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Apr 27, 2005

Smith: Government has no plans to resign

Story PictureAnd while the unions ponder their next move, the embattled government is also trying to figure out how to deal with a protest movement that seems to have more lives than a cat. This afternoon Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tourism, and Information, Godfrey Smith, spoke with News Five’s Stewart Krohn, who asked him what kind of outcome he envisioned for the ongoing crisis.

Godfrey Smith, Minister of Tourism
?It is in our view in nobody?s interest–not in the country?s interest, not in our economic interest, not in the interest of tourism, trade, or anybody, businessmen in Belize, for this sort of protest or strike action to continue. I don?t think necessarily that the unions will back off, that they will cease by the end of this week to try to mobilise and inflame passions. And around the various issues, we prefer for that not to be the case for the reasons I?ve just said.?

Stewart Krohn
?Minister, how do you negotiate with people in good faith, who as soon as the negotiations end, they leave the room, go out on the street with bullhorns and say the government must resign??

Godfrey Smith
?I would say it is difficult to have good faith negotiations in that climate. But remember, on the one hand, you have protesters and demonstrators and unionists and activist who almost by definition are expected to act in a particular way. Across the table on the other side are the leaders, government leaders who believe they have the mandate to lead the government, and therefore are expected and obliged to act as responsible leaders. Just because they on the other side are saying we want you to resign, we want you to go doesn?t mean we must in equal measure act in an irrational fashion. As a government, as leaders, we are obliged to keep the door for negotiations open, hoping that eventually good sense will prevail, rationality will prevail, and we will sit and work our way through whatever problems we have.?

Stewart Krohn
?You mentioned the word mandate. If you truly believe that your government commands the majority of voters, why not hold elections? Has this option been considered by your party and by your Cabinet??

Godfrey Smith
?The decision of the government and the party is that the government will not resign at this time. It is within the prerogative of the Prime Minister, as you are aware, to call an election at any time he feels. As I understand it, we are not yet at a position where we believe it would be in the best interests of this country for an election to be called now.?

Stewart Krohn
?Two members of the House of Representatives do not share your view toward recent events. Mark Espat, Cordel Hyde are members of the People?s United Party in name only. There appears to be an increasing likelihood that these two gentlemen, along with others may lead what amounts to a third party movement, or at least an aggregation of independent candidates. Do you think that development would impact in a major way on any election that could take place in the near future??

Godfrey Smith
?As you have indicated yourself, I can only speak from official P.U.P. political record. And that says that Mark and Cordel, by their own words, have said they continue to be members of the People?s United Party. So that?s the position, that they are members, they continue to represent their political constituencies. If they decide to do otherwise, I?m not aware. I?m not aware that that is in the cards. I think you as well as I, are aware of what the history of third parties have been historically in the region, probably in fact throughout the entire wider Commonwealth, and that is that it has not met with much success for a variety of different reasons. If you ask me to project what I think Mark and Cordel will do, my honest answer is I don?t know, I can only say what they themselves have said, that they remain members of the People?s United Party.?

On a subject much more in line with his regular job as Minister of Tourism, Smith conceded that the civil disturbances had hurt the burgeoning industry, but the damage would not last long.

Godfrey Smith
?Obviously in the midst of the B.T.L. shutdown, our team here at the B.T.B. did consultations with the prime tourism destinations in Belize. The number one listed concern was the inability to process credit card transactions because of the absence of communication. I had a chance to see certain papers coming out from the United States and they clearly say that there is no reason to defer flights to Belize. Foreigners, whether Americans, British, Europeans, are not at risk. And they point to the fact that the major inconvenience has been credit card. Now, has it cost the tourism sector financially? Obviously it has. There were, as far as it has been reported to me, early departures from hotels by some guests because of the inability to process credit cards. There was a cancellation of one flight, as far as I know, from American Airlines earlier in this process. So while I would say yes, it has cost us in terms of dollars and cents, it?s cost a number of businesses all across the country because of loss of revenues. At the end of the day, I think the product remains a solid one that has not been damaged in any real way.?

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