BELMOPAN, Thurs. Aug. 22, 2019– The position of Sergeant at Arms has been around since the reign of England’s King George V in 1415, but over the years, the position has become mostly ceremonial. The one core function of a modern-day Sergeant at Arms that has not changed with the times is to keep order.
In Belize, since the United Democratic Party (UDP) government led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow came into office in 2008, Brian “Yellowman” Audinette has been the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives.
Audinette, who was a mouthpiece for the UDP before they were returned to power, has been involved in behavior that is definitely unbecoming of the holder of the office of Sergeant at Arms. At least on four different occasions, Audinett’s behavior has been highlighted in the news in an uncomplimentary manner.
Last Friday at the House of Representatives meeting, Audinette’s behavior appeared to have once again brought his office into disrepute. This time the Sergeant at Arms is accused of verbally attacking the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) Dangriga standard bearer and newly designated senator, Dr. Louis Zabaneh.
The attack occurred inside the National Assembly Building, where at the very least, Dr. Zabaneh, as a visitor to the National Assembly, should have been safe from this kind of personal attack from an apparently politically motivated Sergeant at Arms.
Dr. Zabaneh, writing on his Facebook page following the incident, said he has reported the incident to Belmopan police.
Dr. Zabaneh posted, “Today, August 16, 2019, at about 1:30 p.m., I filed a report to the police in Belmopan after ‘Yellow Man,’the Sergeant at Arms of the National Assembly, accused me and the entire Zabaneh family of being a thief/thieves as I was walking down the steps of the National Assembly. He said that the Zabaneh family ‘thief people’s lands.’ He did so in front of several people in a nasty, intimidating and confrontational manner.
“After I returned to the gallery, he was at his seat while the House was back in session, and he started to make intimidating gestures up to me. I have a video copy of that from a lady sitting beside me.
“I spoke with the Speaker and the Clerk in their Chambers after the House Meeting. They were appalled by what they heard and stated that they were in the process of trying to make the National Assembly safer. I gave them a copy of the police report. They assured me that they would take measures to address the matter with Yellow Man.
“As God may have it, as I stepped out and they pulled their door after we met, I started talking to a former student of mine right outside their door. Then Yellow Man came up and asked the young lady why she is talking to a thief. So I stepped right back into the Speaker’s office, and he tried to block me, but I got in anyway, and told the Speaker and the Clerk what he had just said to the young lady.
“The young lady confirmed that indeed, Yellow Man had said just that. The Speaker and Clerk then called Yellow Man into the office, and then I left.”
Dr. Zabaneh went on to say that he has never met Audinette before the incident.
This is not the first time, however, that Audinette’s behavior has cast him negatively in the public spotlight.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, in commenting on Dr. Zabaneh’s report, is quoted on 7News, last night, Wednesday, as saying, “What I was briefed about was that Mr. Zabaneh had reported that Mr. Audinette had called him a thief in the House and that he had asked Mr. Audinette why is he calling him a thief and Mr. Audinette constantly said to him that he is a thief.
“I have not been briefed on anything to say that Mr. Audinette had threatened to cause bodily harm to Mr. Zabaneh. So the fact that I was briefed that he is alleging that Mr. Audinette is calling him a thief, I said, is not a matter for the police. That would be a civil matter. If it is that Mr. Zabaneh feels that his character is being defamed by Mr. Audinette calling him a thief, then that is not something for the police to deal with.”
On Tuesday, we asked the Clerk of the National Assembly, Eddie Webster, for an update on the Audinette matter.
Webster told us that presently, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Laura Longsworth, is out of the country, but when she returns, Audinette will be taken before the House Staff Committee for a hearing.
This morning, Dr. Zabaneh called “The Whip,” the PUP’s morning talk show, to say that the PUP will be asking for the removal of Audinette from the position of Sergeant at Arms.
Dr. Zabaneh explained that if the UDP political directorate does not act on this matter, that will explain a lot to us about the state of our democracy.
Dr. Zabaneh said that if Audinette is not removed as the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives, then the UDP is sending a message to this country that they represent that type of behavior. So it’s not in their best interest to keep Audinette there, he said.
“I almost have pity for this young man, but at the same time, we have to protect the integrity of the House,” Dr. Zabaneh declared.
Standing Orders of The House Of Representatives
The symbol of the dignity and authority of the House, entrusted by it to the Speaker, shall be the Mace.
It shall be the duty of the Sergeant at Arms to attend the Speaker, with the Mace, on entering and leaving the House and on such other occasions as may be ordered by the House or the Speaker.
The Sergeant at Arms shall, during the sittings of the House and Committees of the whole House, maintain order under the direction of the Speaker or Chairman and execute the orders of the House and all processes issued by authority of the House or the Speaker and directed to him.
The Police Orderlies on duty in the House shall be under the direction of the Sergeant at Arms.