Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) says that for the first time, it is entering electoral politics in Belize. But their target is a familiar one, Pickstock area representative Wilfred Elrington, a two-term representative. Put simply, COLA wants Pickstock voters to take away the Minister of Foreign Affairs’s seat in the House of Representatives in the November 4 general election. The organization has long called for his removal, a call that has been resisted by the Dean Barrow administration. But COLA’s aim, according to president Geovannie Brackett, is to ensure that Elrington cannot again be appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs if the United Democratic Party returns to Government. Their first step is to organize a public meeting later this week. We spoke to COLA president Geovannie Brackett about the purpose of the meeting.
Geovannie Bracket; COLA President: The position that we are taking here at COLA, as an organization, while we’ve never done this before, we’ve never attempt to either endorse or not endorse a politician, we have come out unanimously to say t to chose any option, except Sedi Elrington for the Pickstock area. We believe if the UDP which has a lot of money right now, they are the incumbent, if he were to win again, we’ll have to face having him as Foreign Affairs Minister once again. This, for us, in our view, we’ve consult with many different people, it’s not in line with what we want to see for this country. Minister Elrington had one last chance to restore credibility to his name and his post. At the last UN meeting, he used just about a minute of close to a 20 minute speech just to deal with the biggest issue going into elections right now. He culd have used that platform to internationalize the Belize Guatemala territorial dispute and he never did do so. He has really disgraced that position as Foreign Affairs Minister.
Brackett separates Elrington’s record in the constituency from his record as Minister. While he is skeptical of the former, he says the latter is what they hope will be Elrington’s Achilles heel.
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: That’s a very good question and that’s a very difficult task to do such thing because when you talk campaigning to get an Area Representative out is a first time experience for me, and I believe for the organization as well. We never dwell into politics, when election time comes around this time we usually allow the people to vote. I mean we have had our say throughout their tenure, whether PUP or UDP. So it would be a very difficult task but we believe that there is enough reason and rational behind our campaign that any person who sits just to listen for just a brief second, what our position is. I think it’s enough strength for a person to consider whether or not they want to vote in Sedie Elrington. I’m not sure if Mr. Elrington has done anything that great in this constituency that even allows him to have such a stronghold. The truth of the matter is that all these streets you see building is thank goodness to the City Council. Now if you’re talking we’re going up against a Darell Bradley, I mean he has a track record. I’m not sure when I walk in the pigstock area, of seeing any track record of great works.
Appointments to the Cabinet are the purview of the Governor General based on the advice of the Prime Minister, but Brackett says this is a form of protest against Elrington’s record and that of the UDP on the Guatemala issue. Speakers at the event are expected to attack Elrington’s handling of the Guatemala claim. While the organization is going after Elrington for his track record on the Guatemala issue, what of COLA’s plans to push the building of the Coast Guard forward operating base on Sarstoon Island? The Government has pledged to build the base, but on the north bank of the Sarstoon River instead. COLA president Geovannie Brackett said today that the organization has ended that campaign because of the election campaign. Wilfred Elrington has two challengers in the division, the People’s United Party’s Dr. Francis Smith and Ion Cacho of the Belize Progressive Party, but today COLA endorsed neither; indeed, the organization says it will endorse no political party nor any candidate for the election. But what of COLA’s own motivations? In a testy exchange Brackett reiterated that COLA is not being paid or otherwise motivated to try to oust Elrington.
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: Well I just answered that question back a while ago. The answer is no.
Reporter: Are you being paid by any political party for this?
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: You being paid for what you do to ask this question?
Reporter: I’m asking you as a …..
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: So let me leave it at then.
Reporter: But then you haven’t answered the question. Are you being paid?
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: I’m not being paid. I’m not being politically motivated. And I’m asking you are you being paid to ask that political question.
Reporter: I’m a journalist. I have questions to ask.
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: Well then Daniel. Channel 7 will give us 2 minutes on their TV station whether we have or not. So the point is let Channel 7 ask that question whether they want or not. We have said no.
The public meeting will take place on Thursday October 8, at 7:30 in the evening on New Road in the Food and Beverage Store parking lot next to Smiling Meats.