
Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: “We don’t pay people to protest. You come out and you protest because that’s what you feel is your genuine feeling. If you believe that fuel, the price of fuel is fair, if you believe that the cost of living is as low as it can be, if you believe that this Government is doing the best that it could possibly do then stay home and be happy. If you don’t believe any of that then come out and send a message. The word protest is not bad. We’re not talking about disrupting the business of that gas station. We’re not talking about disrupting the movement of traffic. We’re walking about just having our voices be heard and if it’s just me, then it’s just me. I will be happy with that but time will tell. Come out tomorrow and you will see it. When you go out there tomorrow you will see again and you tell me what you think. I don’t know how many people will be out there because like I said, we don’t go through a list and pay people to go out there. We just say we’re calling for this to happen. We’re calling for voices to be heard and for people to put on record their dissatisfaction with this mad administration. We don’t know how many people will come. I know I will be there so that’s one.”