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Et tu, Patrick? Faber’s stance on Shyne email means he has “crossed the floor,” Opposition Leader says

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2023. 8:39 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: While Friday’s meeting of the House of Representatives could see another war of words erupt between Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow and Speaker of the House Valerie Woods, the simmering rivalry between Barrow and Patrick Faber could also blow up yet again.

Barrow on Thursday made the very serious charge that Faber has “crossed the floor” based on his position as written to the chairman of the House’s Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee Julius Espat that he “distanced himself” from Barrow’s comments against Woods.

Faber, the most senior of the United Democratic Party’s parliamentarians and a former party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, wrote that Barrow’s address of Speaker Woods failed to meet the highest standards of ‘respect and decorum’ of her office, and offered neither constructive nor respectful communication of the Opposition Leader’s disagreements with the Speaker’s position.

“The role of the Speaker is integral to the function of our democratic process, and as such, must always be approached with due reverence and respect,” Faber concluded. He was not personally present in Belmopan for the meeting.

But the Opposition Leader says he has had enough: “He has crossed the floor so we will deal with him in a manner that the constitution says clearly that when a member of the opposition voted with the government that they have crossed the floor and they have forfeited their seat. That is what I will say about that; we all know how that gentleman has behaved in the past and this is consistent with his behavior in the past, and without going into any more details, that behavior was dealt with as far as him losing the ability to run for the party; he was given a second chance and this is what he does now. But the difference between this and then is he has now violated the Constitution because he has voted with the government and that is a violation of the constitution that means that you forfeit your seat as an opposition member and there has to be a bye-election in Collet.”

In Belizean history only two members of Parliament crossed the floor, both from the UDP to the PUP – Vicente Choco in 1975 and Stanley Usher in 1989, both of whom publicly declared their intentions. Rumours persist that the PUP tried to persuade two area representatives to do so following the 1993 general elections which saw them lose the majority in the House while winning the popular vote, and more recently Marcel Cardona was ostracized by the UDP during the first Dean Barrow administration after expressing contrary opinions but never lost his seat.

The Constitution provides in Section 59A that crossing the floor is treated similarly to a resignation from the party – the member must inform the Speaker within seven days and if the Speaker is satisfied the declaration would be made and the seat vacated, unless the ruling is objected to. Objection would be treated in the High Court, whose ruling would be final, and the procedure for a by-election would take place.

The amendment was made in 2001 and only applies to parliamentarians elected after February 23, 2001; Faber was first elected in 2003. He has yet to comment.

 

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