The PUP’s National Party Council held an extended meeting today at Independence Hall. Most of the business of the day was to prepare for next week’s budget debate.

But, while that was like political house-keeping – the hot button item that was on everyone’s mind was the balance of power in the PUP after the leaked John Briceno recording – and whether in the wake of the municipal elections trouncing, Francis Fonseca remains viable as leader.

4 hours into the meeting, the Party Council decided to break for a few minutes so that the National Campaign Manager could speak with the waiting press about Fonseca’s standing as leader. Here’s what he had to say:

Godfrey Smith - National Campaign Manager, PUP

"In the first half of the meeting, the party leader, the Hon. Francis Fonseca; in essence, laid on the table the question of his leadership and the question of a leadership convention. Expressed his commitment and dedication in continuing forward - to lead the PUP to the next general election. But would do so only if all members of the national executive, all standard bearers and the parliamentary cacaos freely expressed their views on this position. The floor was then open and every person in the room essentially some 38 persons, comprising those 3 bodies spoke and gave unanimous support for the leadership of Francis Fonseca moving forward. With some of the views being expressed that they perhaps should be an endorsement convention, which will he held at some point in the future - to be determined by the PUP. “

Last night we told you how former PUP Cayo North Standard Bearer Richard Harrison released a searing political commentary on the Belize Media Group website asking, quote, “if they cannot uphold their own party’s constitution while in opposition, how can they be expected to uphold the national constitution while in government?” End quote.

The PUP is certain to receive criticisms like this one since, by party resolution, Fonseca’s leadership cannot be contested at a national convention. We asked today if the party is sticking by that decision:

Godfrey Smith - National Campaign Manager, PUP

"The leadership of the party comprised of the national executive, standard bearers, and parliamentary cacaos - discussed, debated the issue. And while the views was expressed that there should be going back to the people in a robust convention, to get then ready for the general election. To a man and woman, none of the leaders felt that, thought that there should be a leadership contest. So it was put squarely to those people and that is the response that they gave."

Daniel Ortiz

"Isn't that some what violation of the constitution of the PUP not to, even though you have the endorsement of the entire party itself - that the letter of the constitution is not being followed?"

Godfrey Smith

"Absolutely not. The constitution, no where I have read is that ever national convention has to be a tested convention. And no party had conducted it affairs in that manner. It's up to the leadership, and by leadership I don't mean the party leader and deputy, I mean the big body.”

Notably, John Briceno was absent from today’s meeting when the attending members of the party council gave a unanimous endorsement of Francis Fonseca. Now, you will remember that on the secretly recorded conversation of Briceno’s comments, which made headlines in the news last week, Briceno accuses Fonseca of being part of the reason why the party is in disarray. It also revealed that he had aspirations of making a challenge for the position of Party Leader. So is that why he didn’t attend today? Here’s how the party answered:

Godfrey Smith - National Campaign Manager, PUP

"John Briceno called in his regards for not being able to make the meeting. In that discussion we had this morning. It was resoundingly stated, that John Briceno is a member of the party. He is embraced by the PUP. He is an asset of the PUP and he will help the PUP to move forward to a victory in the next general election.”

Getting back to the political article written by Richard Harrison, for the second time in only a few days, the senior leadership is being harshly criticised by an insider. If you thought that was cause for concern, or that the party would give his comments some thought, you thought wrong. The party intends to ignore it completely:

Daniel Ortiz

"Sir, have you all discussed the article that Mr. Richard Harrison gave to the Belize media group?"

Godfrey Smith - National Campaign Manager, PUP

"No, and we will not. And you want to hear why not?"

Daniel Ortiz

"Yes sir."

Godfrey Smith

"Because we are interested in conducting business. You really expect us to discuss every Facebook blog that appears?"

Daniel Ortiz

"But this gentleman is an insider. He was the candidate that you all put forward for Cayo north. And he has a perspective of that, many of us out here who don't know what's happening inside the party - and he has expressed sir, views, that align with this recording."

Godfrey Smith

"I am sorry. We will not be distracted by those sort of red herrings. The party recognises that it has a lot of deep and fundamental work to do - and that is just what we intend to do."

Daniel Ortiz

"What about those who interpret that as, you are not taking criticism seriously?"

Godfrey Smith

"Then you will have to judge us on our actions as we move forward."

Reporter

"There are some PUP supporters that made reference to the party, and you know, want they want to see change in the party and what have you. Some of the comments that dominated those conversations is basically, they want to get rid of the old heads. Or the PUP is trying to presented the same old house with a new paint job or something to that effect. They're basically calling for change."

Godfrey Smith

"The percentage of young persons in the PUP, new faces, is greater than that exists in the UDP. So, the fact of the matter is, that is you do the actual check - that has gone through it's various conventions and have appointed a lot of new people. They're vigorous, they're young, they're ready to work. I'm not sure what you mean by old heads, but this is a party of inclusion. They are many of those among us who has been with the party for longer than some of you have been alive and they have made a great contribution.”

The Party Council meeting continued late into the afternoon after the PUP granted the press that opportunity. This discussion, as Godfrey Smith indicated, was to get back to the recent budget presentation from Prime Minister Dean Barrow on last week Friday.

Channel 7


Johnny Briceño’s Noticeable Absence from Fonseca Endorsement

Executive members, parliamentarians and standard bearers today, but former Party Leader John Briceño was conspicuously absent. Briceño, last Friday, very publicly, supported the call for a national convention of the P.U.P., though he has not gone so far as to say he would throw his hat in the ring. Since there won’t be any contested leadership convention, just where does Briceño fit into the P.U.P. equation? That’s what we asked this afternoon.  

Godfrey Smith, Campaign Manager, P.U.P.

“I think somebody led off by asking if there was a question of fear. Within the ranks of the People’s United Party there’s never an issue of fear. There is an issue of dealing with problems and moving forward in an organized, confident manner. John Briceño called in his regrets for not being able to make the meeting. In that discussion that we had this morning, it was resoundingly stated that John Briceño is a member of the party. He is embraced by the People’s United Party. He is an asset of the People’s United Party and he will help the People’s United Party to move forward in the next general elections.”

Reporter

“Sir the U.D.P. quite clearly is hoping that with the release of the last tape, that the People’s United Party will be completely fragmented. Have fences been mended?”

Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith

“Yes I would say that is the case. The process that began a week ago…or was it two weeks, right after elections…we began the process. It continued today and will continue. But I would say that certainly my impression of today’s meeting is that it was a buoyant meeting. There was no depression. People were very optimistic, assertive, and aggressive even, and ready to take charge of their various divisions and all the various roles and responsibilities that we share to move forward to the next election.”

Channel 5