BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 25, 2017–On her return to Belize today, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Laura Longsworth, confirmed to Amandala that she has received a letter from Opposition leader Johnny Briceño, who has called for the removal of Brian “Yellowman” Audinett as macebearer or “Sergeant at Arms” of the National Assembly, a position he has held since 2008.
Serious concerns over Audinett’s behavior at the Wednesday, May 17, 2017, public hearing of the Senate Special Select Committee were also raised to the Speaker by a priest of the Anglican Diocese, who has called on her to take urgent action.
Last Wednesday, Audinett, who is supposed to be the chief security officer of the chamber, was videotaped by media personnel while making threats of personal harm and damage to property against members of the Belize press corp, which responded this week by calling on the chairman of the Senate Special Select Committee, Aldo Salazar, to ban Audinett from future hearings.
As of today, no such decision has been taken.
The vital role which Audinett, who receives a stipend of $600 a month from the National Assembly’s coffers, should play in the National Assembly is set out in the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, which makes it clear that he should be a proponent of law and order in the National Assembly.
The protests from the Anglican priest as well as the Opposition Leader clearly flag his behavior as contrary to the dignity of his office, as one who also serves the Speaker of the House.
Section 8 of the standing orders says: “(1) It shall be the duty of the Sergeant at Arms to attend the Speaker, with the Mace, on entering and leaving the House and on such other occasions as may be ordered by the House or the Speaker.
“(2) The Sergeant at Arms shall, during the sittings of the House and Committees of the whole House, maintain order under the direction of the Speaker or Chairman and execute the orders of the House and all processes issued by authority of the House or the Speaker and directed to him.
“(3) The Police Orderlies on duty in the House shall be under the direction of the Sergeant at Arms.”
As a paid officer of the National Assembly, Audinett is subject to the National Assembly’s staff committee, headed by the Speaker of the House.
The 7-member committee is also comprised of the president of the Senate, Lee Mark Chang; three members of the House: Florencio Marin, Jr., (of the Opposition People’s United Party – PUP), John Saldivar (of the United Democratic Party – UDP), and Patrick Faber (of the UDP); a member of the Senate (former House Speaker Michael Peyrefitte); and a staff member of the National Assembly, in the person of Ms. Eudice Gibson, Parliamentary Officer III.
The removal of Audinett would therefore require the political will of the ruling United Democratic Party, and such a removal would be unprecedented for the National Assembly of Belize.
We note that back in August 2013, Audinett’s tenure as Macebearer was the subject of a blistering back-and-forth between members of the ruling party and Opposition in the House after PUP member for Belize Rural Central, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, complained that she was “extremely concerned” by Audinett’s conduct.
“I believe that the Sergeant at Arms that we have now, not only has he been found guilty of harm to a woman back in 2006 and charged $150, but I have personally seen the conduct of him being inebriated in these precincts, of him draining a bottle of Belikin outside of this House and of his behavior, and of his conduct out in public, urinating in public…” said the member of the House.
Michael Finnegan, Mesopotamia division representative for the UDP, rose in defense of Audinett, a stalwart of his constituency, saying that the PUP member’s comments were politically motivated, but Finnegan went on to raise the ire of other Parliamentarians when he made personally disparaging remarks against the only woman then in Parliament. He defended his comments by saying that the PUP member had been disrespectful.
Speaking on the matter of Audinett’s tenure at the time, more than three years ago, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, UDP member for Queen’s Square, had said to the PUP member: “Make a formal report to the Speaker…”
He added that the question of how the Speaker governs the employees of the house is a matter for the Speaker.
Apparently taking that cue, Briceño has written the Speaker on the latest episode involving the Macebearer, saying that, “I am compelled to demand the forthright termination of Mr. Brian Audinette as Macebearer and Sergeant at Arms. His actions and unapologetic disregard for the responsibilities he assumes make him unfit to hold such a privileged position.”
Longsworth indicated to us today that she is reviewing the matter.
No decision has been taken, as far as we are aware, to call a meeting of the National Assembly’s staff committee to ventilate the issues raised over Audinett’s misconduct in the National Assembly last Wednesday.