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Opposition leader in Belize steps down amid domestic violence row

Published:Tuesday | January 25, 2022 | 10:08 AM
Leader of the Opposition in Belize, Patrick Faber -Contributed photo.

Opposition Leader in Belize, Patrick Faber, has resigned his position as well as that of the leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party amid a domestic violence row that led to the police issuing a warrant for his arrest last week.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I stand before you today to signal my departure as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and leader of our great United Democratic Party. Both resignations I wish to become effective in a few days, on January 31st, 2022,” Faber, a former education minister, said in a statement.

Last week, Faber's fiancé, Dr Shanika Arnold, made a report to the Domestic Violence Unit where she made a complaint against him.

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams indicated that the report had been “one of a domestic nature where she is alleging that Mr Faber has caused damage to her laptop and had also assaulted her as she was about to leave their home…”

Williams confirmed then that a warrant had been issued in the first instance for the arrest of Faber adding, “the fact is that we have obtained a statement from her in which she had requested court action and so we will proceed with the matter before the court.”

However, Arnold took to social media to indicate that she had formally withdrawn her report in the presence of attorneys David Morales and O.J. Elrilater, describing the situation as a “misunderstanding,” and that it was the couple's intent to resolve the matter privately.

But despite her statement, there had been growing calls for Faber to resign.

The Special Envoy for Families and Children, Rossana Briceño, in calling for Faber's resignation, noting that the issuing of a warrant for his arrest and then the complainant withdrawing the charges is “a very common occurrence in the cycle of abuse.

“Our women need our support, not criticism, as they navigate the terrible scourge of abuse and violence. It is important that victims know they are not alone,” Briceño said, adding that domestic violence is mostly perpetrated by current or former intimate partners.

In 2021, Belize recorded over 2,000 cases, almost 30 per cent of which are still open.

Briceño has called for a multi-sectoral approach to reach households, communities, educational institutions, businesses, and leaders to demand a zero-tolerance for violence against women and families.

UDP chairman and former attorney general, Michael Peyrefitte, publicly condemned Faber's behaviour, saying “if we stand with the current situation, we will not get the respect of the Belizean people and it is my job as chairman of the party to say that we do not stand by that, me specifically as well.

“I do not support that, I do not defend that. Under the circumstances, of the best interest of the party, he needs to resign and he needs to resign now.

“I have a 17-year-old daughter, how do I face her as the chairman of an organisation whose leader, not once, not twice, three times involved or from what we know in these situations. So I would hope that he would do the right thing and just step down,” he said.

Faber, who was due to host a news conference, cancelled the event and instead issued a statement announcing his resignation.

“While I maintain that the information circulating about matters with Dr Shanika Arnold are not the facts, the ills that come with these allegations are simply too much of a burden for me to place on the shoulders of our beloved party and its faithful membership. I have made a decision to focus my attention on giving my fiancée in this her time of need my full attention and support,” Faber added.

While he has announced his resignation as party leader, Faber sought to reassure his constituents that he will continue to work in their best interest.

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