Headline — 09 June 2015 — by Rowland A. Parks
Dangriga, Hope Creek and Sarawee by-election July 8!

BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 8, 2015–The Speaker of the House of Representatives this morning received and accepted the resignation of Dangriga area representative Hon. Ivan Ramos. Ramos, of the Opposition PUP, resigned his House seat “with immediate effect.”

Then late this evening, the Governor General, Sir Colville Young, wrote the Returning Officer for the Electoral Division of Dangriga, Hope Creek and Sarawee, to say that nomination day was June 22, and that the election would be held on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

The Opposition People’s United Party received the bad news yesterday, Sunday, when the Hon. Ivan Ramos, who was recently replaced as the Party’s standard bearer, announced at his Mother’s Day/Father’s Day event that he would be resigning his seat in the House of Representatives.

Ramos’ resignation was the biggest political news announcement made by United Democratic Party (UDP) leader and Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow at the Caribbean Shores endorsement convention for Belize City mayor, Darrell Bradley this afternoon.

Within hours of Barrow making public Ramos’ resignation, however, the PUP Secretariat, in an uncharacteristic Sunday press release, also made the announcement.

Last week, Government announced that Ramos had applied for Petrocaribe funding for a Mother’s Day/Father’s Day event and that the Ministry of Finance had approved and disbursed $25,000 to him.

The PUP, as a party, however, did not make any public statement on Ramos’ acceptance of the Petrocaribe dollars. And it also remained unclear what form of discipline the party executive would have implemented against Ramos who had already been removed as the PUP Dangriga standard bearer.

The PUP’s late evening press release said, “The announcement by Hon. Ivan Ramos to resign his seat in the House of Representatives comes as no surprise to the PUP.”

What follows next in the press release appears to be a sanitized version of the very events that triggered a crisis for the PUP leadership in its Dangriga constituency.

“The party had asked Mr. Ramos to reconsider whether he should continue to offer himself as a candidate at the next election, following on a recommendation from his constituency executive committee that he was not a viable candidate,” the press release added.

“Following discussion with party officials, Mr. Ramos had reflected on the matter and decided against running again. Since that time the PUP had been receiving frequent intelligence reports of Mr. Ramos’ discussions with high-level UDP operatives to trigger a by-election in exchange for Petrocaribe dollars,” the PUP release continued.

“This is consistent with the UDP government’s plan to simply buy-out the next election with Petrocaribe funds which Belizeans will have to pay back,” it went on to comment.

On May 15, the PUP had called a press conference at its Independence Hall headquarters to announce that the Party was changing standard bearers in Dangriga; retired educator Anthony Sabal would be replacing Hon. Ivan Ramos.

That move, however, did not occur as seamlessly as they had planned. Ramos had a few choice words for his party.

“To me this party is just bowing into what the UDPs are saying. Said Musa too old now; we did bow into that. I heard it long ago you know that I will not run for the general elections.

So three weeks ago my very good friend came from Belmopan and said this is it. I said fine, I was already contemplating – and there are those who believe we should fight loud and beat the chest and things of this sort. I have never fought anything that way – so if you’re looking for that kind of person, I am not that person, indeed. And looking at what is on the ground, I am confident that getting out of this position at this point in time will boost my energy, and I can do as the party leader said, much more,” Ramos had stated.

The embattled People’s United Party has maintained its stance that removing Ramos was the right direction for the party. PUP Leader Francis Fonseca said today, however, that a by-election is not in the best interest of the PUP, which had been focusing on the next general elections.

Fonseca made the remarks at a hastily convened press conference at Independence Hall, to which this newspaper was not invited, at which he said categorically that Ramos had not communicated his intention to resign to anyone in the PUP, not even to his Dangriga executive committee.

Fonseca also insisted that the decision to resign as standard bearer was a decision that Ramos made himself.

Fonseca added, “We did everything to make it possible for Ivan Ramos to continue as the area representative of the people of Dangriga.”

In its press release, however, the People’s United Party commented on the readiness of Anthony Sabal to take the place of Ramos. “Since his announcement as the PUP’s new standard bearer for Dangriga, Mr. Anthony Sabal has quickly energized and united the PUP Dangriga Constituency Executive Committee; he has been meeting with the people of Dangriga and getting out his message, and has been warmly received,” the PUP press release stated.

Prime Minister Barrow told reporters last night that he expected that Ramos’ official announcement would be sent to the Speaker of the House today, Monday, and after that, the Governor General will issue a writ of proclamation, and the Chief Elections Officer will set a date for a by-election in Dangriga.

Barrow said he is confident that the UDP’s Frank “Papa” Mena will deliver the Dangriga seat.

A by-election in Dangriga will occur at a time when the PUP is still in the process of putting its house in order, as it is expected that more candidates will be replaced “to put the Party in its best possible fighting form,” its national campaign manager Godfrey Smith said at the PUP’s press conference last month when Ramos was replaced by Sabal.

Last November, the PUP’s Cayo North area representative, Hon. Joseph Mahmud, resigned from the House of Representatives, triggering a by-election in that constituency. In the February by-election, the UDP’s Dr. Omar Figueroa won handsomely over the PUP’s Richard Harrison. The PUP loss in the by-election reduced their number of seats in the House of Representatives from 14 to 13 members, and the UDP gained another seat, thus holding a new total of 18 seats in the House.

In the Orange Walk East constituency, the PUP elected area representative, Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez, who is facing criminal allegations, was replaced in a contested convention by Jose Carballo after he indicated that he would not be seeking re-election.

Party leader Fonseca said at today’s press briefing that the PUP has all 31 candidates in place for the general elections.

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