BELMOPAN, Belize, (CMC) – Opposition Leader in Belize and leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Patrick Faber, has resigned his position 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 alleged that the Opposition Leader caused damage to her laptop and had also assaulted her.
The report was made filed with Police Commissioner Chester Williams who confirmed that a warrant had been issued for Faber's arrest, 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However, Dr Arnold took to social media to indicate that she had formally withdrawn her report in the presence of attorneys David Morales and O.J. Elrilater, describing the situation as a “misunderstanding,” and that it was the couple's intent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 domestic abuse 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 for violence against our women and families.
The 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 she would be asking Cabinet for additional resources to protect victims of abuse and deal with this public health issue in Belize.
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 re-assure his constituency that he will continue to work in their best interest.
“First of all, let me thank all those who have supported me in my journey this far, in particular my family, my constituency, the greatest of them all, the Collet Constituency, my colleagues, the shadow cabinet, the central executive of the party and most of all, the faithful members and supporters of the UDP.
“Rest assured that my efforts remain committed for the people of Collet whom I will continue to represent and that I will still give my all to fight, as a member of the UDP to secure a better country for all of us. Long live Belize, long live the UDP,” Faber said.