The Dozen Dissenters Make Demands Of Francis Fonseca
There's an open rebellion going on in the PUP and it's focused on leader Francis Fonseca. 12 Candidates have signed to a letter asking for a national convention - one that could unseat him as leader of the PUP. That letter was sent to the party chairman Henry Usher today - and it also asks for changes in the composition of the party's executive, and changes in policy-making decisions. But every action has a reaction, and this one has triggered an immediate backlash from the Fonseca faithful within the PUP. They are also making moves to isolate and neutralize the dissenting dozen.
We'll tell you all about it, but we start with the letter. It started to take shape last week after Tuesday's boycott of the meeting Fonseca called with members of the national executive and candidates. As we reported, 13 candidates did not attend that meeting - but even with that, Fonseca denied that there had been a boycott.
But, there was, and the dissenters, led by John Briceno, Dan Silva, Cordel Hyde and Jose Mai started having meetings in Cayo to discuss the broken state of their party and problems with the leadership. That culminated on Friday when one dozen of them signed the letter asking for a new convention which is long overdue.
Today, Cayo central Candidate Dan Silva posed a lengthy explanation on his Facebook page. He says, quote, "40 percent of our standard-bearers met in Cayo on Friday to discuss the state of affairs inside our great party. And we all concluded that something has to happen. We cannot continue as we have, pretending as if though all is well when we know that something is wrong. That something is that the people are not buying what we are presenting to them."
Silva continues, quote, "That has been very clear in three straight elections during the last six months, starting with the Cayo North bye-election in January. The people have been very clear every chance they have gotten. They are not impressed with our party; something is not right with us; we are still vulnerable to the labels of the past."
And with that swipe at the old guard which has become very prominent in this dispute, Silva moves unto business:
"All 12 of us who have signed a letter we sent this morning to our party chairman and party leader agree that it is absolutely important that we call an urgent National Convention. It has been almost 5 years since we have gone back to the people in National Convention and that's a very serious violation of our Party's Constitution. It is also a first inside our great party." He adds warily,
"what will happen when we are in government if we are prepared to violate our party's constitution like this when we are in Opposition?"
He concludes, grimly, quote, "You cannot ignore and violate the constitution of the party and the constitution of the nation whenever and however you wish....We must set a date for our National Convention at the earliest."
It's an unusually strong and plain-spoken message to put out there in the public - but the dissenting dozen feel they don't have much to lose. First, the PUP continues to be seriously cash strapped, and, as a consequence, many in that dozen are convinced that with the current inertia, the party stands an above average chance of losing the next general election - so, the wisdom is, if defeat is likely, better try something than do nothing.
But, dissent is a bitter pill for the Fonseca leadership to follow. And over the weekend, Fonseca's followers closed ranks - even activating the leader's cousin Ralph Fonseca to rope in those candidates who were being courted by the dissenters.
That effort culminated on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm at Dolores Balderamos Garcia's House on the Northern Highway where as many as 20 standard bearers were invited to what we are told is a solidarity meeting for Francis Fonseca. Our information says that Briceno, Hyde and Silva were not invited.
Rebellion in the PUP!
Last week Tuesday, a number of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) National Executive members and standard bearers boycotted a strategy meeting at the Party’s Independence Hall headquarters. When the media questioned party leader Francis Fonseca, he was quite dismissive of the absences and told the media that nothing was unusual about it.
In speaking about the absentees, Fonseca said: “That happens at many meetings. At many meetings we don’t have full attendance. There is absolutely nothing to be read into that at all about any boycott.”
This morning, the media was again invited to Independence Hall for a press briefing, held by the women leaders of the PUP. While that meeting was going on, however, the PUP Chairman was served with a letter signed by 12 PUP standard bearers who are demanding that the party stop violating its constitution and hold a national convention as soon as possible.
The meeting of the women, sources within the PUP have confirmed, was organized by Ralph Fonseca, who, we are told, made the calls to arrange for the meeting to be held at the home of Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia (the PUP’s Belize Rural Central area representative) on Sunday.
Ralph Fonseca, the former PUP Minister of Budget Planning and National Security, who was the party’s National Campaign Manger and who was defeated by the UDP’s Michael Hutchinson, has been under the political radar since his 2008 general election defeat.
At today’s PUP women’s press briefing, all of the women who made presentations spoke glowingly about party leader Francis Fonseca, and expressed their support for his leadership of the party.
In the brief question and answer period which followed their presentations, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia declined to answer any questions about yesterday’s meeting at her home that were put to her by 7News’s Jules Vasquez, whose station had dispatched a camera crew in the vicinity of the meeting.
Lisa Shoman, PUP Leader in the Senate who chaired the meeting, revealed today that a few months ago, the PUP held a meeting and it was agreed that there would be a national convention before the general elections.
The letter that was sent today to the PUP Chairman, Henry Charles Usher, was the product of a meeting that was held on Friday, three days after the 12 standard bearers boycotted the Tuesday meeting.
The PUPs who signed the letter which called for a convention reportedly include Johnny Briceńo, Orange Walk Central; Dan Silva, Cayo Central; Cordel Hyde, Lake Independence; Paul Thompson, Albert; Francis Smith, Pickstock; Gilroy Usher, Port Loyola; Major Lloyd Jones, Belize Rural North; Elip Arceo, Belize Rural South; Josue Carballo, Orange Walk East; Jose Mai, Orange Walk South; Papas Garcia, Corozal Bay; and David Castillo, Corozal North.
After the letter was delivered to Usher, Silva posted a statement on his Facebook page, which appeared to express the sentiments that are shared by his fellow standard bearers who signed the letter.
Silva’s post spoke about the Friday meeting and the position that the group has taken, saying that, “…something has to happen.”
Silva further stated, “…the people are not buying what we are presenting to them…”
“They are not impressed with our party; something is not right with us; we are still vulnerable to the labels of the past,” he remarked.
“All 12 of us who have signed a letter we sent this morning to our party chairman and party leader, agree that it is absolutly important that we call an urgent National Convention,” Silva said.
Silva explained that the PUP have not had a national convention for five years, which is a violation of the party’s constitution. Silva further noted that this extended delay in the holding of a national convention is a first in the PUP, which has always had national conventions every two years in the month of November.
Silva’s post argued that having a national convention “ASAP” is a part of the preparation that is necessary for the party to be in the best possible fighting form whenever Prime Minister Dean Barrow calls general elections.
Up to press time tonight, there has been no response from PUP leader Hon. Francis Fonseca, Freetown area representative.