BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 8, 2015–The Belize Progressive Party (BPP), a newly formed political organization that will contest numerous seats in the November 4 general elections, held a press conference this morning at which it introduced seven more of its candidates.
Master of ceremonies Charles Leslie, BPP’s National Campaign Manager, said that after 34 years, “We cannot afford to let out people down.” Leslie stressed that the BPP will adopt a policy of zero tolerance for corruption.
At its first press conference last week, the BPP candidates, when declaring their candidacy, also pledged to declare their assets and liabilities in conformity with the “Prevention of Corruption Act.”
Elizabeth Dena, the first candidate to be called, declared her candidacy for the Freetown constituency. After making the pledge that she would serve without fear or favor, Dena said that she is tired of the talking: “It’s time to act. We are at the bottom of the barrel,” she said.
In the race for Freetown, Dena will go up against People’s United Party Leader Francis Fonseca, who is the incumbent and who has won his seat in the past three general elections. Fonseca is facing a challenge from first-time United Democratic Party candidate Dr. Carla Barnett.
The second additional candidate to be introduced was described by the master of ceremonies as the BPP’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jose Lewis Espat.
Espat declared his candidacy for the Albert constituency, where he will face the PUP’s Paul Thompson and UDP’s Tracy Taegar Panton, both of whom are first-time candidates in national elections.
Espat said, “I have been labeled and I have received injustice. We need to make a stand and bring this health system up.”
Milton Palacio, an educator, declared his candidacy for the Stann Creek West, where he will face PUP incumbent Rodwell Ferguson, who is also going up against UDP first-time candidate Walter Garbutt, himself a retired educator. Garbutt won the UDP convention for the division after the former standard bearer, Melvin Hulse, resigned from his position following his heavy criticism of his Party Leader and Prime Minister Dean Barrow. Hulse’s remarks were captured in an audio recording and then made public via the media. Hulse has subsequently resigned from the UDP.
Palacio said, “Eight years has passed and nothing has been done in Stann Creek West. Use the pencil on November 4. Let the pencil speak.”
The BPP candidate for Toledo West is Estavan Assi, who is challenging the PUP incumbent Oscar Requeña and the UDP’s Juan Coy.
Assi declared: “Change for a better Belize. With the stroke of a pencil, we will make that change.”
The master of ceremonies said that since the BPP has declared itself to be Belize’s labor party, he was especially pleased to introduced Raymond Rivers, a trade unionist and stevedore. Rivers declared his candidacy for the Collet constituency, where he will face UDP incumbent Patrick Faber, a former UDP chairman and current Minister of Education.
In his remarks, Rivers said that he has been documenting the genocide of our Belizean youth for the past 18 years. The BPP is going to make Belize Southside look like King’s Park, he said, adding that “we will bring a sewing factory to the Southside, along with a sports program.”
Other contenders in the race for Collet are PUP standard bearer Yasmin Shoman, a former two-term City Councilor and deputy mayor, who is a first-time candidate for national elections.
The BPP Orange Walk North candidate, Onerfo Vellos, will face incumbent UDP Deputy Leader Gaspar “Gapi” Vega and the PUP’s Ramon “Munchi” Cervantes.
Vellos said that for too long we have been deprived of a lot of things.
The UDP Leader Dean Barrow, apart from his PUP opponent Anthony Sylvestre, will now have to defend his seat against the BPP’s Gary Matus, who is a candidate for the Queen’s Square constituency. Barrow has been winning his Queen’s Square seat since 1984.
Matus said, “There is too much corruption going on. We have to take this Prime Minister out. We have to start controlling corruption in the city.”
BPP Leader Patrick Rogers, who originally declared his candidacy for Collet, but later moved over to Pickstock, said in his remarks that the BPP will increase the tax base of the country. Rogers said that if everyone pays their fair share of taxes, then things like free education will become a reality with a BPP government.
Rogers said that he was appealing to Belizeans to make the change; “It’s not about the ‘me;’ it’s about the ‘we,’” he said.
Rogers said that he would be meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry next week at a mixer, and issued the assurance, “there is no need to fear us.”
“The BPP is here to stay; we have a national platform to operate from,” Rogers said.