In the Amandala:“I’m not scared!” - PUP leader John Briceño
The heavyweights inside the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) are tussling again over a recent move by party leader Johnny Briceño to call an early national convention on Sunday, September 26, in what some party officials see as an unconstitutional maneuver to retain his grip on the PUP’s leadership going into the next municipal elections due by 2012 and general elections due by 2013.
The only other five elected PUP parliamentarians - namely, Fort George area representative Said Musa, Freetown area representative Francis Fonseca, Albert area representative Mark Espat, Lake Independence area representative Cordel Hyde, and Corozal Southeast area representative Florencio Marin, Sr. - along with party chairman, Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, requested an urgent meeting with Briceño today to discuss concerns over the latest developments.
“I immediately agreed. I am not hiding anything,” said Briceño tonight, telling us that the concern of those who called for the meeting was whether the process is in line with the party constitution.
The PUP sent out an official release on Wednesday, August 25, indicating that a special meeting of the Northern Caucus was held the day before, at which 14 other constituency chairpersons were present. Together, they voted unanimously in support of Briceño’s leadership and for party unity, the release claimed.
Who is challenging your leadership, Amandala asked PUP leader, Johnny Briceño.
As of today, Thursday, August 25th, said Briceño, “nobody is challenging [my] leadership.” Nobody has announced that they will, said Briceño.
Why would there be a need for such a resolution, we probed.
Briceño said that the PUP members attending the meeting want everybody to know they are supporting him, and not just him, the entire party leadership.
However, we note that this is not how the official press release read. It specifically stated the endorsement of Briceño as party leader. We understand that one of the main persons rumored to be challenging Briceño in the convention, Albert area representative, Mark Espat, has not formally declared that he would.
Briceño told our newspaper, however, that it is the right and privilege of any party member to vie for leadership, and if somebody from Crique Sarco, Toledo, wants to do so, he or she can.
“It won’t scare me,” said Briceño.
The PUP held a National Executive Meeting on Wednesday, August 25, at which, Briceño said, they discussed the 60th anniversary of the party and announced the desire to have National Party Council meeting on Saturday, August 28, to start talking about the national convention.
When we asked about the date proposed in September, Briceño told us that they have no date yet.
“It all depends on what the National Party Council decides,” the party leader stated.
He added that they have to make sure all things happen under the constitution of the PUP.
Marin’s division, we note, was the only northern caucus constituency not represented at Tuesday’s Caucus meeting. We find it interesting that Musa’s constituency was represented, but by one of his sons, Henry Usher.
Briceño also told us that under the new constitutional reforms approved by the National Party Council, the provisions benefit him and his supporters, as he contends that he has strong support outside Belize City.
We note that whereas only 5 of 13 Belize District constituencies were represented at the Tuesday meeting, all of the constituencies of the other five districts, except for Marin’s, were represented - the two in Toledo, the two in Stann Creek, the six in Cayo, the four in Orange Walk, and three of four in Corozal. This amounts to nearly three-fourths of the constituencies, which, the PUP release said, voted unanimously in support of Briceño - and “party unity.”
Curious about the second aspect of the resolution, we asked Briceño: “Is [party unity] in jeopardy at this point?”
“Absolutely not” he replied.
We understand that contenders should have 30 days to contest elections for party leadership. The list of delegates should be finalized 21 days before and made available to all candidates and publicly posted.
However, speeding up the convention would limit the time any contender who may want to challenge Briceño may have to campaign nationally for support.
We understand that there is still discord over the latest developments, as some believe that Briceño may still want to proceed with holding the meeting in September.
When we contacted Espat, rumored to be one of Briceño’s most likely challengers, to get comment from him, he did not have much to say except: “I feel that the process has to be as transparent as possible; it has to be constitutional and it has to prove that we are worthy of governance.”
The last PUP leadership convention was held in March 2008, months after the PUP took a trouncing in the General Elections and former leader, Said Musa, stepped down. Briceño ascended to leadership after going up against Francis Fonseca.
Claiming that the process was being rigged for Fonseca, Espat withdrew from the race, because of the then refusal to implement voting reforms.
Recently, there has been talk that Said Musa may be poised to return to leadership.
Under Briceño’s leadership, the UDP took another beating at the polls in the recent village council elections, but the party still hopes to be strong enough, by then, to pull off victories in 2012 and 2013.http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=10245