And while the PUP were in Toledo District, conspicuous by their absence were those standard bearers who have demanded a greater voice in party affairs. They have called for a National Convention to be held soon, for more national consultations on party policy and a restructuring of the National Executive of the PUP. One of those representatives is Dr. Francis Smith of Pickstock, who hosted the press in Belize City on Sunday morning, a few hours before the PUP’s Toledo event. He explained that part of the reason why he did not attend is financial, but also suggested that the event is not as democratic as it seems to be.
Francis Smith: My view is that I cannot be in PG at this time because my concept is, our party leader will be there, he will be there with his deputies, you will have the principals, Oscar Requena and Mike Espat and the whole concept is to have consultation. So what is most important is that the people in Punta Gorda go out, engage with their party leader, give them their concerns and open frankly, which is what we’re trying to encourage. If the people in PG feel that, “you know party leader, we have a doubt, can you assure us that although your name is Fonseca that Ralph Fonseca won’t be back in the saddle when you win?” That is what we expect the people in PG to come out without fear and say. That is what’s called genuine consultation.
Dr. Smith says his views are shared by several fellow dissidents including former leader John Briceno and the man some have touted as a potential leader, Cordel Hyde. But he insists that the loose-linked so-called “Group of 12,” whose numbers actually fluctuate, is not intent on destroying the party, but making it stronger from within, by bringing the concerns of a wide section of the electorate to the table at Independence Hall.
Francis Smith: We’re coming to the media at this time precisely because we do not want to give the impression that there is a fight and that they’re washing dirty denim in public but because the media, if we do not tell our own story, if we do not change the narrative then the media will do it for us. So we have taken that advantage, we have to come out and tell what are you about. Is it that you people, because that is what’s going on out there, is it that you people are receiving Petro Carib money, has Mister Barrow infiltrated the PUP and paying you guys? There is none of that, there’s a genuine concern, there is a movement within the People’s United Party to convince people that we are genuine, we’re true leaders, we’re free thinkers, we are not shackled, we have no fear to speak the truth, to do the bidding of the people, we are accountable to our constituency committee, so just like the family is the basic unit of any nation, the constituency committee and by extension our constituence is the basic unit of our political party and we have to do the bidding of our people.
The group has met with PUP leadership several times and the latest such meeting took place on Friday. Dr. Smith explains what came out of it.
Francis Smith: But what we’re trying to ensure is that the leadership, as it exists meets the high expectations of our voters so it’s a process. We want to come to terms with that and we’re making some suggestions so I can tell you, it’s being considered but it’s a process, you don’t negotiate in one day, you negotiate, the both parties go back, in that case you saw I represented the group, the movement within the People’s United Party of which John Briceno and Cordell Hyde are members and Hon. Julius Espat and Mister Kareem Musa represented the party leader and the other 20 standard bearers. It is fluid, you may say G13, G30, G11, G7, it doesn’t matter. The matter is that there are those of us in the party who believe we’re in a new era, we have challenges and we need to face it.
The party leadership is expected to respond at Tuesday’s press conference at Independence Hall scheduled for 10:00 a.m.