Belize’s Deputy PM no longer essential: Briceno Calls it a Day and says why
Since 1998 John Briceno was the Second In Command of Belize, after a recent debacle in Parliament – Sa?d Musa indicated he was not satisfied with Briceno’s stance in the whole flow of events. Rather than wait to be at the sticky end of Musa’s wrath (if Belmopan appears unstable, then they stand to lose 35 million from Barbadian investors to be dedicated to agriculture there), the Deputy declared himself no longer essential. At Channel 7, they spoke with the brave Man Of The Moment to see what’s his next step –
Jules Vasquez Reporting,
Minister your first day without a Ministry in 9 years, or I should say John your first day without a Ministry in 9 years, how does it feel?
Hon. Johnny Briceno, Former Deputy Prime Minister
“Well as I’ve always said to everybody that I am John and that will never change. I’ve always come with the perspective that I am here for a time to serve and that I serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. So after nine years the Prime Minister came with different plans that I did not felt that I was ready to accept the challenges that he set in front of me and so I decided to step out from the Cabinet. But I am still an area representative and that’s first and foremost in my mind.”
You said that he gave you a challenge that you weren’t prepared to accept but is it so bad to be Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Minister of National Development? Minister of Petroleum, I am told, was also offered to you later on in the day. Is that so bad, why were you unable to accept that?
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“As I pointed out to the Prime Minister, I respectfully explained to him, that we are ten months probably into the next general elections and it is going to be a tough election for my party and we will be needing to put all our energies, all our attention, and all of our work in trying to get the party re-elected. By giving me a new challenge, I don’t think I’ll be able to be in the position to give my all, either to the campaign part of getting us re-elected or to managing such an important portfolio that he was offering me. So I felt that maybe at this time it is best to be able to step back, to respectfully decline his offer, and to go out and find a way how I can best serve the party.”
Nobody resigns as Deputy Prime Minister. I should say it hasn’t been done.
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“I just did.”
It has to be something extremely, it has to be a great act of disrespect which would force someone into such an act. You said indeed that you did it voluntarily, you weren’t prepared for the challenge, but raw emotions say that it is tough to walk away from being the number two man in a country.
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“You are saying those words. I am telling you that the Prime Minister did give me an offer. The Prime Minister did indicate that he wanted me to stay in his Cabinet.”
Do you feel that the Prime Minister made a mistake in offering you a demotion at this time?
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“What I would venture to say at this time is that I think that it was not the right decision and it is more because of a timing because we are so close to an election and I think that we need to focus on an election in uniting the party and we should have one objective. The objective of a party is to win an election and right now our objective is supposed to be to win and for the Prime Minister then to come and try to give me another challenge, I just felt that the timing right now was not correct and that is why I then respectfully declined.”
But you will agree that no Minister is untouchable, the portfolio doesn’t say Minister of John Briceno, that things change?
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“I fully respect the Prime Minister’s decision. I said I serve at his pleasure and he decides when I should be there and for what time and under portfolios I should be serving.”
Was this demotion that the Prime Minister proposed to you, was it a retalliatory or punitive measure for the very clear and hard stance that you took on the Universal loan?
Hon. Johnny Briceno,
“I believe that I gave the Prime Minister the right advice. As the Deputy Prime Minister I believe that my job is to be able to advise the Prime Minister because sometimes you get clouded, your vision gets clouded, especially when you have made up your mind in seeing something in one direction and you get myopic. I felt that as the Deputy Prime Minister I need to advise him how I see things and I was telling him that I think he was getting the wrong advice over the Universal Health Services issue. Whether that is a retaliation on the part of the Prime Minister, well I think that would be ironic because he, at the end of the day, did listen to my advice.”
Over at Channel Five, their take on the shift is a bit more reserved in its presentation –
The newly constituted Cabinet met this morning and we are informed by the Government Press Office that the meeting — attended by all members except Foreign Minister Lisa Shoman — went smoothly and the new ministers, as well as old ones with new portfolios, are getting down to business.
MEANWHILE; Eamon Courtenay, former Foreign Minister to Belize, was sacked before he got a chance to submit his resignation – it seems he was dismissed via text message! More from Channel 5 –
Eamon Courtenay, Resigned as Foreign Minister ?Two things occurred to me yesterday morning when I found out what had happened in Belmopan whilst I was in Panama. Firstly, that the decision of the Prime Minister to demote the then Deputy Prime Minister John Brice?o was something that I disagreed with fundamentally. I did not think that was a right decision. Secondly, my relationship with John Brice?o, there was absolutely no way that I was going to stay in that Cabinet once John Brice?o determined that he was not going to say. So both in terms of a bad decision by the Prime Minister in my view and an act of solidarity on my part with my friend and my colleague, there was no way I was going to stay. Stewart, nobody is indispensable and not only are we the chair of SICA, but we are the chair of COFCOR, the foreign ministers. And I was in Panama at that very time chairing a number of meetings along with colleagues from Canada. I was with Peter McCain the minister of Canada, as a matter of fact when the news came to me, I was at lunch, Condoleezza Rice was across the table and I could see that other ministers in that room had found out because obviously the ambassadors here were informing their ministers that things were happening in Belize. So there were a number of things that we were doing at that time when that happened. I am not indispensable, Belize has an excellent team of diplomats, an excellent team of foreign service officers, a very good team of foreign trade economists, and I believe that they will have to carry out the work forward. It is at a critical time, it is very unfortunate that it has happened at this time because there are a number of issues which require ministerial input, which requires political work, which requires experience, and I think Lisa is going to find it extremely challenging coming in at this time.?
Stewart Krohn ?You mentioned that the Prime Minister made a bad decision. What do you think possessed him to make that decision??
Eamon Courtenay ?Stewart, I really don?t know and I wouldn?t want to speak for the Prime Minister. All I keep hearing is that it is as his reaction to John Brice?o?s position on the U.H.S. thing, that once he indicated that he would not support the resolution before the House, that this was the Prime Minister?s response. That is what I hear, I don?t know. I will ask the Prime Minister.?
Stewart Krohn ?Don?t you find it odd that the Prime Minister in fact came around to that position, essentially admitting that the people who counselled him to withdraw the motion were right, but now it seems that they are being punished for giving him what turned out to be very good advice.?
Eamon Courtenay ?I don?t understand it. It?s a mystery to me and as I said, I hope he will be able to give an explanation to the nation, but also to me.?
Stewart Krohn ?Let?s look back for a minute, back to over nine years ago; the Musa administration comes in with a young promising team. How did it come to this? Did you ever imagine that what started out with such promise would have come to this end??
Eamon Courtenay ?I don?t think any of us could foresee anything like this. I think we are all collectively disappointed at what has happened. I think we are all searching within ourselves to see whether any one of us individually or collectively did something wrong or did something right or shouldn?t have done thing. To bring up one of the most controversial points, the whole G7 issue, should the G7 have happened earlier? Should we have gone back into Cabinet? Should we have stayed out? I think these are things that we are looking at ourselves now and saying individually, ?What should I have done?? But I will say to you Stewart, we have missed an opportunity to move this country forward in a significant way. We had an opportunity as a government under the leadership of our party, the Party Leader Said Musa, and I believe in my heart of hearts that we missed an opportunity; Belize should have been further forward. But I am an optimist, and I believe that we are going through extremely difficult times and that will pass and I believe that our party will form the government and our party will lead Belize along a different path. And that?s what we need, a different thinking, a different path, a different vision, and I am optimistic that that is going to happen.?
Stewart Krohn ?Along those lines, you are the only one out of the four former ministers who is not involved in electoral politics, you are an appointed Senator. You don?t have a constituency to go back to in the same sense that the other three essentially will have fulltime jobs for the next nine months trying to get re-elected. What does Eamon Courtenay do for the next nine months or next nine years for that matter??
Eamon Courtenay ?Stewart, I quite frankly I will seriously consider entering electoral politics after the next election. I enjoy public service, I believe I have something to contribute to Belize, I believe that the P.U.P., looking the right way, doing the right things with the right people can move forward and I hope to be a part of that. I am excited, I have been looking at a couple constituencies and once the dust has settled after the next election, I will probably make a move.?