Will Money Influence Outcome of B.N.T.U. Election?
In the B.N.T.U.’s convention, Senator Elena Smith, Troy Coleman and Mario Mesh are vying to replace retiring three-term president Luke Palacio. Smith has the highest profile and is seen as the strongest candidate and she is outspoken against the government. Senator Eamon Courtenay believes that the million-dollar bonus is being used to influence teachers to vote against her. Courtenay, who recently represented the B.N.T.U. in its arbitration showdown with the ministry, points out that any supposed reward for non-striking teachers could easily have been paid immediately after the strike or at any point before now. It was delayed, he claims, to attempt to directly influence the outcome of the convention and assert Government control over the union that has defied it at every turn for many years.
Eamon Courtenay, Senator
“It is obvious that this is an attempt to bribe the teachers; let’s look at it. The Minister of Education went on television and said that this is designed to pay those teachers who turned up at school and did not teach, did nothing, in October of last year. Let’s not forget that these teachers have already been paid their salary for turning up and nobody can quarrel with that. If it is true that the reason this is being done is to pay those teachers in October, then why wasn’t it paid in November; why wasn’t it paid in December; why wasn’t it paid in January, or February? March, it wasn’t paid. His next explanation was that, ‘well, there are some teachers who worked in the make-up days in December and they must be paid;’ well, why wasn’t it paid in January? Why wasn’t it paid in February? Why wasn’t it paid in March? The fact is that it must be obvious to everyone that the Deputy Prime Minister is lying through his teeth. None of those are the true objectives. It goes beyond that; if it was the true objective, then it would be in the Budget, which was passed less than a month ago – it is not in the Budget. There is nothing in the Ministry of Education’s budget set aside for this payment to be made. It is plain, it is simple and the Belizean people should see it for what it is. It is spending one million dollars of taxpayer’s monies just before a teacher’s election in an attempt by the United Democratic Party to get one person elected as president.”