Biggest Day On Parliamentary Calendar

So today was the biggest day on the Parliamentary Calendar for the year so far - the much hyped Amended Petrocaribe Loan Amendment Bill was taken to the house. This issue has galvanized all those organizations opposed to the government for months - principally for the PUP which has made it the central focus of all discussion and political activity. So today surely they would have rained down a mighty debate to push back against and expose the government. Well, that's what we thought....but, this one never happened. And that's because very early into the House Meeting the opposition walked out.

They did it in support of their senator Patrick Andrews who was in the gallery as an observer. Now, the Senator is a member of Parliament so he has special privileges - but speaker Michael Peyreffitte told had cautioned him earlier - and then during a Patrick Faber presentation - he ordered him removed! We pick it up about a minute after the speaker called the police - and Andrews refused to move - that's when UDP's Michael Finnegan brought the situation tot the speakers attention.. We air it moistly unedited from there:..

Hon. Michael Finnegan
"I think your instructed the police to take that gentleman out who are destructing the House. Make him get out."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House
"One second Minister."

Hon. Michael Finnegan
"Who is he? Was his father making him when he was....?

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House
"Leader of the Opposition, I explain a long time.... wait let me explain to you. When the Opposition side is speaking, remain quite. It doesn't matter of you are a senator or a governor general or anybody. You will be removed by me if you can't follow my rules. Simple."

"When you speak, they have to be quite or I will move them out too and for the record, I put out more from this side than that side. Who vex could leave."

"Officer remove the gentleman."

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition
"Mr. Speaker this is outrageous. We are subjected and we take it like big girls and boys. We are subjected to all kinds of name calling and all kinds of things and we take it. I did not hear the Senator say anything Mr. Speaker. He laughed during a comment made by the member for Collet. Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to you to reconsider. Because if you remove the senator, then we will walk out of this meeting. I am telling you that right now. You touch one of us, you tough all of us. You are treating us unfairly. You are treating the senator unfairly. He did nothing."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House
"It is not true that when you speak or any other member from this side speak, that I tolerate any shouting at you or anything like that. That is not true. But I believe if the person is a senator, the person should set an example. To be frank with you he acted that way as if though he was daring me to put him out. Well he dared me and he dared the wrong person. He has to go and if you choose to go thats your choice. That's your choice."

"Remove Mr. Vaughn too please."

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of the Opposition
"Mr. Speaker we are walking out and I put on record again, this is the arrogance and tyranny and dictatorship of this government that the people of this country are starting to wake up to and stand up against. We will have no part of it Mr. Speaker."

Hon. Michael Peyrefitte - Speaker of the House
"Officer, remove this man."

"Are there any more presentations on the debate?"

The PUP hung around…not wanting to leave - while police had to call their Belmopan Commander Superintendent Howell Gillett - who tried talking to Andrews - because the police clearly did not want to forcibly remove the Senator. After some talking to Senator Andrews finally accepted that rather than be hauled out, he would walk out - and with a wave to the crowed - he strolled out pass the UDP who heckled him, and went down the stairs.

Did the PUP Walk Off The Job?

And while he says the PM is shutting down freedom of speech, on this day, it's the PUP that gave up the right to debate when they walked off the job. So, was it the right decision? Well, judging by the body language of some of the members - it's clear they had prepared for the day and didn't want to go. We asked the leader of the opposition if it was worth it:..

Jules Vasquez
"We know that todays a very important day in the House and Opposition certainly needed to be there to discuss particularly the Petrocaribe legislation. Why did you al take the decision to walk out?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"You're absolutely right, Jules. It's very important matters and we had had very important contributions to make, but we think events over took that."

Jules Vasquez
"There are all these assaults on democracy and free speech or free expression as you say then why did the PUP abandoned its very important position today. How do you all ventilate your very important view points on these Petrocaribe legislation if you leave the House?"

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"That's what we are doing here. We are talking to you. We are talking on these issues. That is exactly what we are doing and other members here are prepared to discuss these issues with the media."

PUP Blames It On Barrow

We followed him outside - where he linked up with his fellow PUP Parliamentarians - and the Senator blamed it all on Barrow:..

Jules Vasquez
"Senator, you've been thrown out of the House of Representatives. What's you initial reaction?"

Hon. Patrick Andrews - PUP Senator
"I wasn't thrown out. I decide to walk on my own. What happened here today is nothing new in this country. We have a prime minister and a UDP government that feel like they are above the law. I was in this same house, the last house meeting when Alberto August. That man was talking and insulting our party leader and our PUP representatives and when that same House Speaker ask for him to be taken out, no one could have taken him out. Now, I am a Senator and I have immunity in this House. Now two things: I want then to how me what I was doing or saying to have the House Speaker feel as if though he could have taken me out of the House. Yes, there was people behind me saying things, but man, we live in a democratic society and so, he had no reasons or conditions on why. That's why I refused to have stepped out."

Jules Vasquez
"Senator, let me ask very clearly. Did you thrown words. I can't detect who is doing what. The Speaker says he heard you repeatedly throwing words like you were goading him."

Hon. Patrick Andrews - PUP Senator
"Man, the Speaker, he could barely turn his head to see up at the gallery. To be honest with you. And so whatever he were hearing, I couldn't attest to that. I could tell you that whenever our party leader stood up and speak I applauded."

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Leader of The Opposition
"I was sitting directly in front of Senator Andrews. He is in my line of sight and he did nothing except laugh fairly loudly. Laughed, when the member of Collet was making his statement. We behind us are subjected to that kind continuously all during the meeting. So, I felt on principle that it was absolutely unfair for the Speaker to single out Senator Patrick Andrews. It almost seems that it was pre-ordained, that it was a part of some plan. He singled out Senator Andrews and insisted on having the police removed him and even when I appeal to him to reconsider, he refused to do so. We felt that under those circumstances we could not sit there and participate in a House meeting in which one of our parliamentarians Senator Patrick Andrews was being treated unfairly by the Speaker of the House of Representatives."

Jules Vasquez
"You wanted the man stayed in the House. That's what you told him. Because he eventually relented and choose to walk out, but you wanted him to put up a fight."

Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South
"Well I am a fighter. We are warriors in the People's United Party, but we are also responsible and what is the prime minister is doing is not responsible. What the prime minister is doing is shutting down everybody. He has shut up the press, he has shot up the media. The Speaker is part of them. You have to understand he is an agent of Barrow."

Jules Vasquez
"But you are saying the Speaker takes instructions sir? You are a member of the House and you are saying the Speaker takes instructions...?"

Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South
"Listen to me very carefully. The Speaker is member of the United Democratic Party - that at times want to participate in the debate. But what he does not realize is to participate in the debate, he has to be elected. He tried it once and he knew what he got and that's why I am saying, the Speaker is bias. The Speaker is an agent of Barrow and that is what we have here right now and I have no problem saying that quite clearly. Secondly, the Prime Minister is going about shutting up freedom speech."

PM Says Opposition Walkout is Shameful

And while the Leader of the Opposition walked out on principle, the PM says the PUP it all wrong:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Precisely, they've made all this noise about Petrocaribe. This is the opportunity to make a last stand on their part and they manufacture an excuse to walk out. I don't know if it is sea breeze and Pelican they figured to dodge this lick that's coming because we were ready for them on this side of the House. But in any case what on earth Mr. Speaker is happening to the constitutional opposition in this country? First, they didn't want to contest a bi-election. Second, petrocaribe that they claim - is the most fundamental issue in this country today. When you get a chance to debate it, you walk out. It is a gross dereliction of duty. They will walk out and leave the nation and those that support them and those that are interested in democracy and debate - hanging. Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House say, shame."

Channel 7