Last week, in our newscast, we brought you statements from a number of viewers who called in to PlusTV’s morning show Rise and Shine, to express their displeasure with the conduct of certain members of the House of Representatives at Wednesday’s meeting. One back and forth that was particularly underscored was that between the UDP member Hon. Michael Finnegan and his PUP counterpart the Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia. We showed you a censored version of that quarrel, where many say that Honorable Finnegan was out of order. Persons described the meeting in general as disheartening, while others say they were disappointed. But the dialogue didn’t stop there; it took a life of its own on social media, with one person asking “Where are women activists? Why are they so silent on this matter?” She continued “It is an insult to all women the way the Honorable member was treated by these Honorable men.” Well, that activist came today, in the form of Senator the Hon. Lisa Shoman at Monday’s Senate Meeting. The Senator extended the discussion much further than a back and forth in the House, but she stated her concerns of implications that occurrences such as Wednesday’s could have on women in politics.
Senator Lisa Shoman:
Regrettably, Mr President, Belize suffers the worst and the most dubious record in terms of the Western hemisphere, and we have the misfortune of being distinguished with the worst statistic of political representation by women in the entire western hemisphere. We rank, unfortunately, also among the lowest in the world with a miserable participation rate of 3%. That includes the sole female representative in the House of Representatives, and that includes the two women on this side, and the four women who normally sit on that side of the House, of which I am happy to see we have two of us here today.
Women are being encouraged, Mr President, to enter the political life of our nation, and it is unfortunate that too many of our women view politics as being nasty, personal, dirty and brutal. Unfortunately, Mr President, when they see behavior in the National Assembly that cements that perception, we will never move to any kind of sensible parity for women in this nation in our political life. Therefore today, Mr President, I am rising to ask for it. I am asking for it, Mr President. I am adopting the very same language that was used in the House of Representatives in asking for it. I am asking for civility. I am asking for a standard of decency in the Government of our nation. I am asking for recognition that the women of this country have a right not to be humiliated, not to be abused, not to have un-Parliamentary language addressed to them. Unfortunately, Mr President, I have to rise, because last week we witnessed an incident, which not only should never have occurred, but should have been addressed by the Speaker. Regrettably, it was not so, and the sole female Representative in the House of Representatives was addressed in language which was unbecoming, un-Parliamentary, undignified, and un-Belizean. We cannot continue, Mr President, to govern our nation in this manner.
The Senator is now calling on the Hon. Michael Finnegan to offer an apology to his colleague the Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia. She also urged the remaining members of the House to put aside the mayhem for the sake of good governance.
Senator Lisa Shoman:
I believe, Mr President, that not only should the Honourable Member apologize to his colleague, but he should do so forthwith to the women of Belize. This is not, Mr President, the matter of one Member attacking another Member. It is more than that. It goes to the very heart of the Governance of our nation, and if we cannot conduct ourselves in a manner befitting and becoming the highest office in this land, Mr President, then we have no business being here. Nothing less, Mr President, nothing less than a call to the collective conscience of the Members of the National Assembly is required. Nothing less than a recognition that the women of Belize deserve every respect, every manner of human dignity. We are not asking for special rights. We are asking for equality, for human rights, and for very human dignity, If we cannot demonstrate that, Mr President, how are the people of Belize, how are the young people of Belize to recognize what is good governance? So Mr President, it is a collective call to conscience for all of us. It is a collective call on the individual member to tender the apology that is owed, and it is a collective call for all of us to remember that more than anything else, what we are here for is to deal with the business of the day, is to deal with the issues that affect our nation and not to be acting towards each other in a way that is not fitting for this Honorable Chamber, that is not fitting for these hallowed halls, much less for the street. Thank you, Mr President.
Responding was fellow Senator the Hon. Godwin Hulse. Here’s what he had to say about the televised showdown.
Senator Godwin Hulse:
In response, just briefly, to the Honourable colleague, I would like to say that one of the things that this Senate has always done, the twelve years that I have been here, is to ensure that we maintain a good level of respect. Respect, of course, is two ways, and we must always be careful how we address that.
Later in our newscast, we’ll bring you more backlash coming from Mayors across the country and a response from the PUP.