Every House sitting is not without its fair share of drama; and today we report another set of circumstances which prompted the PUP delegation to walk out of the House yet again. On the adjournment, PUP Deputy Leader Julius Espat, and the Speaker of the House Michael Peyrefitte had a verbal throw down at the House of Representatives. Espat got up to speak about ministerial accountability, but according to the Speaker, this matter was too broad of a topic and contained no substance to be of national importance. The PUP delegations took offence to this and walked out of the house. Here is a clip of that exchange.
Speaker of the House: “Wow, that’s very wide. Do you want to narrow it to anything in particular?
Hon. Julius Espat: “I will narrow it, Mr. Speaker”.
Speaker of the House: “But to what? In what terms? Accountability in Government that ranges from the government to the allocation?”
Hon. Julius Espat: “I will make it short, Mr. Speaker”.
Speaker of the House: “Okay, proceed”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “It is now time, Mr. Speaker, to bring back pride to the nation of Belize”.
Speaker of the House: “Try not to read. Just make your presentation without reading the document”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “I will review my notes with your permission, Mr. Speaker”. I think for us in Belize to stop playing politics. We have to change the system of governance”.
Speaker of the House: “Yes, but give me, the rules of it. It’s a matter of urgent public importance. What is the issue?”
Hon. Julius Espat: “The issue is that we are not allocating funds where they need to be allocated. The issue is that we do not have proper governance that are looking out for the poor people of Belize. The issue is social justice, Mr. Speaker”.
Speaker of the House: “So, which one of all those you want to speak about?”
Hon. Julius Espat: “It is all embodied in one, Mr. Speaker”.
Speaker of the House: “You are allowed only one, pick one. Remember I will ask you to stop”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “The people of Belize…”
Speaker of the House: “The people of Belize would like their members to follow the Standing Orders in the House”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “The people of Belize want their representatives to speak on their behalf”.
Speaker of the House: “Why is it that you are starting to fight at the end of the day like this, man?
Hon. Julius Espat: “I’m not fighting, Mr. Speaker. It’s that you are not being fair…To continue defend the illegal sale of passports, to continue with the disrespect of the social partners, to continue facilitating funds to unelected UDP political cronies, to continue to turn a blind eye on human trafficking which is being managed by members of his cabinet”.
Speaker of the House: “Member, member, I have made a decision. I want you to end your speech now. Under the standing orders, I ask you to end your speech now”. That was the last try about human trafficking…member, I officially suspend this member for the rest of the day’s sitting. I give you five minutes to leave, sir. If you don’t leave, I will have the officers to have you leave”.
Outside the House we spoke with Julius Espat who says that the Speaker was erroneous.
Hon. Julius Espat: “The Speaker and the House was erroneous. He is not an elected member. He is a failed UDP aspirant. I am an elected member and I should be given the right to speak. I wasn’t offending anybody; I wasn’t insulting anybody and that is what you are seeing there”.
Reporter: “He said you were straying from the subject, speaking on too broader matter, making broad allegations; that’s what he said”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “And isn’t good accountability enough? That’s the problem we are facing…the visa hustle is about accountability, the passport sales is about accountability, the inequitable distribution of funds is about accountability- everything I spoke about is about accountability. The problem is that I am speaking the truth, and the truth hurts and they can’t handle the truth”.
Espat claims that he has nothing against Michael Peyrefitte as he says Peyrefitte is simply doing his job he was appointed to do- defend his UDP government.
Reporter: “You and the Speaker have had discussions on the side before because you and him have had many conflicts previously”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “He is trying to defend his government and I am trying to defend the people of Belize. It’s clear; the line is drawn”.
Reporter: “Will you seek an approach with him…”
Hon. Julius Espat: “I could shake his hand right now. This is not personal for me, you know. I am here to do a job, and probably he is there to defend his job which is to defend his government. Remember he was appointed by them. That is something we need to change. The Speaker of the House should be approved by both sides, so we don’t have this kind of problems. But I can’t speak ill of him for doing his job. He was appointed by the Prime Minister”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “Is he doing it with equity?”
Reporter: “I cannot stand as a member of the House!”
Hon. Julius Espat: “I am saying he is not because, you go back into the files and listened to what I said. If I did anything to offend anybody or anything that is not the truth, then I would say that I was doing something erroneous and I would step back”.
Reporter: “You accused members of the House of hustling. That’s on parliamentary lacking”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “They are hustling. This is like animal farm; they are better than you and that’s why, they are not being investigated, but the fact is, they are hustling!”
Reporter: “In the parliament of any country, that is against parliamentary language, though. You can’t say, a member is hustling”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “It is, but I said it!”
Reporter: “And you were disciplined for it”.
Hon. Julius Espat: “I was and I will take my lashing and I have”.
The Prime Minister had previously condemned some members of the PUP for lack of accountability, and quote “putting money in their pockets.” We asked Espat to comment on this matter since, technically, this is what he was disciplined for in the House. But, while Espat is having a laugh, there are more pressing matters to report from inside the house; matters that will re-define our constitution as amendment bills were passed by the ruling “I’s”. We’ll tell you about those after the break.