BELIZE CITY, Belize. Wed. June 2, 2020– On Friday of last week, the public witnessed a tense exchange between the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Patrick Faber, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Valerie Woods, during the most recent sitting of the House of Representatives. Many heated exchanges have taken place at meetings of the House of Representatives, however, and it could be argued that Faber’s ire was kept somewhat within bounds. Two days later, many Belizeans viewed a much more explosive display of Faber’s anger in a video that was circulated via social media. The video captured a domestic dispute between Faber and the mother of his two-year-old daughter, who was present when the altercation occurred.
In the video the Leader of the Opposition can be seen walking into a home, carrying his 2-year-old daughter, who was in tears. What followed was an angry verbal exchange between Faber and the child’s mother, although what was said cannot be discerned, since the audio of the video recording was somewhat muffled. Thereafter, Faber handed the child to the woman and said, “Nickesha, you wahn start soh rass round ya, yu know.” There appeared to be no response from the mother, who turned and walked away with the child. Faber then reacted by going into a fit of rage and can be seen charging in the direction in which the mother had headed with the child. A ruckus can then be heard occurring beyond the view of the video screen, and a voice is heard telling Faber to relax, followed by more arguing —with the words that were said again being indiscernible due to the muffled audio.
The video prompted large-scale condemnation by many in the community, and that public outcry, along with expressions of disapproval of his behavior that were issued by members of his own party, prompted Faber to issue a video recording on Monday of this week in which he publicly addressed the incident. In the video, a photo displaying what appears to be a tender moment between Faber and his 2-year-old daughter can be seen, and during the recording Faber apologized and described the context in which the domestic uproar that is seen in the video, occurred.
“I thought it necessary to share on a situation that has occupied social media for much of today. As a long-standing public figure, I think it my duty to act in a manner that is worth emulating by our younger generation who so desperately need such examples.” Faber stated at the beginning of the video.
He then went on to acknowledge his inappropriate conduct: “I regret to say that a few weeks ago, in circumstances that I will briefly describe, my actions were not fit to be emulated. I allowed myself to react in a manner that certainly did not live up to the tenets and ideals that I embrace.,” he said. He then stated, “Those who know me, know that my children mean the world to me. I have strived over the last sixteen years of parenthood to be all that I can be for my children. Spending time with them, therefore, is never something optional or something that anyone has to remind me to do.”
After this, Faber revealed the circumstances that led to his fit of rage: “A recent change in my relationship status has created circumstances that I feel have unjustly kept me away from my two-year-old daughter. It is my hope that the situation can in short order be remedied in the court. On that day in the video I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and for that I am truly sorry,” he said.
Faber concluded his apology by stating that he has since “made good with his daughter, sealed and delivered with many butterfly kisses.” He also pledged to ensure that such an episode is never repeated. Many, however, view the apology as insufficient, and the episode has even prompted some members of Faber’s own United Democratic Party (UDP) to question his fitness to lead the party, in light of the widely viewed displays of his rage and aggression.
Following the circulation of the video, a group which calls themselves “The UDP Caucus for Change” issued a public statement in which they expressed disapproval of Faber. They claim to be former and aspiring candidates of the UDP, and in their press release they stated that the majority of the members of the party now view Faber as an unfit Leader.
“This Caucus has found it necessary to make its position known on the recent public release of a video depicting our Party Leader the Hon. Patrick Faber in a moment[ary] indiscretion for which he has publicly apologized. We believe that the image portrayed, and signal sent by this behavior and the fact that it is one more in a slew of similar indiscretions, warrants serious action by our Party. Regrettably, our Caucus believes that the Party Leader has lost the trust of the Belizean people as well as a majority of constituency leaders and is now incapable of uniting the Party and leading us to victory in any future election,” stated the release.
In the release the group also announced, “We have therefore initiated a petition drive among the five hundred- and thirty Party delegates for the recall of the Party Leader. This is allowed under the Constitution of the United Democratic Party and requires one third of Party delegates to trigger a recall convention where two thirds of the delegates in attendance will be needed to confirm his recall. We hope to deliver this petition to the Party Secretariat with the requisite signatures in the next few days.”
Faber promptly followed up with a press release of his own, which was published via the UDP’s official social media outlet. The release stated that his role as leader remains “unchanged and unchallenged”, and it informed the public that Faber held a two-hour-long meeting with members of his party at which he described in detail the events which led to the domestic incident The release further emphasized, “At no point in the meeting, however, was any request made for our Party Leader to step aside”.
The actions of Faber’s fellow party members and parliamentarians would suggest otherwise, however. On Tuesday of this week, both Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow and Hon. Tracy Panton spoke out against acts of domestic violence. Barrow even referred to the UDP leader by name in a social media post that stated: “I am encouraged by Patrick’s apology, however we as a Party & Parliamentarians must now deliberate if an apology is enough or are [there] further corrective measures that need to take place to treat a problem that persists and send a clear message to the public that the UDP will not tolerate certain actions especially from our Party Leader.” Panton did not go as far as to call names, but she too shared a message against violent acts via social media. “We need to condemn, in the harshest terms, any acts of abuse against another person. While we hold perpetrators to account, we must find meaningful ways to support victims and provide help for perpetrators to rehabilitate. Violence, of any kind: physical, emotional, verbal is everybody’s business. I call for greater advocacy for and more urgent solutions to acts of violence and aggression against women in particular,” she stated.