Still no new First Deputy Party Leader after UDP Convention
Thursday, March 24th, 2016
Political fever invaded quiet Dangriga, Stann Creek District, when members and supporters of the United Democratic Party (UDP) met in the cultural capital for the party’s National Convention. Key members of the UDP were present at the important gathering, held on Sunday, March 20th, including Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow. However, his former right- hand man and First Deputy Party Leader, Gaspar Vega, were a no- show. In fact, his post remains vacant.
Vega, who made history along with his party, the UDP, when they won for the third consecutive time in the General Elections in October of 2015, clearly had no intentions to become the leader of the country in the near future. This was revealed in a letter he sent to the Party, dated March 8th, wherein he stated his resignation and retirement from politics.
During the convention in Dangriga, a total of 689 out of 706 delegates came out to vote on matters relating to the Party’s future. A few of those matters included the appointment of the Party’s current Secretary General, Pearl Stuart, to the Central Executive Committee. The National Party Council (NPC) was also given special powers to delay conventions where necessary.
With these special powers, the NPC will be allowed to delay the next convention for a date past January 1, 2020. According to the returning party chairman, Alberto August, the convention that took place last Sunday, was due in late 2015. “Due to several by-elections, the general and municipal elections all falling within that year, the Party had no choice but to delay.”
The main purpose of the convention, as stated prior to the event, was to endorse the party’s leadership and executive for the next four years. The positions that were endorsed in the Party were: Party Leader, Dean Barrow, the Second Deputy Leader, Erwin Contreras, the Party Chairman Alberto August, and the Deputy Party Chair, Fern Gutierrez.
The only post that stayed vacant was the one recently vacated by Vega: First Deputy Leader. Prime Minister Barrow spoke of the vacancy. “The Party will meet after Easter to set a date for Vega’s replacement,” he said. “The new First Party Leader will be voted in at a special convention and I promise to remain scrupulously neutral.”
The race is on and competing for the post are Belmopan Area Representative and Minister of National Security Hon. John Saldivar and Collet Area Representative and Minister of Education Hon. Patrick Faber. It was rumoured that Area Representative from Cayo-West Hon. Erwin Contreras was to also compete for the post; however, he announced last week that he was not going to do so.
Both candidates have already been endorsed to fill in the post and become second in command of the UDP. Faber was endorsed on Monday, March 21st by youth representative Chris Saldano, Hon. Michael Finnegan, Deputy Elodio Aragon Jr., San Ignacio Mayor Earl Trapp and Stann Creek West Standard Bearer Walter Garbutt. Saldivar was also endorsed on the same day by Hon. Erwin Contreras, Cayo-West Area Representative and Minister of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce.
The NPC has yet to announce the date of this next convention during which the First Deputy Leader will be chosen.
Meanwhile, speculations are that at the end of the UDP’s third term two other members are expected to step down. They are Hon. Michael Finnegan Minister of Housing and Urban Development, and the Hon. Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation.
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