With the Hon. Said Musa announcing his retirement from electoral politics last week, the curtain is now set to come down on four of Belize’s most senior political leaders – Hon. Dean Barrow, the area rep for Queen’s Square; Hon. Wilfred Elrington, the area rep for Pickstock; Hon. Michael Finnegan, the area rep for Mesopotamia; and Hon. Said Musa, the area rep for Fort George.
Barrow’s departure from electoral politics was likely sealed the day his party won the general election in 2015 and he took up the office of prime minister for a third time, because by law no one can be prime minister of Belize for more than three terms. Barrow has won his seat in eight consecutive elections and he is not disallowed from running as a candidate in his constituency again; however, every indication is that he will not.
On July 12, 2020, Elrington, who served three terms in the House of Representatives, was one of three candidates in a convention where those in the party would decide who would lead the UDP in the next general election, but he made no effort to campaign. To no one’s surprise he was unsuccessful; in fact he failed miserably, and shortly after that convention he announced his retirement.
Way back in 2017, Finnegan, who won six consecutive terms in his division, announced that he would not be running again.
Hon. Said Musa suffered a mild stroke over three months ago, and with his age, 76, and his having served in the House of Representatives for eight terms, two of them as prime minister of Belize, no one was surprised when on September 8 he called in the present leader of the opposition, Hon. John Briceño, and advised him to find a new candidate to carry on for the PUP in Fort George.
These four political leaders, two of whom, Barrow and Musa, served as prime minister of our country, have all done certain things while in government that even their main political opponents laud them for, and there are also things they have done that are considered disappointing, even by some of their supporters.
It will take some time to report on the careers of these men, over the decades they spent as representatives of the people, but in a few words, the ledger says they had more failures than achievements.
In the category of achievements, Belize has grown over the decades, with better roads and many fantastic buildings where there were single-flat wooden houses on stilts, expanded agro-industries, and a tourism industry that was booming before the pandemic shut down the world. In the category of failures, one would have to be blind to not see that during the time they were in the House of Representatives our way of life eroded significantly.
Over the four decades these men have been shaping Belize, we have seen our once peaceful haven become one of the most violent nations on earth; we have seen rampant corruption in government and lack of transparency in governance, and under their watch the haves have increased their lot, while the have nots have seen their lot diminish.
PM Barrow has to be glad to leave his colleagues behind
The UDP, when the next general election is called, cannot point to the creation of any new industries, but they will say that the funds they received from the Petro Caribe and the oil wells in Spanish Lookout, the concessionary loans they received from various lending agencies, and the concessionary loans and grants they received from friendly governments, were wisely invested in improving/constructing roads, bridges, sports facilities, and roundabouts.
The UDP will say that the people cannot trust the PUP with their finances, even though they themselves stand accused of major procedural errors, rank cronyism, and improper accounting of their spending. If the UDP can shake the charges they face and convince the people that the PUP cannot be trusted with public money, one of their remaining hurdles will be to sell a group of candidates whom most objective Belizeans would consider as far less than stellar.
The Honorable Wilfred Elrington said as much when he went to the House of Representatives and lambasted the government he has been a major part of for the last 13 years, and elected not to contest the next general election.
A number of times the Prime Minister has had to discipline the elected members of his party. He kicked Elvin Penner out of Cabinet, suspended Edmond Castro from Cabinet, gave John Saldivar extended leave from Cabinet, twice, and forced Gapi Vega to resign from Cabinet, for their dishonesty and/or their very poor judgment. The fact is that if it weren’t for political expediency, more members of Barrow’s Cabinet would have been sent out on leave.
The Prime Minister said everything we need to know about his colleagues when he pleaded with them to, “For God’s sakes, stop it!” after it was found out that they were spending too much time at the passport department; when he told Belizeans abroad that the Ministry of Natural Resources was a “hot bed of corruption!”; and when he who had promised a sharp machete to cut out even a whiff of corruption if we gave him and his party control of government, conceded that that terrible vice is endemic, will “be with us always.”
It can be argued that the Prime Minister, by reaching outside of the party on a number of occasions to fill senior ministerial posts in Cabinet, showed how unimpressed he was with the caliber of his elected colleagues.
Three times he went outside of the elected UDP members in the House of Representatives to find a minister for the police. Mr. Doug Singh, Hon. Godwin Hulse, and Hon. Michael Peyrefitte have all headed that department. Three times he went outside the House of Representatives to find a person to run the Ministry of Natural Resources. Hon. Godwin Hulse, Hon. Carla Barnett, and Ms. Vanessa Retreage have all had a chance to restore order in that ministry.
For the critical handling of the greatest challenge to our country in many decades, the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, again he reached outside of his elected colleagues, for financial leadership from Hon. Carla Barnett, and for some color and muscle from the Hon. Michael Peyrefitte.