Our understanding of Belize’s political parties has always been that the Chairman is the third most powerful official in these parties, following the Leader and Deputy Leader. So then, Cayo’s fiery and fanatic Alberto August, Chairman of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), holds a very high position in the political party which is undefeated in Belize elections since September of 2003.
Because of the Christmas Eve traffic incident which convinced one of the UDP WAVE Radio’s co-hosts, Alfonso Noble, to take an extended vacation, Mr. August has been sitting in at least one day a week as co-host of WAVE Radio’s morning talk show.
Over the last few weeks, Chairman Alberto has been working himself into a lather with respect to the attorney, Senator Eamon Courtenay, a People’s United Party (PUP) Senate appointee, who has been one of Lord Michael Ashcroft’s attorneys for many years and whose father, Vernon Harrison, was accused of stealing $3.34 million from the Social Security Board. In addition, Eamon Courtenay is also known to be extremely close to the Leader of the PUP Opposition, Hon. John Briceño. These are reasons for Mr. August’s dislike of Senator Eamon.
There are two attorneys on the Senate Committee which has been questioning witnesses in connection with the Auditor General’s report on the corrupt Immigration Department. Aldo Salazar, the Chairman of the Senate Committee, is an attorney, but he is a UDP appointee whose questioning Chairman August has obviously not considered as hostile or as dangerous as the interrogations of the Senior Counsel, Eamon Courtenay.
August worked himself up to the point where he personally attended last week Wednesday’s session of the Senate Committee in the National Assembly building, and he began to harass Courtenay in different ways, which caused the attorney to ask Chairman Salazar to have him removed. This was done. We do not know if UDP Chairman August had been accompanied by any muscle last Wednesday, May 10.
Mr. August returned to the gallery of the National Assembly this Wednesday morning, May 17, and this time he was accompanied by UDP Sergeant-at-arms in the House of Representatives, Brian “Yellowman” Audinett, Allan Kelly, and three or four more government roughnecks. Chairman August and his group commenced a heckling and harassing of Mr. Courtenay which led to Chairman Salazar’s requesting them to be quiet, and then actually suspending the questioning of former Immigration Minister, Elvin Penner, the UDP’s Cayo Northeast area representative between 2008 and 2015, in mid-morning.
We believe Senator Salazar actually asked Chairman August and his group to leave the building, but there was only one police officer assigned to the Senate inquiry, who was feeble in carrying out Salazar’s instructions, and it was then that Mr. Alberto August made what turned out to be a big mistake. Blood had rushed up into his head. He refused to take his troops out of the gallery, and in so refusing he made the situation a news story which attracted the camera people in the media section, including the Channel 7 cameraman, the PLUS TV cameraman, and the KREM Radio/Television News Editor, the great Marisol Amaya.
What we saw on video and heard on audio was that Audinett then stoned the PLUS TV cameraman with a pen, went up to the Channel 7 cameraman and threatened him, then threatened Ms. Amaya in a verbal exchange, grabbed the phone she was using to video the action, and threatened to smash it on the ground. The video with Marisol being assaulted, legally speaking, does not reflect well on the House mace bearer at all. At the time this was going on she was announcing live on KREM Radio that a police officer (we don’t know if it was the same officer who had been defied by the Chairman August group) helped her and protected her.
Marisol Amaya has become a journalism superstar in Belize over the last few years. She is a brave and classy lady. Kremandala is appalled by what happened in the National Assembly building on Wednesday morning.
We absolutely blame UDP Chairman Alberto August. This was his personal sortie. He was in charge of UDP political soldiers. August’s group violated the sanctity and protocol of the National Assembly building and the Senate Committee hearing. Audinett disrespected a lady who was doing her job and pursuing her profession.
The response of the Police Department was inept, to the point where it begs questions and sparks suspicion. The person who should be made to give a report of the police performance to the working journalists who were threatened and assaulted is Senate Committee Chairman Aldo Salazar. The reason why what happened on Wednesday morning was so serious was because this was an operation led by the third most powerful official in the ruling UDP.
We would not want to overreact to this display of irresponsible and dangerous behavior on the part of the ruling party. We want to give the working journalists of Belize time to organize, deliberate, and respond to this assault upon their profession. We are confident the working journalists of Belize will defend their right to practice their profession without threats to, and assaults upon, their physical persons and expensive, delicate equipment. After all, Belize is a parliamentary democracy which endorses freedom of the press.
On the other hand, one could probably have seen something like this Wednesday morning’s incident coming. At the time of the teachers’ strike in October of last year, UDP Chairman Alberto August took the law into his own hands in Santa Elena, Cayo. He led a group which broke the lock and chain on the gate of a primary school whose principal and teachers were supporting the strike of their union – the Belize National Teachers Union. The Santa Elena behavior of the UDP Chairman received little publicity, because it was outside the media centers. But, the incident should have been exposed and analyzed. Had that been done, Mr. August might have thought twice before entering the National Assembly building on Wednesday as if he were Napoleon Bonaparte.
At the end of the day, those who are higher than Mr. August in the self-righteous UDP, and such are only two, probably need to ask themselves some serious questions. That is if we assume that Chairman August was not following some kind of instructions. If the latter is the case, the problem is that two can play the game.
Power to the people.