DANGRIGA TOWN, Stann Creek, Mon. June 22, 2015–Political activity was rife in the “Culture Capital”, Dangriga Town, today as the candidates for the upcoming bye-election in that community, scheduled for July 8, officially threw their proverbial hats into the ring.
The atmosphere was quite lively as officials and supporters of both major political parties flooded the municipality to endorse their respective candidates in what has become a heated race to garner the support of the constituents of Dangriga, Hope Creek and Sarawee, which together comprise 6,275 registered voters.
The People’s United Party (PUP) started it off this morning with a spirited group of almost 300 party loyalists who rallied behind their newly installed Dangriga standard bearer, Anthony Sabal.
Sabal is a retired teacher who recently came on the political scene as the replacement for former PUP Dangriga area representative, Ivan Ramos, who exited the party under controversial circumstances in mid-May, and later abruptly resigned from his post two weeks ago, prompting the unanticipated bye-election.
Since that time, Sabal has been compelled to hit the ground running, and when we asked him about his progress, he replied that so far, it has been going well.
“It has been a wonderful experience talking and listening to our people. The message is very clear – our people, they have had enough of this government because we have been neglected, and I think it’s time to send a strong message to all the people of Belize, not only Dangriga,” he said.
He told us that he is “more than confident” of victory because he has covered quite a bit of ground with the help of his campaigners, most of whom, he said, are working without compensation, as well as the support of other PUP parliamentarians and standard bearers who have also been making rounds in an effort to convince the residents of that area to “remain blue.”
PUP leader, Hon. Francis Fonseca, conceded that there is “lots of work to do” to ensure success in the approaching bye-election, but explained that the vibes have been very positive during their campaigning in that area over the last few days.
“We believe we have a very good candidate in the person of Anthony Sabal; he is a hard-working man, well-known in the community, and despite all that has happened, our people in Dangriga are holding their heads high and they are in a fighting spirit, and that’s very important”, he mentioned.
Fonseca added that in the next two weeks leading up to the bye-election, they will be putting in all their efforts to ensure that their chances of retaining the seat are maximized on the day of the bye-election.
At one point, however, the Opposition PUP was seemingly willing to sit out the Dangriga bye-election as a result of not only being caught off-guard by Ramos’ resignation, but also because of the party’s much-publicized financial woes.
PUP Cayo South area representative, Hon. Julius Espat, who was accused of being one of the driving forces behind the expulsion of Ramos, spoke well of Sabal today, and declared that although they are aware that the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) is expected to use Petrocaribe funds to its advantage on the day of the bye-election, the other PUP standard bearers must also join in the fight so as to persuade the people of Dangriga to avoid being deceived by those “gimmicks.”
Interestingly, the nominations took place against the backdrop of an explosive recording which surfaced this morning in which a current UDP standard bearer and former Cabinet minister from southern Belize, Melvin Hulse, in a voice recording made public by someone he trusted, severely criticized his party leader for many things, including his questionable use of the Petrocaribe funds.
When we caught up with UDP Dangriga standard bearer, Frank “Papa” Mena, as he paraded with a crowd of over 500 supporters after being nominated this afternoon, we queried his thoughts on his latest challenge within the political arena, as well as the recording, and he emphasized that he is not bothered by that recording and that he is quite ready to take on his opponent.
“I ready longtime, and everybody knows that. Everybody has their opinion and respect to that, but I’m ready right now because I sat out the 2012 election to ensure that I had proper structures set in place with my family and so on, but now I’m ready”, he told us.
When he was asked to comment on Sabal’s prospects of winning, Mena responded by saying, “I won’t spend my time and energy talking about Sabal, I have never ran my politics like that because in this community, too many times we eat up one another and it is not working for us. If he wants to eat me up, he can go ahead.”
While the PUP is banking on the notion that PetroCaribe funds will not be a factor in the bye-election because Sabal is “well-known and well-loved” in Dangriga, Mena asserted that based on the events leading up to Ramos’ resignation, that is nothing more than a far-fetched wish.
He said, “Sabal better throw away that pillow that he is sleeping on. What does he think? The people elected Brother Ramos, and they [the PUP] single-handedly came and took down Brother Ramos, so they don’t give a damn about the people and he [Sabal] supported that move. So if he thinks that my people are so light and weak to accept that, he better throw away that pillow that he is sleeping on.”
A third party coalition between the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) also produced a candidate in the person of Stanislaus Martinez, a businessman and resident of Dangriga; however, his entry was denied by officials of the Elections and Boundaries Department at the last minute because it was revealed that he has dual citizenship, which disqualifies an individual from offering himself for political office in Belize.