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Aug 18, 2004

Barrow: Musa showed weakness

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Joining me in studio tonight is Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow, who will comment on the Prime Minister’s address to the nation and Cabinet shuffle.

Janelle Chanona

“Mr. Barrow, I know you’ve just only watched the P.M.’s address in our studio, but your snap analysis of what he said.”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“The rhetoric was forced; artificial as perhaps it had to be in the circumstances and it certainly didn’t succeed in covering over the huge divisions that have emerged in the P.U.P…But then, perhaps nothing could–I also thought that with respect to the appointments there are all sorts of questions that need to be answered. There are some awkward, indeed almost impossible fits. I don’t understand how constitutionally you can have persons who are full Ministers in one respect and then Ministers of State in another respect. When you look at the designations of Cabinet positions and non-Cabinet positions in the constitution; if you’re a Minister of State, you are not a member of Cabinet. If you’re a full Minister you are a member of Cabinet. So this kind of strained construction is clear evidence of the impossibility of the job that was facing the Prime Minister and in my mind of the failure that really has attended the whole enterprise.”

Janelle Chanona

“So your suggestion is that this is just an attempt to secure some kind of consensus or agreement internally and there will have to be a lot more things worked out along the way?”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“Obviously, it’s a kind of scotch tape and glue arrangement and I’m saying that you look at the contours of the arrangement and so many things don’t make sense; that it is clear that this is forced and extremely artificial. Nothing was done in the Prime Minister’s speech to address the fundamental cause of the internal conversions in the P.U.P.; nothing was done with respect to offering any concrete suggestions as to how we will find our way out of the financial mess that is perhaps the most pressing issue which resulted in the freeze of Cap 2 and Cap 3 programmes; nothing was done by way of again, a firm response reflecting the demands of the people, with respect to the Social Security scandal which continues to deepen everyday as new evidence comes forward of additional loans made with Social Security money to private sector companies.”

Janelle Chanona

“So based on the assumption that you have been following all that has been happening very closely, what are you reading between the lines? This is not going to go away now? This is not the end?”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“Not at all. Clearly the weak compromise leaves all sides dissatisfied. The gang of seven had said that they one none negotiable demand was that Fonseca be stripped of all powers as a Minister; be removed from the Cabinet. That has not happened. But to the extent that the Prime Minister has made concessions to them his leadership has been weakened. Not only did he make concessions; not only was he forced to make concessions; took two days doing that. You cannot come away from that kind of uncertainty, that kind of confusion and hope to maintain any real credibility as a leader. He is human and he will know how much the gang of seven has harmed him and he will harbour resentments–Minister Fonseca in particular. You saw that within the party, he and the Prime Minister were able to rally support and to their particular cause. His adherences are also going to be very upset. You have already picked up the talk in the streets from the party faithful. This is going to be a continuing fight. It is not going to conclude until that party is formally wrent asunder.”

Janelle Chanona

“Now, some quarters of society will suggest that everything you are saying is based out of the issues political mileage. Obviously the internal conflict within the People’s United Party was so intense that this was a climax in the situation–just two weeks ago you said in a press conference that the U.D.P. is not fighting fit. This situation could have had a whole list of ends. What has this thought the United Democratic Party?”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“Oh, there was no doubt that if the crisis had resulted in fresh elections, we would have been fighting fit and we would have won those elections. But it needs we have to bide our time just a little bit longer and that’s from the party’s stand point of view. Generally though if you looked at history; if you look at the way things have happened even in our Caribbean corner of this world; no Prime Minister faced with the kind of crisis that overtook Said Musa has ever acted in so weak and vacillating a fashion . Prime Ministers faced with revolts, fire those that revolt and deal with the consequences. I am saying that the manner in which this has unfolded will leave not just the Prime Minister weakened and dissatisfied–will leave the entire electorate dissatisfied. How will people ever be able to have any confidence in this new configuration of the P.U.P.? Nobody can have any doubt that the wounds run particularly deep and that there is going to be hell to pay as part of the aftermath to what has happened.”

Janelle Chanona

“Based on what you just said, if you were in his position and this was happening to the U.D.P., how you would have handled it?”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“I would have fired all seven. And this is what we were saying; a Prime Minister if he is to maintain his authority as a leader needs to act decisively in circumstances such as those. He ought to have fired all seven or he ought to have said well listen, I recognize fully the error of my ways; I am going to go full scale with respect to reform; I’m going give in to their demand and remove the man that they say most symbolises all that is wrong with my administration. You can’t go down the middle or attempt to go down the middle in a situation like this. In my own case, I would have been confident that this was as Dave Burgos said, a power play because I certainly would have not have committed the errors that this administration has. It’s hard of course to speak in a generalized way when circumstances differ, but I repeat that while the details may vary from country to country. Belize is not the first Caribbean State to have gone through this kind of a convulsion and in every case if you check your history, I insist you will find that the Prime Ministers have acted decisively. Our Prime Minister has completed failed to do that.”

Janelle Chanona

“Mr. Barrow the issue at the heart of this entire scenario–the one that really brought all of this to a head–Social Security?s involvement with loans that included the DFC and the Government of Belize that were involved in loans to former P.U.P. Minister, Glenn Godfrey; will the U.D.P. continue to push this as a central focus of their campaign in all of this?”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“Oh, we will push even harder. I’m saying that the Prime Minister utterly failed to address that particular issue except to say that there would be these two Ministers of State in the Ministry of Finance that he will now head and presumable one or all of them–we haven’t seen the actual portfolio subjects–but presumable one or all them would have something to do with Social Security. The fact is that as more revelations comes tumbling out the cries for a full scale inquiry continue to grow. And I have heard nothing this evening that suggests that the Prime Minister will heed those calls. As well though, it appears to me that while Social Security galvanized public opinion and had a great deal to do with the way events develop in the P.U.P., let us not forget that it was really a kind of twin problem; a twin phenomenal allied with it and perhaps influencing it; pushing on it was the fact that the announcement last week or the week before about the shutting down of the capital programmes in this country. That is symptomatic of the collapse of the finances of Belize. That is the deeper crisis for the Musa administration. It can satisfy the people if only it will have the will to act on Social Security by heeding the cries for the inquiry and for punishment. The question of the collapse in public finances is all together another matter and I have heard nothing from him that suggests that he has even thought of the way forward much less offering us any concrete answers.”

Janelle Chanona

“So the Dean Barrow’s solution to all of this is fresh elections?”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“Fresh elections, because clearly the Prime Minister no longer has any moral or political space within which to manoeuvre. But fresh elections also because we have heard nothing I say, in terms of a way forward out of the financial crisis. When the effects of freeze of Capital 2 and Capital 3 are felt in the streets of this country, there is going to be hell to pay. And it would seem to me that with respect to what needs to be done a new administration is required; a fresh beginning; people now with credibility not just at home, but with respect to the international community, which we will have to access in terms of true debt restructuring; in terms of balance of payment support; in terms of the kind of concessionary loans by lateral donor assistance, which will all form part of the package that is necessary in terms of the way forward.”

Okay, there you have it, the comments of Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow to the Prime Minister?s address and Cabinet’s shuffle.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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