Marcel Cardona - he made the worst kind of history in December of last year when he became the first sitting representative in memory to lose in a standard bearer convention while serving a five year term. And he not only lost; he came in third making him a lame duck representative.
Well, he made history again today in the budget debate when he fired on his own party from the backbench. Now this kind of thing has happened before - with viable candidates; in 2005 Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde broadsided their own government, demolished its budget and voted not to support it.
Cardona is not a viable mass party candidate right now - and he didn't go as far as voting against his own government's budget, but in a fiery 58 minute address he did do everything else, by going nuclear on his party leader and deputy party leader.
He started out with the Deputy, Gaspar Vega, with whom Cardona has had an ongoing rivalry.
Marcel Cardona, Area Representative Orange Walk East
"The Honorable Deputy Prime Minister and Member of Orange Walk North, spoke about this Government is for the poor. He mentioned that with $250,000 allocated last year toward survey costs, his Ministry of Natural Resources had surveyed house lots in each and every district. But the question which immediately came to my mind, and the mind of many residents of Orange Walk East was, so what about Orange Walk East? Are our people not considered to be poor, like the rest of the country? Or are our people from Orange Walk East being singled out? If carrying out land surveys was so easy for others, why had it become an impossible task for us, the people in Orange Walk East? Were we operating in an animal farm situation? Were some of the animals more equal than others? Was favoritism, bias and discrimination being used as a basis for making the Government's tax-payers' dollars available to one constituency over another? Are Government's resources not paid or contributed by all tax-payers, regardless or which political constituency they belong to? It was quite an eye-opening experience to listen to the Deputy Prime Minister mention all the work and different projects, which have been implemented in each of the villages within the Orange Walk North Constituency. Being only human, flesh and blood, I could not help but envy only a fraction of the projects which he had already implemented in constituency, and wonder if his greed and selfishness in only worrying about and looking after his own welfare and those of his constituency, was not the reason why Orange Walk East had been deprived of so much. The Deputy Prime Minister then proudly asserted - and I quote - 'We have delivered in Orange Walk North". However my only response, but at who's expense! This is a situation which is negatively affecting us in Orange Walk East, a deliberate and carefully orchestrated plan to remove the Orange Walk East Area Representative from his leadership role over the people of the Orange Walk East Constituency. But I have not shed a tear in the process, Mr. Speaker I have not shed a tear in this process. 'God works in strange and mysterious ways', as my mother always says. No, evil will not come. Sometimes even the darkest cloud has a silver lining. This is not a matter to get all worked-up over. There are never any funds or resources for the special infrastructural project for Orange Walk East, because the big fishes, like the Deputy Prime Minister, keep on gobbling up these for themselves alone. All the available resources. And here was the clear evidence of this gross injustice against the people and the Leader of the Orange Walk East Constituency, which have been quietly perpetuated over the past 3 years and change. Most certainly, in collusion with the highest authorities in the present administration, the same Government, which the Prime Minister has attempted to convince us all, is an egalitarian government, meaning a government which advocates equal rights for all."
Speaker of the House of Representative
"Honorable member, I have given you wide latitude to proceed, but this is the financial and economic debate on the budget."
Speaker of the House
"You have ventured into the political and religious matters. Please proceed with that-."
"Mr. Speaker, of course, this is relevant to my constituency and it pertains to the anual expenditures."
Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"And it affects my constituency, and I believe-." (Applause)
Speaker of the House
"Proceed, Honorable Member." (Applause)
"For 3 years I have been told that I must humble - I must remain humble and keep quiet or keep my mouth shut, if I wish for Orange Walk East to benefit from Government's resources. And for 3 years the people of the Orange Walk East Constituency, and myself, have quietly suffered in silence. But rather than our punishment and suffering, at the hands of the highest ranking officials in this current government being abated, the torment, the scorn and the disrespect has been steadily increased. Mr. Speaker, there is only so much punishment that a man or woman can take, no matter how humble they may be, before humility is turned into rebellion. And this is what is happening to us in Orange Walk East. We the people of the Orange Walk East Constituency are sick and tired of the unfair treatment afforded to our people! We are sick and tired of the advantage being taken against us. We are tired of the clear discrimination and abuse we have been suffering at the hands of our very own government! We are tired of being treated like lepers or sub-humans, like if we don't have the same rights and privileges as any other Belizean citizen. We are tired of being denied our much-needed infrastructural projects or capital projects to help provide much needed jobs and economic activities in Orange Walk East. This does not mean that I am resigning my membership in the UDP. On Thursday, February 7, 2008, I was elected under the UDP banner to serve the good people of the Orange Walk East Constituency, for a period of 5 years, or until the next general elections, And not until a UDP crony, and "wannabe" area representative came along trying to force me to step aside, or make room, or give way for him to become the new area representative. Accordingly - and let me very clear- I intend to continue to serve out the remainder of my term of office under the UDP banner. I am speaking out for the rights of the good people of the Orange Walk East Constituency; It has nothing to do with any resignation on my part, either from the UDP party or as a member of the House of Representatives. But it has all to do with my standing up to defend and protect the rights and privileges of our people who deserve to be treated as equals, and not as inferiors or subordinates to others. This is not South Africa, and I am not aware of us practicing and apartide system in Belize. But perhaps, we can be enlightened by our honorable colleagues. And so the Honorable Member for Fort George's question about where is the love, resonates and reverberates in our minds and in our being. Mr. Speaker, my heart and my soul yearn for justice and an end to victimization, oppression, repression, and tyranny against the people of the Orange Walk East Constituency. Accordingly, where in this budget is provision being made for a much needed drainage project? No More national-."
Michael Finnegan, Mesopotamia Area Representative
"On a point of order, will you sit down? You are a lawyer, you must have read the standing order, and you must know the standing order. Mr. Speaker, It seems like the Member for Orange Walk East wants the entire budget, so why doesn't the Prime Minister give it to him?"
Speaker of the House
"Please proceed, Honorable Member for Orange Walk East."
"As i was saying, they might even tell you that i did not present myself to the last UDP Parliamentary Caucus Meeting, held in the Cabinet Room, about 2 weeks ago. But then, What was the use? What use would there have been in my attending such a meeting, when you find yourself in my position, in my shoes? I was approached shortly after the 2003 General Elections by the then Leader of the Opposition, and now Prime Minister, and challenged by him to join him and the UDP party on this nationalist quest to rid Belize of those leaders whom he described not having the best interests of Belize and it's people at heart. The then Leader of the Opposition was fully aware of my family background, and that i derived from a predominantly PUP family, that had always-."
Speaker of the House
"Members of the Gallery-."
"A family that had always voted in block for the PUP. In fact, my maternal grandfather was a founding member of the People's United Party in Orange Walk Town, while several of my uncles held public offices as councilors, mayors, and even senators under the PUP. Perhaps, thanks to - the honorable member is saying that they don't need people like us in the UDP. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Perhaps, due to youthful inexperience or naivety, I believed him and place my full confidence in our Prime Minister, who has stood up before this Honorable House, and proclaimed himself to be undeniably a fair man, who never tells a lie, unlike others. Whom I have now come to know as the great puppet-master, who, now that he has accomplished his life-long dream becoming Belize's first black prime minister, now wishes to dispose of the very persons who elected, helped to get him elected. Orange Walk East is being left out once again. And this is no mere coincidence. This is something that has been happening for 3 years - we are into our 4th anual budget and Orange Walk East is getting virtually nothing! Or infrastructural projects have not been able to be launched off - the economic activity that was supposed to come from these infrastructural projects is not happening. The unemployment in our constituency is at an all-time high. And this is the perfect breeding conditions for crime and violence in Orange Walk East. And I am imploring this Government to do something to tackle the root causes of crime and violence in this country. I have tried my almighty best - I have gone even to the highest ranking authority in the land - the Prime Minister. Everything has fallen deaf ears! I must tell you that I stand here today, on behalf of the people of Orange Walk East, and I'll tell you a little something. On September 4, 2008, I was threatened by an individual and told that I am not to rise up and say anything. Otherwise, he would have me kicked out of the House of Representatives. But this is my sacred duty.
Speaker of the House
"Honorable Member, you are now venturing into imputing improper motives contrary to the standing order that you have-."
"I have not mentioned any- I wish to say that it is my sacred duty that as the duly elected Area Representative of the Orange Walk East Constituency, to speak up on behalf of the people of Orange Walk East, no matter what! No matter what! No matter who the cap fits, let him wear it! Out of an abundance of caution, I humbly indicate that on behalf of the good people of the Orange Walk East Constituency, I cannot support this budget 2011/2012. But neither shall I vote against it, in other words, I shall abstain from voting on it. And for these reasons, and in good conscience, I cannot support this deceptively titled budget of the haves and have-nots which contains so little, if any for the good people of the Orange Walk East Constituency."
Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"If he (Marcel Cardona) feels that his people are not being respected, if he feels that his people are not getting the goods and services, as the Minister of Works like to say, I think that he is doing what he - he is standing up for his people."
"If he chooses to cross the floor, would you welcome him?"
"Well I think that you all need to look at the constitution. There is no such thing as crossing the floor - I mean that's not allowed in the constitution. He would have to resign, and there would have to be another election in Orange Walk East. Well This is good for us that he could be right there within the UDP, pointing out all the deficiencies of the Government, because it has - also when we speak, people say, 'well you're in the position'. But he is a member their own government, and he has been expressing his frustrations just like the rest of Belizeans.
Jose Sanchez, Channel 5 News
"Would you be able to welcome him to the party?"
"Well we in the PUP, we welcome everyone, and you all right here, you are welcomed. And Jules, we are certainly willing to have you in the PUP."
And while - for the undermanned PUP - Marcel was a more than ample replacement for Mark and Cordel - in the end, apart from bringing some real theatre to an otherwise humdrum debate…. apart from that, not much else was achieved. As we noted, Cardona is a lame duck representative, who will surely not be brought back into the UDP fold, and is of no interest to the PUP as a candidate.
And to some extent, we note the outburst was foretold when Cardona was ejected as the UDP's Standard bearer back in December after he lost to Landy Burns - who is Gaspar Vega's close political ally. Cardona also has faced successive humiliations; first, the former Culture Minister was shuffled out of Cabinet in March of 2009 after a dispute about a NICH contract and, second, he was passed over, not even considered when the government was looking for a new Attorney General.
It is left to be seen if the party will move to expel him after the outburst. We hope to have more from the house a little later on as we'll try and squeeze in a few highlights of the prime minister's speech which wrapped up the debate around 5:30 this evening…