Features — 29 June 2016 — by Norman Fairweather
When will Belizeans/New Yorkers take a stand?

On Saturday the Belize International Solidarity Movement (BISM) had an open forum at the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn. This was the fourth gathering called by Freddiemae Patnette, founder of BISM. The first was on May 7th, 2016 to discuss actions that could/should be taken in light of Guatemalan hostilities on the Sarstoon River that ended with a decision for the legal formation of BISM before launching a public protest at the Guatemalan Consulate in New York.

At last Saturday’s meeting the focus was not on protesting Guatemalan hostilities but was on (1) the focus and purpose of BISM and for (2) a public declaration of who the leaders are. However, the discussion and anger was overwhelmingly directed towards the UDP’s inability to deal with crime, corruption and unwillingness to hold politicians and gang-bangers accountable for their actions; it was also centered on the idea that the confrontation on the border must be seen in the context of the failure of our political leaders, who after 35 years of independence have not provided security and territorial integrity for Belize.

This meeting was the first time BISM was meeting since a meeting held on Monday, June 13, 2016 with a Belize City Council delegation that included Kevin Singh, Michael Theus, Bernard Pitts, Jason Edwards and Chaplain Howell Longsworth. The delegation’s trip was initiated by retired U.S. Army Lt. Gerard Placide, who stated that the purpose for the visit was to connect the City Council to possible investors and faith partners.

It is understood that meetings were held with the Brooklyn Borough president, investors and a church headed by the Rev. Steve Belrose, who is interested in establishing a dialysis center in Belize. However, the way crime was downplayed and the evasiveness of the responses to questions in general and, specifically, to what will happen to the residents of Yarborough to make way for the new cruise line led most attendees to ask whose interest are these elected officials serving.

Questions lingered as to what was Pastor Longsworth’s role and the impression folks got was that all investments and partnerships would have to come through the good pastor. There were questions left unanswered and the delegates were a no-show to a follow-up meeting with some who thought that a one-on-one meeting would yield some straightforward answers.

For BISM to move forward it must have an election of officers, and circulate its vision and mission statements. The second meeting held on May 21, 2016 almost ended in chaos if not for the intervention of Canon Bonner, Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church. The bone of contention seemed to have been between the organizer and her friend who designed and built the website and who claimed that Freddie was claiming BISM as a personal entity and defeating the claim for international solidarity.

Norman Fairweather has agreed to help Freddie to review the certificate of incorporation and draft vision and mission statements. In the meantime, there are those who do not believe that Belizeans need to wait for BISM to get its house in order before publicly protesting Guatemalan threats as they ratchet up their unfounded claim to the Jewel that is Belize.

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