Barrow and Briceno: Shoulder to Shoulder on Crime
Whenever we seen Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Opposition leader John Briceno together, they're at the House Of Representatives across the floor from each other- and across the political divide where put-downs and political criticism dictate the terms of engagement.
So that's why today it was huge news as they were shoulder to shoulder jointly endorsing the Barrow Administration's flagship project, the widely publicized Restore Belize.
They met this morning at the PUP Party Leader's Office, which we note is not at Independence Hall. It is on Eve Street where the party leader and his top operatives have a well appointed executive suite.
The Prime Minister went to him at this office at 11:30 this morning, where they met for an hour and a half. At the end of it they issued a joint statement and spoke jointly to the press.
John Briceno, Leader of the People's United Party "I need to start off by thanking the Prime Minister who invited me to discuss Operation Restore Belize. We have been very clear that when it comes to the issue of crime that crime affects each and every one of us and that it is not a political issue. We as a political party. The People's United Party has already expressed that in any way that we can offer our support as the Opposition that we are prepared to work with the government in any which way we can to address this very pressing issue."
"Mr. Prime Minister he says any which way but there seems to be a non specificity about it. It seems that its an approach in goodwill but I don't see anything concrete."
Prime Minister Dean Barrow"There are the sub committees that will be responsible operationally for the areas we've identified. I've asked the leader to be sure that his party will nominate a member for each of those sub committees. I chair the committee at the top which is a kind of inter-ministerial committee I have promised the leader that after each meeting of that committee I will seek him out in order to brief him so that we can be at all times as much as possible on the same page. "
John Briceno"The Prime Minister has just made available the complete document Operation Restore Belize. Obviously we would need some time to be able to look at it very closely but basically on the operations part of it that the Prime Minister has invited the Opposition to participate in the sub committees where the actual work is going to take place. I mentioned to him that we are going to have a national executive meeting later this month and I am going to bring it to the national executive for us to be able to discuss and decide exactly what steps we are going to be able to take."
"I wouldn't want to be cynical and accuse you of politicizing crime or even "the end of crime" as the case may be but isn't there a political advantage to be gain for the opposition in the fact that crime is obviously the Achilles Heel of this administration."
John Briceno"You are being cynical. But certainly from our aspect whilst the government has made a presentation on Operation Restore Belize from our end we are going to, whilst we continue support any initiative that the government may take, we will certainly ask to have our suggestions and our policies that we are going to come with later in the future."
"Sir, do you see it as victory in a political sense that you are able to enlist the support of the PUP on what you have said is the single greatest issue facing your administration currently."
PM Dean Barrow "I think that is as it should be and I understood the leader of the Opposition to have said a long time ago that in fact his party would be prepared to work with the government on any national initiative. This is the national initiative, he has been true to his words and I think this is what the public wants to see, and I think this is what the public will welcome."
Such a show of bi-partisanship is very rare. We have to go back to 1991 and the ill-fated Maritime Areas Act which only led to a split in the UDP.
Other than that, we'd have to go to the early 60's and the National Unity Front between Phillip Goldson, George Price and Herbert Fuller which did hold for some years.
But this is a whole other kettle of fish. Briceno said he hadn't yet taken it to his executive and the feedback we've been getting is that it may not go down that smoothly. Additionally, the reactionary old Guard is expected to criticize any supportive maneuvers with the UDP government. Briceno was similarly criticized internally when he supported in writing the Prime Minister's brother as a justice of appeal.
But for Briceno's part if legitimizes his oft-embattled leadership - which, we suspect, does not displease the Prime Minister who seems to rather like having Briceno as Opposition Leader. http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=17072