Features — 25 March 2014

(excerpted from a paper by Lawrence Vernon, A HISTORY OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN BELIZE, originally published in Readings in Belizean History, Second Edition, published by BELIZEAN STUDIES, St. John’s College, Box 548, Belize City, May 1987.)

In City Council elections held on March 19, 1956, the PUP won an unprecedented landslide victory by getting all six candidates elected. These were: William Coffin, George Price, Jose Rivero, Tharine Rudon, Leopold Grinage and Jaime Staines. The National Party only seated two out of eight candidates, while one independent candidate was successful. When the Council met, George Price was elected Mayor; and he subsequently became the first PUP leader to read and present an address of loyalty to the Governor during the September 10 celebrations.

A rift occurred in the Party, when at the annual convention on September 27, 1956, the Party Chairman, William Coffin, presented a declaration charging Nicholas Pollard with conducting a public campaign of slander against leaders of the PUP.

The declaration was signed by the following, incorporating their resignations from the Party: Leigh Richardson, William Coffin, Philip Goldson, Robert Stansmore, Albert Arzu, Elfreda Reyes, Arthur Waite, Magnus Vernon, Herman Jex, Jose Chin, Jaime Staines, and Leopold Grinage. These persons, failing to have the statement properly heard due to loud interruptions, left in a body amidst booing. Several people were injured in the melee that ensued, and the police had to intervene to prevent Leigh Richardson from causing any serious harm with the pistol he had exhibited.

After order was restored, members remaining elected George Price as Party Leader.

The solidarity of the PUP in the Legislative Assembly was now split. Leigh Richardson formed the Honduran Independence Party on October 4, 1956, and five of the former PUP members aligned themselves with the new Party, while three remained with the PUP.

The formation of a new party prompted early elections, which were conducted under the same constitution of nine elected seats in the fifteen seat legislature. The PUP drew its candidates from the Corozal United Party and the Christian Democratic Union; and on election day, March 20, 1957, won a clean sweep of all nine elected seats as follows: George Price, Albert Cattouse, Denbigh Jeffery, Louis Sylvestre, Enrique Depaz, David McKoy, Santiago Ricalde, Victor Orellana, and Faustino Zuniga.

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