Sun | May 22, 2022

Opposition leader steps down amid domestic-violence row

Published:Wednesday | January 26, 2022 | 12:10 AM
Patrick Faber
Patrick Faber

BELMOPAN (CMC):

Opposition Leader Patrick Faber has resigned his position, as well as that of the leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), 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 asleader 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 31,” Faber, a former education minister, said in a statement.

Last week, Faber’s fiancée, Dr Shanika Arnold, made a report to the Domestic Violence Unit, where she made a complaint against Faber, with Police Commissioner Chester Williams indicating 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”.

Withdrew report

However, Dr Arnold took to social media to indicate that she had formally withdrawn her report in the presence of attorneys David Morales and O.J. Elrilater, describing the situation as a “misunderstanding”, and that it was the couple’s intent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 his resignation, noted 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,” the special envoy 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. The special envoy has called for a multi-sectoral approach to reach households, communities, institutes of education, businesses, and leaders to demand a zero-tolerance approach towardsviolence against women and families.

Minister of Human Development Dolores Balderamos Garcia, who is also responsible for families, issued a strongly worded video statement calling for Faber to resign.

She spoke of what she believes might cause victims of such acts to make a report, but then change course, asking that no further action be taken.

She countered claims often made that domestic violence is a private concern, reminding Belizeans that it is a crime that must be taken seriously. She announced that she would be asking Cabinet for additional resources to protect victims of abuse and deal with this public health issue in Belize.

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, (but) 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.