PUP's Rt. Hon. Musa Makes History, Earns "Standing O"¯ From UDP
Said Musa served 8 terms in the House of Representatives, but today he made history when he bucked his party on the Belize Territorial Referendum Bill - and earned a standing ovation from the other side of the house - including his most scathing critics, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his Deputy Patrick Faber.
The cheered Musa's bold presentation on why he supports the UDP bill but must abstain to hold the party line. He started out a 20 minute presentation by discussing the differences on the bill, but ended by asking how to move forward:..
Rt. Hon. Said Musa - PUP, Fort George, Former PM:
"So Madam Speaker the question today is, whether this new referendum bill does pass muster, to use the language of lawyers. Whether it's in order for the referendum to take place. I would say this, the whole process may not be perfect in the political sense and we have been very critical about that..."
J. Espat's Stinging Rebuke To Senior Member
Yup, you saw right - the government side gave a standing ovation to the man they have spent years piling every kind of criticism on. They had also banged on their desks at various points during his 33 minute presentation.
And that seems to have outraged one of the party's most hard-line hawks, Cayo South's Julius Espat. He had some cutting words for Musa when he spoke shortly after - this video courtesy the National Channel:
Hon. Julius Espat - PUP Cayo South:
"He made a couple quotes about what George Price had said in the past. Well, I would like to remind the honourable member from Fort George of another quote that George Price made and it says, 'Be careful when you hear your enemy praise you, because you must immediately ask yourself, what wrong have I done that my enemies praise me'..."
Opposition Opened Debate With A Challenge
And, again, you heard right, he blamed Dean Barrow AND Said Musa for what he said is the state of the country. Those are some rough, rough blows in a day that was definitely very contentious in the House of Representatives.
Like we said they were there to debate the Belize Territorial Referendum Bill - which seeks to put the ICJ referendum back on track after the PUP got a Supreme Court injunction to delay it. The new bill seeks, to some extent, to short circuit that process and insulate it from further challenge.
The debate started at about 10:30 and is still going at this hour - with the Prime Minister now winding up the debate. It started with some light sparring as the opposition asked - at the very outset - why the government wants to push it through:.
The Bill Introduced
After that initial skirmish, the Prime Minister explained why his government was bringing the bill:...
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister:
"Now, we already know from what the leader of the opposition said publicly last night, and what happened in committee, that the principal objection to this bill with which they will come revolves around section 3. This section 3, is absolutely central to the bill and makes clear that we are to go to a referendum as we agreed and as is required and as we're obliged to do under the special agreement. I am charging them centrally today with wanting not just to delay the referendum but to deny the referendum. They want to achieve their no vote, not by persuading people at the polls to vote no but by depriving people of the opportunity to go to referendum because that's the surest way to get to a no position..."
PUP Have Substantial Objections
Next up was the leader of the opposition- who explained why the opposition cannot support the bill:
Hon. John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition:
"The Prime Minister is spinning his hopes on getting a yes vote for the referendum, simply because he believes that if we get a yes vote that will allow them to win the next general elections. Once again, we come to the National Assembly to debate a bill that we got less than 24 hours ago - a bill that the government is insisting in pushing it through all 3 stages in one sitting. As I said earlier, we place our strongest objection to this. This could be one of the most important piece of legislation that this government is presenting today Madam Speaker and they are proposing to just ram it through the house today..."
Cordel Tells GOB To Take a Chill Pill
PUP Deputy leader Cordel Hyde underscored much of what his leader said, with an emphasis on what the opposition perceives as unseemly haste to pass the law:..
Hon. Cordel Hyde - Lake Independence, PUP:
"They gone to the Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals say hold on busta, you can't got nothing April the 10th, hold on. Man up in arms, hold on, you can't expedite your appeal for something we won't grant, so you have to wait. The question that we ask fi we selves is, why the rush? Why the haste? Because that unno talk to - Me and you are friends, watch yourself member of Port Loyola, rest yourself. The people whe deh talk to, parrot the propaganda lines to them. Say oh, we only hurt because PUP deny we the right to vote in this referendum. The people that I talk to, that confused about this issue, whe mi stress about this issue, whe never know what to do about this issue; they were relieved that this thing was put off..."
Rt., Hon. Musa Accepts Bill Will Pass
But former PUP Party LEader Said Musa had a much more moderate view than the party's current leader and deputy. He clearly did not endorse the constitutional questions about the bill raised by his leader John Briceno:..
Rt. Hon. Said Musa - PUP, Fort George, Former PM:
"If indeed this bill has been fixed, has fixed the problem which caused the learned Chief Justice to order an injunction against the government, then it seems to me that there will soon be a referendum and the voters of Belize will have an opportunity to decide whether or not we go to the ICJ..."
UDP Cheers: Referendum Bill Passes 18 - 11 - 1
And while that was the scene outside this morning, inside the House, the business just finished about 15 minutes ago. After an 8 hour debate on the Belize Territorial Dispute Referendum Bill - the Prime Minister wrapped it up - and then called for a division on the vote - meaning each member had to say "yea or ney" individually.
Courtesy of LOVE TV we cut to the voting from the PUP side - and the wrap up by the speaker:
That one abstention by Musa is considered a victory for the UDP. They take that into Monday's meeting of the Senate when they hope that they can get the same from Senator Valerie Woods, who is - like Musa - publicly in favour of yes to the ICJ. We'll have coverage of that on Monday.
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