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Apr 12, 2021

Racial Slur or Heated Put Down? Area Reps Respond to “Boy.”

While the budget presentation was the purpose of last Friday’s meeting of the House of Representatives, it was what prompted the walk out by members of the Opposition that stirred up a lot of attention going into the weekend.  News Five’s Paul Lopez took a closer look at the strong reactions to the use of a single word by a member of the House and the Standing Orders on House decorum that should prevent this type of heated exchange from distracting from House business and keeping the proceedings civil.

 

Julius Espat, Area Representative, Cayo South [File: March 9th, 2021]

“Madam Speaker I am not yielding to him.”

 

Patrick Faber, Area Representative, Collet [File: March 9th, 2021]

“It’s a point of order, you must yield.”

 

Julius Espat

“No I am not yielding.”

 

Patrick Faber

“You must yield.”

 

Julius Espat

“I don’t must yield, you sit down boy.”

 

At Friday’s presentation of the budget at the National Assembly, Area Representative for Cayo South, Julius Espat, referred to the Leader of the Opposition Patrick Faber as a “boy.” Demanding an apology but not getting it from Espat, Faber and the other opposition members walked out. Outside the House, a member of the press asked the leader of the Opposition if he felt Representative Espat had used the term in its racial connotation.

 

Reporter

“You all believe racist?”

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber

“Absolutely.”

 

Reporter

“Undertones as well.”

 

Patrick Faber

“If it were, in fact coming from him it can be nothing else.”

 

His colleague, the member for Mesopotamia, “Shyne” Barrow said that in his view,Espat’s use of the term “boy” was both belittling and racial. He says the exchange people immediately started to contact him following the exchange.

 

Reporter

“Do you think boy is a term of belittlement or it is a term of a racist put down?”

 

Shyne Barrow

Shyne Barrow, Area Representative, Mesopotamia

“Yes, I believe it is both. I got several texts from people in my constituency outraged and they felt that immediately it was racial, coming from him.”

 

In his own defense, Area Representative for Cayo South, Julius Espat, said he did not use “boy” in a racial context, and the strong response is part of the Opposition’s agenda.

 

Julius Espat

Julius Espat

“I think you are wrong, I didn’t make any racist slur, and I am not being disrespectful. I was just responding to accusations that were wrong. I may have expressed it in an emotional way. But, I was trying to base it on facts, and they didn’t want to. That’s an agenda by the opposition.”

 

For his part, Faber says Espat was attacking his level of seniority on the political scene.

 

Patrick Faber

“Yes I am one of the younger members of Parliament, but I am senior to him any day in terms of the number of years and the number of times that people have elected me.”

 

This is not the first time members have insulted each other. Yet according to the House of Representative’s standing orders, it is out of order to refer to or use offensive or insulting language about Members. Additionally, Members shall not even be referred to by their names. Despite this rule, over the years Belizeans have repeatedly witnessed name calling, and improper references being thrown across the aisle from both sides. Some of the most indelible moments were from none other than the former Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: August 19th, 2019]

“When you talk about who old and tired and nuh wah guh, bway yo fuh talk to your pah. Dah he yo fuh talk to. If I am sixty-eight; he is seventy-six and he still the talk bout he want to run dah Fort George. That dah weh old and tired and need fuh guh.”

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: March 6th, 2019]

“I will tell the house and the gallery that I had to call you this morning, to ask your apologies because I needed to be late. What happened I had left and was in such a rush that I did not take my pain killers. So I had to turn back to get my pain killers. Wish that you had turn back around so that you could get your simple pills. That is what you should have gotten.”

 

As for the current Prime Minister, he bounced the question right back to members of the press about their own use of the word boy.

 

John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“You use the word boy? You have used the word boy? Did you use it in a racist way? “

 

Reporter

“I did not sir.”

 

Prime Minister John Briceño

“Thank you very much, So I have answered you. Thank you very much.”

 

 Whether a member of the House is being referred to as a ‘boy’, ‘simple’, ‘jail bud’ or a ‘sick puppy’, the Standing Orders make it clear these are not befitting of a states man and go against the rules of decorum inside the House. While the Speaker Valerie Woods did rise and admonished members to be mindful of their “parlance” and the names used going forward, on Friday she was met with the backs of the Opposition Members as they staged their walkout.

 

Patrick Faber [File: March 9th, 2021]

“This member is really out of order. And if you refuse to discipline him. If he can call me a boy. What if I call you gial? What if I call you call? Will that be struck off the record? That will be the most disrespectful thing. I demand an apology from him, Madam Speaker. And, if we don’t get that we are gone.”

 

This evening Speaker of the House Valerie Woods shared the following statement with news five:

 

Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representative

“There is much work ahead to elevate the parliamentary debates, decorum and respect. As the Speaker of the House, I am determined more than ever to ensure we get to a much higher standard and recognize it requires the collective support and commitment of all parliamentarians, including myself as the presiding officer of the House, to do better.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

 

In addition to his interviews on Friday, Minister Espat immediately took to social media following the House Meeting, writing “during the discourse I used the word ‘bway’, and it was used on the basis of immaturity, and never from an alleged racial connotation.”


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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