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May 19, 2017

P.U.P. Comments Shut Down by Senate, Prompting Walkout

The Senate of Belize met in ordinary session this morning at the National Assembly. It is its first meeting since the unprecedented and heinous attack on members of the press during Wednesday’s Senate Special Select Committee public hearing. We will have highlights of its business later on, but first: the Opposition’s members – Eamon Courtenay, Paul Thompson and temporary member Michel Chebat – tried to get the Upper Chamber to universally condemn Wednesday’s events.  Known supporters of the ruling United Democratic Party including its chairman, Alberto August, harassed Courtenay throughout his questioning of Elvin Penner. Meanwhile, employee of the National Assembly – macebearer Brian “Yellow Man” Audinett – took it one step further by threatening a cameraman and grabbing for KREM’s Marisol Amaya’s camera phone while she was filming him. But it appears the Government was not interested at all, as the Senate President shut down what he called a late attempt to introduce the motion. News Five’s Aaron Humes has the following report.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

Refused the opportunity to speak in the Upper Chamber, the Senate’s three members from the Opposition People’s United Party addressed the press, on behalf of whom they had intended to speak, outside the National Assembly.


Michel Chebat, P.U.P. Senator

“I rise to put on record the People’s United Party’s strong of the behaviour of members and supporters of the United Democratic Party at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Special Select Committee investigating illegalities in immigration. In what can only be described as a carefully orchestrated plan to disrupt last Wednesday’s hearings, the chairman of the U.D.P. and the mace bearer of the House of Representatives behaved in such an unruly manner that the hearings had to be suspended. This is unacceptable. The situation was made worse as this organized disruption was done when Elvin Penner, the minister who gave nationality and a passport to Wong Hong Kim was giving testimony. It is clear that these agents of the U.D.P. hoped to derail this important inquiry. We call on the United Democratic Party to respect this Honourable Senate, and we demand that the senate inquiry be allowed to proceed without any further disruption by U.D.P. operatives. In a direct attack on our Belizean democracy, these same U.D.P. goons assaulted members of the press. These assaults were done within the walls of this Honourable House, during the meeting of the Senate Special Select Committee. Not only threatening words were used, but there were physical assaults. We on this side – the P.U.P. Senators – condemn these actions and call for the criminal prosecution of those responsible. This attack on the media is consistent with what is unfolding in San Ignacio in the Magistrate’s Court where a political prosecution is being initiated.”


Michel Chebat

Chebat had risen to make the preceding motion of privilege to discuss the interruption of the Senate Special Select Committee at the start of the full Senate’s meeting today, but President Lee Mark Chang made it clear from the start that he would have none of it.


Michel Chebat

“Mr. President, the motion is the ability of the Senators to conduct the Senate investigation hearing without interruption, Mr. President.”


Lee Mark Chang, President of the Senate

“Excuse me, Senator Chebat; we’ve spoken in the back already about this matter, and so I respectfully decline, because I did speak with your Senator earlier and I already told him I declined, and it won’t happen. Thank you.”


Michel Chebat

“You will not allow me to speak, Mr. President?”


Lee Mark Chang

“No, because we have spoken about it already. It’s not that I won’t allow you to speak; it’s that we have discussed the issue, and we need to move on with the day’s business. Thank you, Senator Chebat.”


Michel Chebat

“I am exercising our right to speak on this motion, Mr. President.”


Lee Mark Chang

Lee Mark Chang

“You know what, Senator Chebat; go through the process. We have already discussed, and I as the President, have a right to accept or decline.”


President Chang, when pressed, invoked Senate Standing Order Number eighty-four which gives him general discretion on the conduct of the Senate meeting. He denied that he was sufficiently informed of the motion before the meeting. Faced with that indifference, the trio decided to walk out.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“We rely on a Standing Order; the President accepts that he was called before one hour – he didn’t take the call. And then, when we pointed it out to him, he uses another Standing Order to stop us. I just want to be clear because he referred to us talking at the back – at the back, we were making it clear to him that we wanted to say what we are supposed to say and we had a right to say it; we didn’t agree with him that he should muzzle us. And so I just want the Belizean people to understand that there was nothing that happened in the back of the Senate that we were in agreement with his decision that we should not be allowed to speak. Our right to speak has been frustrated by the President; it is regrettable, but it is consistent with the behaviour of the United Democratic Party. They do not respect the House; they do not respect the Senate; they do not respect the media. We are at a dangerous point in our democracy, and we are standing firm on principle and on the right side of these issues.”


None of the members of the Committee actually saw what happened on Wednesday first-hand – they had already retired after Chairman Aldo Salazar suspended the meeting. But as Eamon Courtenay points out, it follows a troubling pattern of behaviour.


Eamon Courtenay

“This is the same Government that physically dragged a member of this National Assembly out of these premises – they consider themselves above the law. Audinett is an employee of this honorable House. It is unacceptable for him to behave that way on the premises of the very House of which he is the Macebearer – the person who is to ensure that order and regular business can be conducted. But more than that, it is the arrogance, the disrespect, it is the criminal behaviour of these people – they believe that they can behave with impunity and attack even the media, who is recording, as is their right, what is taking place. But it is a deep sense of desperation that has set in in the United Democratic Party. And they are lashing out like animals, who are scared and trapped. The people are seeing their behaviour and they will be judged – hopefully sooner rather than later.”


From Belmopan, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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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1 Response for “P.U.P. Comments Shut Down by Senate, Prompting Walkout”

  1. Clue says:

    Lee Mark, my friend, you too have compromised your integrity in the name of power, influence and affluence; something like Steve Duncan. Remember our talk at the airport? Yes, you have a business and are self-made, with the help of your family from the days when you were on Euphrates. You have to remember how politics is played in Belize and the pendulum will eventually swing. You’ll still be able to get favours done with PUP members because you know how to play the game; but some will make you pay dearly. Careful, my friend.

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