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Feb 7, 2020

A Look Ahead at the U.D.P. Leadership Convention

There is a flurry of activity leading up to the national convention of the United Democratic Party on Sunday.  This Saturday, both Patrick Faber and John Saldivar are holding separate events to keep their delegates close by, happy and safely in their corners.  Saldivar’s lavish event is to be held in Progresso, Corozal District, while Faber is holding a gala later that evening at the Biltmore. Now leading up to the convention, there has been nasty public sparring between supporters of both candidates, so Sunday’s event is expected to be charged and fiery.  Today, News Five’s Isani Cayetano sat down with both sides to get their perspectives on the showdown that will determine who will become the new leader of the party in power. 


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Final touches are being made to embellish the Belize City Center with the colours of the United Democratic Party and the banners of its respective leadership candidates ahead of Sunday’s national convention.  The gathering of delegates to elect a successor for retiring party leader Dean Barrow will take place here, but the long road to February ninth is a journey that has not until now been shared with the media.


Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Leadership Aspirant

“It really is a continuation of a race that I have long started on and of course that started with my various levels of involvement in the party, starting from a street campaigner working my way up to the deputy leadership position.  And so, as I campaigned in this season for the leadership it is merely an addition to what I have done already and in many respects the people who I have to take the campaign to are people who I have engaged with numerous times before.”


Since declaring his candidacy in early September of last year, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber has been leading an individual campaign to win over a select membership within the party by proving that he is the fitter of two candidates to lead the U.D.P. into the upcoming general elections.


Patrick Faber

“As we wind down the campaign now, I’ve been able to convince the vast majority that will be needed in order to secure a victory that I am the right person for the job.”


From all outward appearances, however, it hasn’t been an easy task.  For a third time Faber will be facing the same political opponent he has done battle with for chairmanship of the party in 2010 and for deputy leadership in May 2016.  John Saldivar has kept a safe distance from our probing microphone, but his colleague Beverly Williams, who is running for second deputy, shared with us a vision for Team Saldivar.


Beverly Williams

Beverly Williams, Aspirant, 2nd Deputy Leader

“I believe that Team Saldivar is well-placed.  I believe we have ethnic and we have regional balance and I think a party such as the great United Democratic Party should have a party that looks like the face of Belize and so we’ve had to visit and traverse and convince people as to what it is that Team Saldivar brings to the table.”


In so doing, Team Saldivar, like Faber, has had to canvass most of the country to sit down with delegates and listen to their concerns.


Beverly Williams

“We visited twenty-five of the thirty-one constituencies, so we’ve had group meetings within all those areas from north to south, east to west.  Team Saldivar has also revisited those areas as a group and then we revisited a third time, speaking individually, going house to house.  And, of course, individually for me, as part of my campaign we’ve been using the phone talking to the individuals on the phone, hearing further from them in terms of how they feel, to get reaffirmation from them for their pledges that they made and the campaign has been going excellent.”


But Williams isn’t the only woman on the campaign trail.  She is joined, albeit from an independent status, by Tracy Panton who is running as Deputy Party Leader.


Tracy Panton

Tracy Panton, Aspirant, Deputy Party Leader

“I decided to run for an executive position in the United Democratic Party because I really feel that I have the capacity, the integrity, the compassion that we require of our leaders and I think that as a party, as we continue to evolve, we also have to bring a new face, a new vision, new ideas to the forefront of our party’s thinking and I believe very strongly [that] I can do that.  And also, I think it’s time that women in our party have a stronger voice in decision making, not only at the party level but also in terms of government.”


With no shortage of self-assurance from any of the candidates we sat with today, News Five turned to incoming U.D.P. Chairman Michael Peyrefitte for an idea of what can be expected on February ninth.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Incoming Chairman, U.D.P.

“Conventions are exciting processes.  It’s not going to be quiet, it’s going to be loud and exciting.  That’s what a convention is; however, the delegates know that they will be free to vote their minds and their consciences.  Nobody will be forcing you to vote one way or the other, I mean we’re a democracy and everybody has a free vote.  I know as we get closer and closer to the convention there will be mischief makers, you know, people trying to say well, “I hope they don’t do this, I hope they do that.”  Listen, convention day on Sunday will go very, very smooth and the only excitement will be just the excitement of us being together as U.D.P.s.”


While there is indeed an eagerness that comes along with such a mass gathering, there is also a division within the party, a chasm, some say, that is par for the course with any intra-party race.


Tracy Panton

“That’s what we’re all working towards, an opportunity to win a fourth consecutive term in government.  I believe whatever perceptions there may be in the public domain about a divide really comes from the fiercely competitive nature of the leadership race for the party.  But I also believe that all of us, whether we are running for a particular position or we’re focused on remaining grounded in our constituencies, we want to win a fourth term.  There will be some measure of disappoint, there will require some healing within the party, but I think our desire to win and our desire to remain in government is far greater than anything that can divide us and so I am very confident that the healing will come and it will come in a very short amount of time.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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