The massive discomfiture of the Opposition PUP’s Orange Walk Central area representative, Hon. Johnny Briceño, continued and increased in the House of Representatives meeting on Friday afternoon when the PUP’s Fort George area representative and former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Said Musa, spoke critically of him on the adjournment after UDP Prime Minister had read his 2015/2016 budget speech.
In an interview with Channel 5 following that House meeting, Briceño appeared to be encouraging the idea of a PUP national convention. He claimed that the PUP had not held a national convention since 2010, a convention in Dangriga at which Mr. Briceño was unanimously endorsed as PUP Leader, a position to which he had been elected in March of 2008.
As the PUP’s most powerful politician in the Orange Walk District, Mr. Briceño can rightfully claim credit for the fact that the party managed to retain control of the Orange Walk Town Council, the PUP’s only victory in the March 4 national municipal elections wherein the ruling UDP had won eight of the nine municipalities.
There are high ranking people in the PUP who believe that Johnny’s PUP leadership ambitions have been destroyed because of the release last week of an audiotape in which he savaged the two Said Musa governments of 1998 to 2008, governments in which he was the Deputy Prime Minister, but in the open air of a democratic national convention no one can guarantee how things would unfold.
Supporters of current PUP Leader, Hon. Francis Fonseca, who was the one defeated in that March 2008 PUP leadership convention, but who was then installed as Leader in late 2011 by unspecified PUP power brokers following a complicated series of events which began with Briceño’s resignation from the leadership in late October of 2011, may argue that an endorsement gathering held in Parish Hall to endorse Francis’ leadership in November of 2011, amounted to a national convention. Be that as it may, the PUP constitution calls for a national convention every two years.
When Francis was installed as PUP Leader in late 2011, it was during a period of emergency in the party. Although it was felt by skeptics that he was the choice of the Said Musa/Ralph Fonseca axis which had ruled the party from 1996 to 2008, that Musa/Fonseca axis had remained very powerful in the PUP, even though they had not managed to deliver the leadership to Francis in the March 2008 leadership convention. Hence, the 2011 Francis Fonseca installation went through, and was consolidated with the PUP’s surprisingly strong performance in the March 2012 general election.
Since that time, however, things have not gone well for Francis’ leadership. What we are saying is that if there were a democratic national convention of the PUP, and Johnny Briceño openly attacked Said and Ralph and branded Francis as a stooge of those two, things could become heated. As things stand, then, there can be no democratic national convention of the PUP, because power would return to the rank-and-file.
The first naked violation of democratic principles that we have seen intra party in Belize’s modern political era took place between 1973 and 1974 when Philip Goldson was replaced as Leader of the Opposition without a national convention. This was done by means of a palace coup organized by Opposition power brokers from New York City and Belize City. The undemocratic replacement of Goldson by Dean Lindo brought increased electoral success for the Opposition in the October 1974 general election, and Lindo’s undemocratic leadership of the new UDP was recognized and consolidated.
Ultimately, all that the members and supporters of the two major political parties want is general election victory. History has shown that the rank-and-file of the UDP and the PUP are willing to sacrifice party democracy if they think victory is assured thereby.
The point of this editorial is that no one can deny that Belize’s so-called democracy has been proven to be dominated by the UDP and the PUP, but neither of these national organizations is absolutely dedicated to the rule of the people. The people have themselves acquiesced in the takeover of their political parties by business and industrial oligarchs because the people believe that they, the people, do not have the financial resources to run election campaigns.
In the present scenario, Belize’s universal adult suffrage of 1954 has become meaningless. The political parties, acting at the behest of the business and industrial oligarchs who finance them, choose election candidates behind closed doors and send them to the constituencies to be “rubber stamped” by the people.
The case in Lake Independence last year was an exception to the rule. The PUP rank-and-file in Lake I insisted that they wanted back Cordel Hyde. Once they pressured the PUP leadership to respect their wishes, they then delivered Lake I in the March 4 national municipal elections when all the other Southside PUP campaigns were collapsing. This was a case of the people being more important than the money.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.