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Belize in 2 more months of State of Emergency

HeadlineBelize in 2 more months of State of Emergency

BELMOPAN, Tues. Apr. 28, 2020– Like the House of Representatives which met yesterday with only 7 members, there was a Special Meeting of the Senate today with only four senators. The purpose of the Senate meeting was to consider a government motion to extend the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

The meeting got underway with four senators. There were two senators from the government side —Leader of Government Business, Hon. Senator Godwin Hulse, and Senator Hon. Michael Peyrefitte; while one senator, Hon. Michel Chebat, represented the Opposition People’s United Party, and Hon. Elena Smith, who is a trade union senator, represented the social partners, businesses, churches and non-government organizations.

Despite the small number of senators present to consider the motion to extend the National State of Emergency for another two months, there was robust debate coming from the upper chamber, before the motion was passed. It is now expected to be signed by the Governor General, after which it will become law. Based on the extension of the State of Emergency, government is expected to pass new Statutory Instruments as it continues to regulate the country in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

PUP Senator Chebat lambasted the government for its motion to extend the State of Emergency for sixty days.

Chebat told the Senate, “We are here today to extend the State of Emergency for sixty more days. But do you know what has happened these past thirty days? Let me tell you. And I will break it down, Mr. President, because I want even the children who are possibly listening to understand what has happened.

“Very simply, no job, which means no money, which mean no food, which means, Mr. President, that people are hungry and that means that people are desperate. Do you understand the gravity of this? No job. No money. Do you know what it means to be hungry, in this room? None of us know. You can feed your family. I could feed my family. We are not feeling that pain.

“But the people out there, knows what it means to be hungry. They know, Mr. President, and it is easy for us to come here and pass a law for sixty more days when we are failing to deliver basic food to the most needy of our people. For the last fourteen days, the Ministry of Health has been saying that we have no new cases. So then, what is the justification for extending the State of Emergency?

“The answer is simple. The Ministry of Health itself apparently does not believe in its own statistics, and that is why we are being asked to shut down for sixty more days. The Prime Minister said that ‘no money no deh’. One month in and ‘no money no deh.’ Thirty days of State of Emergency and no more money deh. Now he wants us to extend for sixty more days. Well, weh di money gaan?”

UDP Senator Peyrefitte fired back at the Opposition. “Do you know why the PUP is mad? Because no money is being given out. The Prime Minister made it very clear that COVID-19 is not for politics. No UDP representative, no UDP minister, no PUP standard bearer, no PUP area representative will get any money, but the PUP wanted money. They don’t get the money, so now they are upset. The only thing that will make them happy is if the Prime Minister says, here is fifty million dollars now, divide it amongst yourself. That is what will make them happy, but they are not going to get that,” said Peyrefitte.

He further remarked, “And they will have to continue to criticize all they want, because COVID-19 is not about politics. COVID-19 is about protecting the Belizean people. And since they are so interested in thirty days, since you know what the Prime Minister spoke about so much yesterday, if the Leader of the Opposition wanted it for thirty days, he could have applied to amend the motion in the House.

“Why didn’t he do that? Why didn’t you, Senator Chebat, try to amend the motion in the Senate so it can be thirty days if you are so interested in making it thirty days? But you are not interested in making it thirty days. You are interested in grandstanding and trying to make the government look bad. That is all you are interested in.”

“What is their position? Will they be in support in protecting the people in Belize, or would they vote no simply because the circumstances don’t serve them well in this COVID-19? Even in COVID-19, the PUP wants to benefit. What a strategy. The PUP is sicker than COVID-19,” Senator Peyrefitte said.

Senator Elena Smith struck a middle ground after Peyrefitte and Chebat finished beating up on each other’s party.

“As Belizeans going through this pandemic and looking at ways in which we can deal and we can address this situation, should have nothing to do with politics right now. This is not about red or blue, because COVID does not look at color or political affiliation. When someone is hungry, it really does not matter what you say to them. They really don’t want to hear any of these things. They want to hear about how am I going to eat.

“But the fact of the matter is that there are many persons in our community, including the government, who are helping our people with trying to get food to them. Yes, we have to be honest, and we have to be open, and we have to admit that we are not reaching all people or all the persons who need the help.

“If nothing else irks me, it is the fact that when people are giving people things, when you are helping them, you have to be posing with pictures. No, we don’t do that to people. You help with the goodness of your heart. This is not a time to be grand-standing right now. It is a time to be collaborating for us to see what we can contribute to the entry pool to help this process to make it a little bit easier.”

After Senate president Darrell Bradley had announced that the “Ayes” had it, Senator Peyrefitte asked for a division of the Senate.

President Bradley told him that the “Ayes” already had it, and so the Senate meeting was adjourned.

Feature photo: (l-r) Senator Michel Chebat, Senator Elena Smith and Senator Michael Peyrefitte 

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