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Turmoil inside Opposition UDP camp

HeadlineTurmoil inside Opposition UDP camp

Photo: (l-r) Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, UDP Leader; Hon. Patrick Faber and John Saldivar

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 25, 2024

Much has transpired in the camp of the United Democratic Party (UDP) since its crushing defeat at the polls in the municipal elections on March 6, 2024. The party left its post mortem by the National Party Council (NPC) for Saturday, March 23, just over two weeks after the elections. But while that meeting was taking place at party headquarters off Youth for the Future Drive in Belize City, a few miles away, standard bearers who should have been at the NPC meeting were having their own private gathering at the Biltmore. While that may signal a reignited rift within the party, and has already led to a senatorial appointment switch-up, UDP Leader, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow also has to contend with unsavory developments surrounding his attempt to distance himself from his senior street captain, Brian “Yellowman” Audinett.

When he emerged from the 5-hour NPC meeting on Saturday, Barrow affirmed there were at least 20 of the 31 divisions represented. Some people have since questioned that figure, saying that the representation at the NPC was far less, and that some 14 divisions were represented at the Biltmore meeting. Over on that side, there was John Saldivar, who leads the powerful Caucus for Change, and Collet Area Representative and former UDP leader, Hon. Patrick Faber. Both politicians, who are seniors in the UDP, have jousted with Barrow for the leadership in recent years, until the Party’s last National Convention in August 2023, when Barrow was endorsed to lead the UDP through to the next general elections in 2025. Other notables at the Biltmore meeting, which has been described by some as the “coup meeting”, were 2nd Deputy Leader, Beverly Castillo for Belize Rural Central; Belize Rural South’s Daniel Guerrero; Belize Rural North’s Edmund Castro; Orange Walk Central’s Denny Grijalva; and Stann Creek West’s Ivan Williams. Emerging out of the meeting, all maintained silence when asked why they had boycotted the NPC meeting, and whether they were discussing Barrow’s removal. Castro did say it was an internal party matter which he would not discuss.

For his part, during his interview on Saturday, Barrow refused to acknowledge the Biltmore meeting. He said he was only focused on the matter at hand and affirmed, “The far majority of constituencies were here, and that is all that matters … I have the majority and the majority is focused, the majority is satisfied with the leadership, and the majority will do its work so that we can form the next government.”

Party Chairman Michael Peyrefitte likewise declined to recognize that there were two meetings, and affirmed that people are always missing from NPC meetings. He also declared, “The National Convention has taken a position on the leadership situation of Shyne Barrow, so I don’t see how any meeting at the Biltmore can change that.”

One who did not shy away from frontally addressing the reality was Dianne Finnegan. She commented about the Biltmore meeting saying, “It’s sad that someone would do that because at the end of the day, this is a circle of UDP supporters who are supposed to be working for the people … We had a wonderful meeting upstairs, and so I have nothing negative to say. Who chose not to be here, it’s because they have their own agenda.”

UDP Senator Beverly Williams replaced

In the wake of Saturday’s developments, UDP Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow made a change in his senatorial appointments, removing Beverly Williams as UDP senator. In a letter to the Governor General dated today, Monday, March 25, 2024, Barrow notifies that the seat held by Williams was left vacant and that she will be replaced by Mark O’Brien who was endorsed last year as UDP standard bearer for Cayo Central. Our reports are that the reason provided to Williams for her removal is that she has served two years, and it is time for someone else to get the opportunity to serve. However, we were reminded that Senator Anthony Herrera has also served two years, but there is no move to have him removed.
There are also reports that Barrow is seeking the reversal of the NPC’s support for John Saldivar and Denny Grijalva to remain as standard bearers in their divisions of Belmopan and Orange Walk Central, respectively. Saldivar has not responded to our request for confirmation if he received any such notification from the NPC.

The UDP’s path to the general elections 2025

As to the way forward for the next general elections, UDP Leader, Moses “Shyne” Barrow insists that the focus must now be on pumping all efforts into the 16 seats they are assured of winning in the general elections. Reporting on the National Party Council meeting today, he wrote a message titled, “One UDP family!” on his Facebook page stating, “We also established a consensus on the necessary strategy moving forward in order to secure at least 16 Seats in the next General Elections to become the next Government of Belize.” Barrow reported that there was constructive criticism “so we can improve on our weaknesses and build on our strengths.” He told Amandala on Saturday that they heard everyone’s honest assessment and shared, “We had very brutal and frank discussions about what may have gone wrong, and what we need to do to strengthen certain constituencies and strengthen certain team players … We went through every municipality.” For his part, Chairman Michael Peyrefitte proclaimed, “We have heard from everyone; everyone gave their concerns, and we will develop a more detailed strategy as we go along. The UDP is very energetic; it’s very dynamic. It’s very messy, like all democracies. We are a democratic party, so that is what we thrive on.”

Yellowman terminated from UDP Secretariat; He files criminal complaint against Party Leader

In an unexpected turn of events, Brian “Yellowman” Audinett, a senior street captain in the Mesopotamia Division of Party Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow, who was employed at the UDP Secretariat, was terminated on March 18, 2024. Asked about the firing on March 22, Barrow initially did not wish to discuss the reasons. That same day however, it emerged that Audinett had gone to the police to file a criminal complaint against his party leader. When we spoke with Barrow on Saturday after the NPC meeting, he was more willing to go into detail about the termination, saying it was because Audinett stole a refrigerator, television set and a microwave from party headquarters on March 18. Barrow also said that he had no knowledge about the police report filed by Audinett against him.

On Monday, Audinett gave his own interview, and said he had gotten the items donated while Dr. Carol Babb was Secretary General of the Party. Audinett pointed to a WhatsApp message from Secretary General Shary Obando on March 18 where he was told, “Pending review of your overall job performance and in keeping with the adjustments necessary in order to position the Party for victory in the next General Elections, it has been decided it is best to discontinue your employment at the UDP Secretariat.” Audinett told the media he believes the real reason why he was fired was because he has been very vocal. He shared, “We get here because the election happened the 6th of March. The Monday after, we called an executive meeting with Mesopotamia executive. When we called that meeting, I told everybody in the meeting, ‘We need to speak up. Unu kyaan di talk behind di man back and noh tell di man di truth.’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘You will hear right now because di man dehn will tell yoh how dehn feel.’ Well, I speak out and I said, ‘Shyne, I going to be honest with you. I, from the first time that you run ‘gainst Tracy,’ I told him personally, ‘I don’t believe that you are fit enough to represent the party as the leader.’”

Audinett also remarked that their numbers in Belize City went down in the latest elections. He added, “While we were on the campaign trail, the people are saying, we will not vote for unu if unu noh get rid ah Shyne.’”

Audinett also says that they offered him a settlement deed for an ex gratia payment of $7,500, but he refused to sign after checking with the Labor Department and determining that he should be paid around $18,000. The deed would have required him to accept that he was terminated for good and sufficient cause, and that he and his family, agents, and friends would refrain, in perpetuity, from making negative, disparaging statements about the UDP, its party leaders, officials, members and affiliates. The deed would have also required him to stay away from UDP headquarters.

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