BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 26, 2016–The administration of Prime Minister Dean Barrow is gearing up to face its 6th protest in 6 weeks.
On August 23, the churches, led by Pastor Louis Wade, protested at the footsteps of Independence Hill in Belmopan, while Patrick Menzies and the Spanish arm of the Evangelical Church would protest at that same location seven days later.
One day after, the People’s United Party (PUP) would protest at that same location. On September 7, the People’s United Party (PUP) led another protest in Belize City. Last Monday the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) led another protest in Belmopan.
Eighteen hours after their meeting on Thursday with PM Barrow, the BNTU wrote the Prime Minister informing him that, “in accordance with our Stand Up for Belize Campaign, centered on the mantra, ‘It’s for far more than three [per cent]; it’s for country,’ we find that most of what you brought to the table is inconsistent with our demands to ensure good governance and respect for workers.”
BNTU’s letter, leaked to the media over the weekend, revealed that of its eight demands, Barrow only favorably responded to two.
The leaked letter concluded, “The BNTU therefore serves notice on the Government of Belize that we intend to pursue all necessary actions in furtherance of our cause that has the betterment of Belize as our primary goal.”
On Sunday, Barrow published a ten-minute video lashing out at the BNTU and its leadership.
“I believe they’re being wholly unreasonable,” he remarked.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister, according to the BNTU, resorted to the popular “divide and conquer” tactic by pitting students against teachers, who he said threatened to close schools down.
In that address, he also contrasted the stance of the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) and the Public Service Union (PSU) with the position of the BNTU, which is the only union which has not yet indicated its acceptance of the 3% salary adjustment deferrals.
The Prime Minister further pointed to the fact that the Senate social partners took a different position from that of the BNTU, and even alleged that the BNTU was not prepared to seek the view of the NTUCB, to which it belongs, in reference to the configuration of the Senate Special Select Committee and the signing of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
In response to the call for Immigration Minister Senator Godwin Hulse’s removal from Cabinet, Barrow referred to the decision of former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh, who had ruled that the union’s call for the termination of the then Contractor General in 2005 could not be a basis for industrial action.
Barrow took another swing at the BNTU, accusing its leadership of not consulting with its membership before rejecting his proposals.
According to the Prime Minister, the lack of progress in the negotiations was a result of the BNTU’s “inflexible” attitude.
“They are utterly unjustified in holding parents and children to ransom … this administration decisively won free and fair elections less than a year ago. Our mandate is to govern and we must do so fairly and effectively,” he said.
He ended by urging the BNTU to “call off this destructive crusade.”
When Amandala spoke with BNTU’s president, Luke Palacio, today, Monday, he stated, “When the Prime Minister makes his attempts to divide and conquer the different social partners, the different organizations, then it is a sad day in this country.”
Furthermore, Palacio revealed that despite the Prime Minister’s plea, his union will proceed with its protest on Monday, October 3, with the full support it has obtained by democratically consulting its membership.
Palacio calls on the nation to remain focused so as to prevent being misled by rhetoric from the ruling administration while he and the BNTU attempt to make inroads for good governance because our country is headed on the wrong road.
Although in his ten-minute video address the Prime Minister described the BNTU as being inflexible and unreasonable, Palacio stated that when their meeting with Barrow had concluded on Thursday, he had then described it as productive.
According to Palacio, “We are not going to be held ransom by the Prime Minister dangling a carrot in front of us, and we continue to suffer after we would have taken that carrot.”