UDP Vice Chairman Alberto August says Recall against UDP Leader still alive
Tonight the UDP recall saga continues. This time, the leader of the recall petition, UDP Vice chairman Alberto August, says the petition is still alive. August and others in the party are hell-bent on unseating current leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow but their first attempt, according to the party’s chairman Michael Peyrefitte, has failed. Peyrefitte wrote to August, telling him that the petition submitted did not meet the threshold for various reasons. One of those reasons was that dozens of persons reportedly retracted their signatures. A total of 43 persons, according to Peyrefitte, requested that their signatures be retracted from the petition. , 4 signatures of alternates who do not qualify to sign the petition, 2 signatures of persons who resigned and are not qualified to sign the petition and 3 signatures of persons who are not delegates of the UDP were also denied. This afternoon, flanked by attorney Norman Rodriguez and Patrick Faber’s ally, Roosevelt Blades, August held a press conference to respond to the UDP Secretariat’s decision.
Alberto August, Vice Chair, UDP: “In order to make a long process shorter we concede all nine of those signatures. That is going to leave one hundred and ninety one valid signatures which is more than enough to constitutionally trigger a recall. Contained in yesterday’s response from the National Chairperson also is an item under the heading ‘Signatures retracted 43’ Now I am no legal person and so I am going to leave that aspect to be handled by Mr.Rodriguez who is legally trained.”
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “In the absence of any precedent to this kind of process is that delegates signed a petition, that’s the first thing. The petitions are delivered to the Chairman of the party in this case the United Democratic Party within a specified time and once those petitions are delivered within those specified time then the voting process closes and it is time for counting. The Chairman counts the ballots and he declares the results. He must count the ballots in the exact way he recieves them and he must also declare the results based on the way he counted those ballots. Delegates do not have the opportunity to cancel or retract any of those petitions once they are delivered to the Chairman it is like a normal election process once you go to the polls and vote and the polls close at six or seven you cannot go back to the returning officer and say I want to take back my ballots. Retracting is not a step that is allowed in the way they are trying to implement. You can’t retract. In the normal way of voting the only way you can show your discontent and it happens a lot in our country, is when you go to the polls the next election because people don’t use this specific process a lot in Belize but that will be a matter for a judge to decide if and when we end up before a court.”
Reporter: The signatures on the petition is not equivalent to a vote which is why you have the recall petition and then you have the recall vote which is why the person that signed the petition the chairman is saying they have all the right to retract it.
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “”I cannot say it is equivalent to a vote because it has not been ruled on as yet but you placed your signature there and then there are steps that you follow in the process and as I outlined the Chairman then must go through verify and he must count them as they’re delivered to him and deliver the results as he counted them. There is nothing whether it’s decided before or not to say that you can go and retract your signature between the process of presenting them and verifying them.”
Reporter: But in the vetting process is there a window that someone who signed the petition come to you and say you know what I don’t want my signature on this piece of paper.
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “I like the question. You know why because in my last shot to you all I would have said to you aren’t you curious to know what happened for - and I didn’t want to get into the politics of it you know I was trying to avoid that but doesn’t it make you curious or don’t you want to know what happened for those people to sign one day and the next day they’re talking about retracting ? I think you have to ask some questions to somebody else.”
Reporter: But you won’t be able to prove that. You don’t have any evidence that something happened.
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “Yeah but you can speculate just as how you throw and I’m going to get a little out of my realm now. You can speculate just as how you through speculating questions at Mr.August a while ago about certain things and you can throw those speculating questions at the people who are declaring that those retractions were made. Because there had to be something to motivate them to retract.”
Reporter: The funny thing about all of that is that the other side is also making those allegations against you all.
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “There had to be something to motivate a change of heart. Right ? People don’t just get up one moment – I will leave that to the officials because I’m going far away out of where I had set my foot to stand.”
Then there is the matter regarding 66 signatures. Those signatures were on 11 pages which Peyrefitte says did not have the proper plea of the petition on the heading. Here is how August responded to that point.
Alberto August, Vice Chair, UDP: “Nothing could be further from the truth. Every single set of petitions that went out had almost two pages of information in terms of why these people were signing this petition. Just like the national laws of this country in terms of the recall of an elected member of the House of Representatives you’re not required to give any reason but for this purpose we gave six reasons to the delegates as to why the party leader is supposed to be recalled and in terms of our meetings with them we read that to them. We gave them the petition for them to read and sign. Now of course you won’t have the heading on all of the pages because it’s two pages so you had the attachments to it and some of them signed on the third page that might not have had the heading but the entire document include two pages of information although all we could have said was that you’re signing to recall the party leader but we gave them six reasons as to why the party leader should be recalled. If you listen to the comments from the Chairman there is barely any I should say, accusation that people did not know what they were signing. The allegation coming out of them is that they’re retracting their signature, in other words they’re having a change of heart. It’s like the legal counsel said they will have an opportunity to change their mind if they want to but this is not the process for that. Man we’re dealing with delegates of this party. We’re dealing with the cream of the party. At least we expect every single delegate of this party knew that a recall project was underway. And it’s not the first time. Every single delegate of this party knew that a recall project was in place and they knew that they would have been required to sign the petition because that is required for that purpose.”
Reporter: But would you concede that it was necessary for a heading to be placed on each page ? Because regardless of what you’ve been told in a meeting black and white is what matters.
Alberto August, Vice Chair, UDP: “This constitution of the party has no prescribed forms, none. It’s not like for example let’s say the Elections and Boundaries or the police the police medico legal form is a prescribed form you can’t change that. In terms the Elections and Boundaries in terms of the Representation of the People Act there are fourteen prescribed forms at the back. You review this constitution of the United Democratic Party there is no prescribed form there so you can use any format that you so desire.”
So now, how does the UDP move forward? While one faction wants to put the failed recall behind them, another fraction believes the recall is alive and their determination to remove Barrow as the leader is persistent.
Alberto August, Vice Chair, UDP: “The party leader must be of the highest caliber. The party leader must be firing on all cylinders leading, uniting, guiding, motivating and securing the adequate financial resources for the party. With no disrespect to the current leader of our party there are some people within our party who believe that he lacks some of these qualities necessary to transform the United Democratic Party into a viable opposition. We are listening to the delegates of our party in terms of the way forward. We are in a position where the National Chairperson of the party is taking a unilateral decision on this matter. We have requested for him while he is the National Chairperson of the party he is not the legal advisor of the party. We have requested for him to seek the advice of the legal advisor of the party and he’s refusing to do so. So he’s taking this matter on a unilateral stance. We’re asking him – he is telling us that the opinion of the legal advisor will be just that, a legal opinion, but his opinion is also an opinion too. So we’re asking him to take into consideration the advice of the legal advisor of the party that is why the party has a legal advisor and he is not the legal advisor of the United Democratic Party. We are going to be listening to the delegates of this party and they will guide us as to what will be the next stage. Probably who knows, probably might be the commencement of another recall we don’t know because there is no limit. There is no limit for the conduct of any recall in this thing. If they one name on each paper then we will give them one name on each paper because those same persons are prepared to sign again my friend. So if it’s one name they want on paper we are going to give them one name and like you said it is going to be a tedious task but it is important for the purposes of uniting and moving our party forward. Like I said I don’t want you to drive me down that road my friend but all of you know, all of you live in Belize, all of you follow the news. It has been seven months since this party leader was elected, exactly seven months today. 27th of March 2022 and my friends this party is more divided then even before that but we won’t go down that road because we are not here to bash the leader of our party.”