Having pursued a month long campaign to replace retiring P.U.P. leader Said Musa, tonight Johnny Briceño is calling it quits. Citing what he called the unfair practices of the party hierarchy as demonstrated at yesterday's meeting at the National Party Council, Briceño told News Five's Stewart Krohn that he cannot participate in a contest that has been rigged from the start.
John Briceño, Quits Race for Party Leadership "It's a painful decision but I believe that it is the only decision that I can make. We're seeing that the process is flawed as it is and participating in that flawed process, you're only going to make it legitimate and I believe that if I were to be given a fair chance to launch my campaign and to campaign and to garner the support and if I were to lose then I could accept that. But why would you pick a fight or get into an election that you know what the result is going to be—that you are going to lose—because of the way it is settled."
Stewart Krohn "Well, there is a thing called principle. What happened to that?"
John Briceño "I think the principle starts within the party, that the principle supposed to be that it's supposed to be a free and fair election. I am saying at this time that I am resigning as the deputy party leader and I will not participate or I will withdraw my candidacy for the selection of a new party leader. What I am also saying that remain a P.U.P. I am going to continue to work for the people of Orange Walk Central. They have given me the privilege once again to represent them. I will continue to work with the other constituencies that would like to start this meaningful change. Obviously, the leadership or the people at the top are still living in denial and they don't want to make that change at the top so that we then need start—if there's going to be any meaningful change well then lets start from the bottom and go up."
Stewart Krohn "For the last month or so since the election you've been working closely with Mark Espat to try and gain the leadership for either one of you essentially. Does this mean that Mr. Espat will also be stepping down from his candidacy or is he going to continue? Do you know?"
John Briceño "I don't know at this time but in many instances Mark and I were standing up for the same things that we wanted more inclusion in the party in the decision making. We wanted to open up the party and we felt that together we can try to move some of these things that we stand for. At this time I don't know what Mark Espat is going to do or what's going to be his decision."
Stewart Krohn "Will you personally be attending the convention and would you bring your delegates with you?"
John Briceño "Well again, all of that has to be decided at this time. I mean I have to be ... continue consulting with my constituency, with the leaders in my constituency—with our executive—and I think it's too early at this time to make that type of decision."
Stewart Krohn "John, this kind of move on your part and perhaps on Mr. Espat's part is proof that the Peoples' United Party is more seriously divided than perhaps we had even realised before. Can this bode well for any particular—for any eventual return to power by the Peoples' United Party? Given this week condition?"
John Briceño "It's going to be a long and difficult road ahead of us but we have to come with meaningful change within the party. Why was I offering myself to be the leader? Because I felt that there are many issues that we needed to address; the issue of inclusion within the party, the need of letting the rank and file feel that they are the true owners of this party, the issue of women, how is it that they can meaningfully participate in the decision making of the party and not only to campaign but to be the actual leaders within the party. These are some of the things that I wanted to promote with in the party. And this whole issue, the whole principle of to serve the people, I mean some of the decisions that we have made as a government obviously were not in the best interest of the people and that is why on February the seventh they rejected us so resoundingly across this country and until we can accept that and say that we need to make these meaningful changes and go back to the issues of social justice to fight for those that need the most help, you help those that need the most help, it is going to be a long and rocky road for the P.U.P."
Stewart Krohn "You've always said or implied all along that the Peoples' United Party under the leadership of Francis Fonseca cannot be successful in elections. Let me put it conversely, can a Peoples' United Party not led by Francis Fonseca or a Peoples' United Party that does not have the support of, let us say, the old guard of the party, can that kind of party win an election?"
John Briceño "I've always felt that this party is a tent big enough to have everybody inside. It's a big family and we're going to have different factions. But at the end of the day, what's supposed to drive us is the whole principle of our service to the people. I am not here to say we don't want this one or the other but it's a matter of coming back to the base and going back to the different constituents, go to the different villages across this country where people truly believe in this party and show them how is it that they are going to benefit from the work and the belief that they have in the P.U.P. and once we can do that I am confident that we would be able to continue to win elections."
Stewart Krohn "Today's Belize Times, Godfrey Smith referred to you as, let me quote here "an intellectual light weight, someone who has difficulty with focusing, with linear thinking and in the exercise of good judgment and discretion of the three candidates, Johnny Briceño is the weakest and most prone to being manipulated". Is there room in the party for you and the former candidate who wrote these words?"
John Briceño "Well, I think that, first of all I let my record speak for itself. I've been very grateful to my parents for a good education but every cent that I have, I have earned. I have managed to start many successful businesses. I have won six elections in a row in Orange Walk. When I was in government for nine and a half years the prime minister did not see it fit to remove me from my post, from my ministry. And when you talk about judgment, when I saw a policy decision that was being made that in felt was not in the best interest of the people of this country I decided that it was more important to be on the side of the people and not on the side of the ones that are making these flawed decisions that they judgment was wrong. Right now we could look back and everybody could see that the judgment that I had was the right one. Maybe you could question his judgment."
Stewart Krohn "Let's fast forward to after the next municipal elections that are around a year from now. Let's say the P.U.P. fails to win a single municipality, things look bad for the party. At that point may John Briceño be ready to jump back into a leadership role?"
John Briceño "I think it's more important for us to be able to keep hope within the P.U.P. I am committed to the P.U.P., I am committed to the people of this party, I am committed to continue to work with them and as I have said publicly, I will continue to work not only in my constituency but in the constituencies in the Orange Walk District, in Corozal, in Cayo, in the San Pedro; wherever I am called that they want my help. And if in two years the people of this party believe that they would like me serve as their leader I would be humbled but I would accept the challenge to be able to lead this party."
Briceño has also resigned from his post as one of three deputy P.U.P. leaders. Our efforts to contact Mark Espat to learn of his convention plans were unsuccessful.