But it was political in Belize City when John Briceño handed over the baton of the People’s United Party to Francis Fonseca on Saturday following Briceño’s sudden resignation on October seventh and Albert’s Mark Espat’s decision to decline leadership. There are two major hurdles to cross: the finances of the party said to be in shambles and the issue of unity. While Briceño gave Francis his full backing, both Espat and Lake Independence’s Cordel Hyde were missing from the room; still yet, many supporters who had kept away, turned up for Saturday’s event. Francis offered an olive branch but said this is no time to undermine. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Supporters from every district were bused to the Holy Redeemer Parish hall for the endorsement convention for P.U.P. Leader Francis Fonseca. Garifuna drummers greeted the party faithful at the gate. Freetown Area Rep. Francis Fonseca entered with his entourage and gave the expectant hugs while the crowd cheered. Twenty-nine of thirty-one candidates were present as Fonseca was installed as Party Leader.
Henry Charles Usher, P.U.P. Chairman
“We will start this morning with our roll call. I will call the name of our leader emeritus, the Right Honorable George Price and I want everybody in here to say here when I say his name because he lives in all of us today. Party Leader the Honorable Francis Fonseca, senior deputy party leader, the honorable Mark Espat, Senior deputy party leader Cordel Hyde. They had informed us that they are out of the country.”
Fonseca then swore his allegiance as leader.
Francis Fonseca, Leader, P.U.P.
“I, Francis Fonseca, do solemnly swear that I pledge to work for the achievement of the aims and objectives of the peaceful constructive Belizean revolution.”
In his closing remarks, Francis thanked the supporters who were present, but reached out to absentee P.U.P.’s.
“To those of you who are here to support me, I give you my commitment that I will work each and every day to live up to the faith and confidence you placed in me. To those who are not here to support me and to those who have sincere questions and concerns about my leadership, I humbly ask of you; give me a fair opportunity to prove myself, to earn your respect and to gain your trust. I want your support, I need your support. Let us discuss our differences. Let us find common ground and unite for the good of our party and country. We need a strong sense of unity and purpose in the People’s United Party. This is no time for selfishness, this is no time for anger, this is no time for any of us to be standing on the sidelines with our arms folded waiting for the leader to fail. No time for undermining a new beginning. And the message is very clear from everybody in here today and everybody who has spoken, there will be no tolerance for undermining the work of the P.U.P.”
P.U.P. standard bearers then took the stage to either speak well of Francis or to criticize their opponents.
Collet Montejo, P.U.P. Cayo Central Standard Bearer
“I want you to imagine this morning at Kendall Bridge. I drove down south just recently and as I drove passed the City river, I imagined a bridge there. I want you to imagine five thousand new jobs; we’ve been shredding jobs like crazy in this country. Imagine for a second, the cost of living going down no matta what. You can continue to imagine with me or with the U.D.P.”
Former Prime Minister Said Musa recalled Fonseca’s accomplishments when he was in government.
Said Musa, Fort George Area Rep., P.U.P.
“Francis Fonseca and the Peoples United Party will go forward to victory for Belize. He will long be remembered as one of the greatest education ministers we have had in Belize. He made his mark in education pushing through major reforms at all levels. I know for instance he was very keen in promoting preschool education—at a time when it was not popular to talk about preschool education. But Francis Fonseca knew that to educate the child, you had to start form very young. And today education is much better off because of the work Francis did for promoting preschool education. But not only preschools, he advanced education from preschool to primary, secondary to University of Belize. And one of his greatest accomplishments to date has been the establishments of vocational and technical education in every district of Belize.”
Former Party Leader, John Briceno showed support for Fonseca while demanding an early election.
John Briceño, Area Rep., P.U.P. Orange Walk Central
“It is always an honor to be with you our friends and supporters of the P.U.P. First I begin by congratulating my friend, my leader, our new leader, the honorable Francis Fonseca. I have a message for Mr. Barrow and the message is clear; the People’s United party is well alive and kicking. And listen to me Mister Barrow, listen to me. We the People’s United Party, we are ready to take back the town council and the city councils. And after we take back the municipalities, we are going to take back Belmopan for the People’s United Party. Yes my friends, we are ready to fight for the people. So Mister Barrow, if you bad, if you think you ready, call the elections now. Call the elections now because we in the P.U.P., we ready now. And the Belizean people ready now. And the Belizean people want elections now. And the Belizean people want the P.U.P. back in Belmopan now. And we’ve had enough of an incompetent, vindictive, no good, corrupt U.D.P. government.”
Dickie Bradley put on his best Chetumal shirt for the occasion.
“I di look for a blue shirt and I noh even got wah blue shirt again because I was so discouraged with the P.U.P. Dah this one Chetumal shirt I di used over and over. We are not to forget those of us who say we love and admire George Price and that there will never be another George Price, we have to go back into our constituencies—you the people who gather here this morning need to tell your standard bearers, we noh di see yo enough, yo noh di talk enough, yo noh di go ina di homes, yo noh di talk to the people. This is a very serious thing; today is Christmas Day for the P.U.P. because we have young dynamic leadership under Honorable Francis Fonseca.”
But will Fonseca be ready for a Boxing Day?
“I must now work hard each and every day to prove myself worthy of this great honor and privilege. I must travel as the former Prime Minister said I must now travel the length and breadth of our nation meeting with our people in their homes, villages, in their towns and cities—sharing with them our party’s new vision for them, their families and Belize. There will be direct intervention with standard bearers and your executives and your committees to ramp up their organizational capacity and election readiness. We are going to be ready for Mr. Barrow whenever he wants to call the election. Call the elections whenever you are ready. We are going to be ready in the People’s United Party.”
Two weeks ago at the last sitting of the House of Representatives in Belmopan when the controversial Ninth Amendment was passed, a leader of the opposition could not be appointed because no one among the P.U.P. parliamentarians commanded majority support. The opposition was in turmoil and the former P.M. did not engender backing from the five other parliamentarians. That’s about to change because the Governor General this morning took the oath from Francis Fonseca to lead the parliamentary opposition. The formality was characterized with usual brevity.
Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
“I will uphold the constitution and the law; that I will conscientiously, impartially to the best of my ability discharge my duties as the leader of the opposition and do right to all matter of people without fear or favor, affection or ill-will so help me god.”
With Fonseca now poised to occupy the first seat on the left hand side of the Speaker, it is safe to say that at future House sittings, he will bear the brunt of government bullying. The former leader, John Briceño resigned on October eighteenth. Fonseca was installed this past Saturday as the party leader of the P.U.P. at a special convention.