Weak Opposition Presence Nearly Ends Budget Debate Early

Weak Opposition Presence Nearly Ends Budget Debate Early

The final day of this year’s Budget Debate ended just before news time, but the democratic exercise almost ended this morning due to the opposition’s weak showing. Since Wednesday, the opposition bench has remained rather empty, with only the LOO and Collett’s Area Representative Patrick Faber showing up during the debate on the General Revenue Appropriation Bill 2024/2025. A few minutes after this morning’s session began at the National Assembly Building, Prime Minister Briceno stated that he was considering closing the debate early due to the lack of representation from the opposition. 

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Just allow me to mention, Madam Speaker, for the past two days I don’t think if the opposition have spent combined two or three hours in this House it’s a lot. And I see they are not here again so I want to put the opposition on notice that after the Honorable Member from Pickstock finishes his presentation if they are not here then I think it’s best we just put this budget debate to an end so I just want to make that note.”

House Speaker: “I will recognize the Honorable Prime Minister when he stands to close the debate.”

After the PM’s announcement, the LOO and UDP’s Collett Representative showed up as the Minister of Tourism and Area Representative of Pickstock Anthony Mahler was making today’s first presentation. Nonetheless, Mahler chided the opposition and stated that the group needed to do better.  

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism: “Madam Speaker for any country serious about democracy there has to be a functioning opposition. It’s a shame that they don’t take their fiduciary responsibility as serious as they should. They have disrespected this house and by extension the people of Belize. Madam Speaker, the member from Mesop called us on this side of the house “tone deaf” pretty much he’s telling us we’re not listening to the people but I know something has to be wrong with this brother, the member from Mesop. I think, in fact I know he is still punch drunk from the beating he took, he and his party toko on March 6th. In boxing you call that discombobulated. You don’t know where you’re going, where you’re going, how to turn. You got a beat down. Doesn’t matter how he turns it 8-1 is a beat down. Madam Speaker with your permission I’d like to refer to my notes. The other day I was reading the Amandala and there was a letter to the editor from a known UDP, a card carrying member, a long standing member of the United Democratic Party and I’ll just read some of the words he put in that letter because of what we’re seeing today and the previous days. And the letter was entitled “These are not serious people.” The letter said “The UDP lacks leadership and that they needed cohesion, orchestration and lamentation.” they really have to lament where they want to go.”

Following Mahler’s address was the UDP’s Collett Representative Patrick Faber, who stated that the opposition’s lack of representation at the National Assembly was not intentional. 

Patrick Faber, Area Representative, Collet: “You feel that because the members of this honorable house – if they would focus Madam Speaker on how many empty seats are over there at any given time five, six, seven, eight members are out or in the backroom but wherever we are we listen to the proceedings. That was how when my friend from Freetown when I arrived on Wednesday I could tell him all that he said. So you are intentionally trying to paint a picture that the opposition is delinquent. I will show you delinquency now. Let’s see who is delinquent. But that’s the thing you know fully well for you Prime Minister to get up and to say that you will close the debate after you’ve had us listen all of yesterday to all PUP presentations but it’s only the Leader of the Opposition and myself you know this because we’ve already given the explanations for other members so if I would have gone on Wednesday or even on Thursday then there would be nobody to rebut you. You’re asking for a debate is nt the case ? So let’s get it on. Madam Speaker while the Prime Minister attempted skillfully to present a narrative – and I have to say attempted skillfully because everybody who knows that teleprompter and speechwriter and all does not help the Prime Minister. The presentation is always still very miserable. I will admit Madam Speaker that this time around he got a little bit better and so I’m suggesting that he practice every chance he gets in this house, bring the teleprompter more regularly so that by the time the election comes he will do a darn good concession speech when his party goes home.”

Faber’s political boss, the Leader of the Opposition, also dispelled the government’s statements and explained that his deputy and the Area Representative for Albert both had personal matters that prevented them from attending the debate.

Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “We have to be reasonable and we have to be truthful. Hugo lost his close family member. I am more concerned about perception and what looks good that I will call my Deputy Leader and rail up with him and say “yeah you just lost someone wipe your tears get to the house now.” I mean be reasonable. It’s not as if he’s on vacation or you know he’s playing at Roaring Creek Golf Course. He had a death in his family that is a reality. We should be mourning for him wishing him condolences. Tracy had surgery what do you want ? You want us to roll her here in a wheelchair and rail up with her ? Be fair. Be reasonable. The member from Collet came on the day but this is not about optics and perception. Let’s talk about the substance of the budget rebuttal and let’s talk about the content if you wish but don’t try to make more – there are twenty one members not in there right now, only five. Doesn’t matter to you so stop making issues out of things that legitimately have no significance. What do you do when someone dies ? How callous would I be if I were to demand that “yes you just lost somebody, you’re crying, you’re whole family is distraught get to the house.”

Barrow also stated that despite the Area Representative for Queen Square continuing to remain absent from house meetings, she enjoys great confidence from her constituents.

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