BELIZE CITY, Fri. Jan. 21, 2022– This morning, the embattled Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Patrick Faber, appeared in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court, where two charges were read to him, one of domestic assault against his fiancée, Dr. Shanikka Arnold, and the other for damage to property for the alleged destruction of her laptop. In the presence of Hon. Faber’s two lawyers, Richard “Dickie” Bradley and OJ Elrington, those charges were dropped by Dr. Arnold in a short court proceeding. According to Bradley, the complainant, Arnold, took the witness stand and requested that the court not proceed with the matter. The magistrate overseeing the matter, Baja Shoman, reportedly asked the complainant directly if she was induced by means of either a threat or a bribe to withdraw the charges, and, according to Bradley, there was no indication of any coercion.
Bradley, when interviewed by reporters after the charges were dropped, went on to call the proceedings a farce that should never have happened, and Faber suggested that the manner in which Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, handled the matter was likely the result of a political directive issued to him by the current administration in an effort to malign his character and put at risk his role as Leader of the Opposition. He said that at no time did the COMPOL reach out to him prior to or following the issuance of the warrant for his arrest, and he emphasized that he was never in hiding from the police. He said that, in fact, the COMPOL has his personal cell number and his WhatsApp number, and that he has oftentimes received messages from the COMPOL conveying good wishes on holidays. His attorneys further noted that there was no formal request for police action in the complaint given to police. In fact, Elrington told local media that the Police Commissioner’s public comments on the matter were both legally wrong and unbecoming of his office.
Elrington said that, in fact, there may be a case for a claim of malicious prosecution against the office of the Commissioner of Police for the statements that he made during the press conference on the matter last week Thursday. He said that the COMPOL’s decision to automatically charge Faber following the complaint without giving him a chance to answer to the allegations against him or without investigating the matter was utterly wrong and amounted to politically puppetry. In addition, Elrington claimed that Williams violated a key ethical principle when he disclosed the content of Arnold’s private statement to the public.
Elrington further argued that, while the COMPOL said his issuance of an arrest warrant was a precautionary measure geared at protecting the perceived victim from future harm, the comments made by Commissioner Williams actually amounted to a verbal attack against the complainant, since she had allegedly made multiple requests that the contents of her complaint be kept private.
In response to Elrington’s assertions, Commissioner Williams later told local media that there was no political intervention on the part of the PUP to steer his decision-making on the matter. He went on to state that the only way to stop the scourge of domestic violence in our society is to take a hardline approach and to speak out on behalf of victims and act in defense of those persons.
While the most recent allegations of domestic violence are legally behind Faber, he now stares down the barrel of a political rifle brandished by UDP chairman Michael Peyrefitte, who called for his immediate resignation this afternoon.
“Middle of last year, we were here. There was an incident, and I even told the media and the nation that from what we could see, the party leader hit a door, and maybe he was frustrated and angry and going through some issues that we all go through in our personal lives, but it was extreme, in a way, what he did. He said mea culpa, he said he was going to get some help and we all accepted that and said let’s move on. The condition that I had put on the situation was, this could not happen again. Well, it has happened again, and let me be very clear, whether he is guilty or innocent of what was said against him in a statement, that is for a court and a judge to decide. That’s not for me to decide, but my position is that there is too much smoke for there to be no fire,” Peyrefitte stated when interviewed by the press on the matter.
He went on to say that it is in the best interest of the UDP for Faber to resign in order to give the opposition an opportunity to rebuild. Ultimately, while this is Peyrefitte’s personal position, he said that the people of Belize will not tolerate a UDP whose leaders are constantly involved in domestic conflict. Peyrefitte said that he may very well be removed as the lead Opposition senator for his stance, and added that if the UDP chooses to remain under Faber’s leadership, he may have to rethink his allegiance to the party. It is highly unlikely, however, that Faber will retain the authority he had within the party just a week ago—and Peyrefitte is likely cognizant of that.
Peyrefitte said, “I can’t make the party leader resign; I can’t make him go. He has to resign of his own volition, and if he doesn’t resign, then I will encourage the national convention to make a move to remove him.”
The elected party leadership within the UDP can only be removed by a majority (two-thirds) of delegates who can trigger a special convention through which that removal can take place. The other option is for the embattled member to resign of his own free will, but a minority group within the party does not hold the power to remove the party leader.
Hon. Patrick Faber is expected to hold a press conference on Monday at the UDP headquarters in Belize City, according to a notice issued by the party late today. We will continue to follow.