Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia wants Hon. Michael Finnegan to resign
The Mesop area rep takes heat for defending “Yellow Man” in the House
The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) today issued a call, via the PUP’s United Women’s Group, for the resignation of the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) Mesopotamia area representative – Minister of Housing Michael Finnegan, for “an unprecedented barrage of viciously crude [attacks] and [an] explicitly sexual innuendo” he made in Parliament, directed at the only woman in the House – the PUP’s Belize Rural Central area representative Dolores Balderamos-Garcia.
The PUP Women’s Group said they “demand a public apology from and the IMMEDIATE resignation of the Member for Mesopotamia.”
The controversial comments—which promptly went viral on social media—were made last Wednesday, August 7, at a Special Sitting of Parliament which, paradoxically, had as its highlight a motion to “deprecate” the actions of former PUP leader Said Musa and current PUP leader, Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca, in giving a secret tax concession to British billionaire Michael Ashcroft.
However, the public discourse has since been focused on comments Finnegan made to Balderamos-Garcia, when she rose to protest the public conduct of the Sergeant of Arms: Brian Audinett, popularly known as Yellow Man.
Balderamos-Garcia said that she wanted “to raise a matter of great public concern, not only to Parliament, but also to the Belizean people.”
She said that the mace borne by the Sergeant of Arms is the symbol of dignity and authority entrusted by the Speaker in the House, and even the police on duty at the House are under the direction of the mace bearer. However, she said, she has been observing Yellow Man’s conduct since last year.
“Mister Speaker, I am extremely concerned. I believe that the Sergeant of 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…of him draining the bottle of Belikin outside of his house… urinating in public, Mister Speaker…”
Finnegan, in speaking with us today, said, “I resent Dolores Balderamos-Garcia attacking Yellow Man…”
“So she is going around having a camera on Yellow Man to see where he urinates?” Finnegan questioned.
It appears someone did have a camera following Yellow Man: the PUP posted online this afternoon a photo which they say is Yellow Man urinating in public, on a Government vehicle parked in front of the Heritage Bank on Princess Margaret Drive in Belize City.
Yellow Man is “out of the hood,” and “You know how you behave out of the hood…,” Finnegan remarked.
Finnegan furthermore indicated that he has no problem as long as “Yellow is not [openly] urinating within the confines of the National Assembly…”
At this afternoon’s press conference called by the PUP women’s group, Balderamos-Garcia also indicated that the Sergeant of Arms has been recently accused of assaulting a police officer. The case in question was reported by Phillip “Fawda” Henry – who has also alleged a recent assault.
While she protested in Parliament, Port Loyola area representative Anthony “Boots” Martinez rose on a point of order, saying that Balderamos-Garcia was getting personal when she raised issue with the Sergeant of Arms’ drinking habits.
“They can take a point of order, but they won’t shut me up,” Balderamos-Garcia replied, restating her concern about Yellow Man’s decorum and conduct.
UDP Leader, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, accused Balderamos-Garcia of “character assassination.”
Barrow said that what the member should have done was to make a formal report to the Speaker, Michael Peyrefitte, who would have given Yellow Man a chance to defend himself. Barrow said Baldermos-Garcia was being “mean.”
It was after these interjections that Finnegan took on Balderamos-Garcia, defending Audinett – one of his campaigners and a long-time constituent of Mesopotamia and a person he describes as “a man of many ladies.”
He also questioned whether Balderamos-Garcia could give a physical description of Audinett’s private part – if she had really seen Yellow Man urinating in public, and later went on to threaten: “The things I know about you, man, and the things I know about your husband, what they tell me, you have got to be careful.”
When we spoke with Finnegan today, we asked him if he could at least concede to the general concern Balderamos-Garcia had raised. He still resisted doing so.
“I will say to you, if she had a problem with the Sergeant of Arms, or if I have a problem with a Senior Clerk or Clerk of the National Assembly, I don’t take that to the Parliament; I go to the Speaker… then I have a discussion with the Speaker with what I don’t like,” he said.
Finnegan accused Balderamos-Garcia of having had “a personal beef” with Yellow Man, stemming from disputes they had during the last village council election.
Balderamos-Garcia said that after last Wednesday’s session, she thought about not returning to Parliament, but now, she said, speaking at today’s press conference: “I am more than ever determined to represent the people of Belize Rural Central.”
The statements made by Finnegan have been deplored, likewise, by three PUP mayors: Kevin Bernard of Orange Walk Town, Anthony Fuentes of Punta Gorda Town and Gilbert Swaso of Dangriga Town, who describe his behavior as “utter disrespect.”
“According to some experts, this disrespectful behavior is attributed to certain events that happened earlier in the person’s life. It is caused by an abusive or negligent mother, sister, school teacher or girlfriend that planted a seed deep down in his subconscious mind,” they added.
“What I did Wednesday had nothing to do with women. It had to do with Dolores’ conduct on Yellow Man,” Finnegan replied.
Finnegan said that the attack was payback to Yellow Man after he, Balderamos-Garcia and her husband “came face-to-face with verbal language against each other…” during the village council elections in Hattieville, Ladyville and the other villages in her constituency – all of which, he said, she lost. Finnegan furthermore maintains that, “I know she hasn’t seen Yellow Man urinating anywhere.”
We asked him what he meant by questioning Balderamos-Garcia about Yellow Man’s physical attributes; and Finnegan said “it was tantamount to proving what she was saying… to be able to say what she saw.”
Asked why he felt the need to respond to Balderamos-Garcia, Finnegan said: “He is my friend. He is from the great constituency of Mesopotamia, and he was unable to defend himself on that day, and I saw it proper to do it for him.”
As for the remarks he made about the Belize Rural Central area rep and her husband, Finnegan said that he wanted to send the message to Balderamos-Garcia that she should “take it easy.”
The public upset, though, has been over the language Finnegan chose to use in defending Brian “Yellow Man” Audinett.
The PUP mayors describe it as “un-parliamentary language” – and they said it is not the first time Finnegan has done this:
“We strongly believe that this is a trend by the said area representative. He has disrespected the following women: Madam Speaker Hon. Elizabeth Zabaneh; Miss Rhenae Nunez and now Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia. Who is the next woman in line who will be disrespected?” they question.
They call on Speaker Peyrefitte “to take charge and disallow the use of un-parliamentary language in the Honorable House of Representatives.”
“We also called on the area representative to once again apologize to Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia and all the women he has disrespected and to conduct himself honorably in the House,” the PUP mayors added.
They also call on all the organizations in Belize who advocate for women’s rights to stand up and condemn the area representative’s actions, and point to the fact that Belize is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination on the Discrimination of Women (CEDAW).
When we spoke with him today, Finnegan did not apologize, though; although he joked about resigning to contest a by-election against the PUP – confident of another win.
However, he did signal that he may have been hasty in responding and could “maybe” have used different language.
When we asked him if he would have done anything differently, in hindsight, Finnegan said: “I would do the basic thing that I did – defend Brian Audinett… who was not in a position to defend himself. Maybe my language would have been different. Maybe.”
He also told us that, “Sometimes certain things happen very fast, very quickly. When it happened, then you realize that something happened.”
As for public concerns over the “circus” some observers say continues to dominate the House, Finnegan said, “Of course, people are concerned about it and we need to do better… on both sides of the House!”
The PUP mayors said that with what transpired in Parliament on Wednesday, “It signals a new low in our national discourse and we must not allow it. It has to stop!”