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Senator Mark !

October 26
07:18 2019

By: Major Lloyd Jones (Ret’d)

Senator Mark Lizarraga was, as usual, stellar in his presentation during the Senate debate related to the write-off of the bond for Joshua Perdomo.

Senator Mark rose to national prominence in 2012, when he was elected by the business community to represent them in the Senate. He had once been the President of the Chamber so he had national exposure, but it was his performance as a Senator that propelled him to national acclaim. Senator Mark succeeded the once venerable Godwin Hulse who, as the business Senator, left big shoes to fill. Hulse, as a member of the Cabinet, would go on to disappoint many; but that is a story for another time.

Since his first day in the Senate, Senator Mark has been nothing but an outstanding advocate for the Belizean people. There have been other outstanding voices in the Senate but many of them, unlike Senator Mark, have had to toe their party line. It is not unfair to say that the vigour with which some of the non-government Senators make their presentations would not be of the same intensity if it was their party that was in power.

This of, course, is the nature of our democracy: you defend the party that appoints you no matter what!

In 2019, Senator Mark is easily the star of the Senate. His voice has consistently been THE voice of reason and accountability. Senator Mark has differentiated himself from the rest of the Senate by his incredible preparation, analytical mind, attention-grabbing delivery and above all else, his bravery.

It is not easy to stand up for that which is right in Belize. Doing so means going up against the party in power and that also means that you become a target for the loud mouths who stand as sentinels for official wrong doing.

It appears that even with his outstanding work in the Senate since his 2012 appointment, somebody in the Chamber wanted him gone as the “Business Senator.”

After the 2015 general elections the Belize Business Bureau (BBB) moved promptly to signal its support for Senator Mark to remain as the business Senator. The Chamber was far less enthusiastic. Remember now, Senator Mark is a former President of the Chamber; he was for all intents and purposes a Chamber man. So why would the Chamber stutter in its re-appointment of Senator Mark? Surely it could not have been because of his performance!
If I were to hazard a guess I would say it was because of partisan politics. Senator Mark has been blistering and unrelenting in pointing out the folly of the Barrow administration; he therefore had to go. Mr. Barrow may have wanted someone a little more “friendly” and he may have called in a few favours at the Chamber!

Mr. Barrow had snatched victory from what many thought were the jaws of defeat, when Cordel and Mark Espat did not contest the 2012 election, leaving many standing in awe of his political acumen.

Since 2008 Mr. Barrow has been able to successfully silence labour, the Church and the NGO community. It is not difficult to believe that in 2015, on the heels of his historic general election victory, he wanted to conquer capital as well. If that was his intention then the obstacle in his path would have been Senator Mark.

The “debate” in the House, over the years, has decayed to the point where people now commonly refer to it as a circus. It was Senator Mark’s presentations in the Senate that kept on opening the eyes of the Belizean people. In fact, so effective has been Senator Mark’s presentations that it led some in the UDP to declare that he was more opposition than the opposition itself; an attempt to try and smear him with the hue of partisan politics of course.

It’s important to understand the awesome power and reach of our two major political parties. The Belizean economy has been deliberately cultivated to become a political one. So when a party comes to office they inherit enormous economic influence. They literally have the power to make or break your business. The Chamber has therefore not escaped the sinister pull of partisan politics.

One instance where the Chamber may have been overcome by partisan politics was in 2015. Allegedly, there was an unwritten agreement among the leadership of the Chamber that after the elections of 2015 Daniel Gutierrez (who was a member of the Board of the Chamber at the time) would have ascended to the Presidency and that Senator Mark would remain in the Senate.

Somehow, someone provoked a change in that plan so much so that Gutierrez was “inspired” to challenge Senator Mark for the business seat in the Senate. The thing is no one told Senator Mark that things had changed and so when he kept pressing for the formalities to be put in place so that he could prepare for the first post-election Senate meeting, he was stonewalled.

Senator Mark must have been shocked to learn of a challenge to his seat the day before the members of the Chamber were being asked to vote. Notwithstanding the ambush, Senator Mark would go on to defeat Gutierrez, thus maintaining his seat in the Senate.

Gutierrez, as we all know, would later be appointed first as Ambassador to CARICOM and then as Ambassador to the United States of America. Belize does not truly have a professional diplomatic service and ambassadorial appointments are “political” for the most part. In Belize one does not end up in such lofty posts without a deep sense in the ruling party that one’s loyalty belongs to them.

Long I ponder what the Senate would be like today if those who conspired against Senator Mark had succeeded in dethroning him. Perdomo is one UDP who would have been happy, of that I am sure!

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