PUP Says UDP Motherís Day Gift Programme Demeans DemocracyLast night we showed you how the Barrow Administration's Mother's Day Gift Programme works. Each UDP area representative was earmarked fifty thousand dollars to distribute to mothers in their constituency. Most, we gather, distributed fifty or a hundred dollars vouchers, while others gave gifts of an equivalent value. The programme is alleged to have cost 850 thousand dollars and based on the feedback we have gotten, it was shored up amongst fifteen to twenty thousand recipients, presumably all mothers living in divisions with UDP representatives. The 14 PUP Representatives didn't get anything - unlike what happened with the Christmas Cheer Programme - when they got, but significantly less than their UDP counterparts. That's politics as usual, but today the Opposition cried foul. They held a press conference to say that it demeans democracy:..
Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Area Rep. - Bze Rural Central
"What we disapprove of in the strongest terms is the use of the people's money - tax payers' money to fund gifts and parties in connection with mother's day in a way that is partisan, patronizing and political. Such is move is just plain wrong. The misuse of Belizean tax payers' money for solely partisan political purposes. As our secretary general has told us belittles and cheapens our democracy. We therefore call on all of Belizean civil society including our religious and faith leaders to join us in condemning this dishonest and offensive approach to carry in favor."
But civil society, or the churches for that matter are not likely to be roused by the pots and kettles of the P-UDP. After all, they didn't say anything either when the PUP representatives and standard bearers divvied up 15.3 million Belize dollars in the one month before the 2008 general elections. It was shared out in so called housing loans ranging from 400 dollars to eight thousand dollars. A disproportionate number of those loans were distributed in the Freetown Division where Francis Fonseca was and still is representative. We asked him about it today:…
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition
"I think the point is Jules that as many has said because that is the UDP propaganda that is their line: it was done by the People's United Party, so we can do it as well."
It is worth noting that in the aftermath of the 2008 defeat, many PUP politicians we spoke to felt that the pre-election giveaway backfired because it created a feeding frenzy among their supporters, many who ended up with hard feelings because they did not end up getting any housing loans.
Hon. Hulse Says Politics At Executive Level Is A Team GameOne man who should have an interesting perspective on all this is Senator Godwin Hulse. He is now a UDP Minister but he came from civil society where state sponsored patronage is universally frowned upon. But now he's on the inside, and he told us that basically once you're on the Cabinet Team, you have to go with the flow:..
Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"With respect to the mother's day program, this is a government and a cabinet decision. There are thousands of mothers who have benefitted, the names are public, the funds are accounted for and it's a government program. We will take the criticism of course that it's not given to everybody, but that is the nature of the political beast. I have no absolute problem with respect to the fact that it's done open and transparent and upfront which has always been my mantra. I personally had always seen it from an equitable position in lots of ways, but I also seen the cabinet from things that should and shouldn't happen - I am a member of a team, a member of a football team, so to speak and when I was outside the team I spoke to the team. I am in the team. There are lots of things in cabinet I don't agree, but they are not big enough for me to walk away from because there is a bigger agenda and a bigger program that I want to further and so I stay there to further that and the small things I dismiss. I am a member of a team, I might not like how my colleague kick a goal or not kick a goal, but it's a member of a team."
Hon. Martinez Scolds Channel 5Minister of Human Development Anthony Boots Martinez was not so casual when the media asked him about the programme today. Btu that's probably because Channel 5 was doing the questioning. Here's how that testy exchange went:...
Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez, Port Loyola Area Representative
"Listen to what is going on: I think you might need to go and ask the people of Port Loyola what they received. You all are trying to make a political thing especially Channel 5."
Mike Rudon, Ch 5
"Sir, was the $50,000 government money or party money?"
Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"What.... you gave me $50,000 sir? Did you give me $50,000? Where did you get $50,000 from?"
Mike Rudon, Ch 5
"So you did not received $50,000?"
Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Me, Anthony "Boots" Martinez received no $50,000. I not even received one dollar. The only time I receive money from government was when I received my pay Channel 5. Through the Ministry of Finance the mothers from my constituency did get some support, some mother's day gift."