BELIZE CITY, Sun. Feb. 11, 2018– As the midday hour approached in Belize City, hundreds of people wearing blue and white People’s United Party T-shirts began to appear all over the city; vehicles flying the PUP flag were seen on the move and dozens of buses began to jam the northern and western entrance into the city on the Philip Goldson Highway and George Price Highway.
At the corner of Central American Boulevard and Fabers Road, a sea of blue dominated the scene. By 2:00 p.m., the mammoth crowd, estimated to be around fifteen thousand (15,000), began to move along Central American Boulevard and across the Belcan Bridge into Freetown Road, toward the ITVET campus for the PUP National Convention.
The PUP national executive which will lead the PUP for the next two years until the next convention is held includes the two past party leaders: Hon. Francis Fonseca and Hon. Said Musa. It also consists of the PUP’s current leader, Hon. John Briceño; national deputy leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde; treasurer, Chris Coye; legal advisor, Senator Eamon Courtenay; national strategic development manager, Victor Espat; research and development manager, William “Bill” Lindo; liaison for civil society, Senator Paul Thompson; deputy communications directors — Daniel Silva, Mayor Kevin Bernard and Ramiro Ramirez; national communications director, Narda Garcia; deputy national campaign managers — Wendy Castillo, Emilio Zabaneh, Nigel Espat, Jaime Briceño and Servulo Baiza; policy and reform chair, Dr. Candice Pitts; co-chair, policy and reform, Carolyn Trench-Sandiford; party chairman, Henry Charles Usher; regional deputy party leader for the East, Anthony Mahler; regional deputy party leader for the West, Hon. Julius Espat; regional deputy party leader for the South, Rodwell Ferguson, Sr; regional deputy party leader for the north, Jose Abelardo Mai; and secretary general, Linsford Castillo.
With the modified sounds of Bob Marley’s One Love playing, the PUP mayoral candidate, Bernard Wagner, was called on stage to give the welcome remarks.
Wagner declared that Belize City is the place where a second PUP revolution will begin.
“We will look back at this moment as the beginning of our party’s rightful place, back to its winning ways,” he said.
Wagner said that the 67 PUP candidates are battle-tested and battle-ready. “The PUP is a party that is reborn, re-tooled, refocused and united and ready to lead once again; a party that is ready to win… Are you ready, are you ready to go down in history to break the Barrow/Faber stranglehold of the UDP party that has grown arrogant… our country needs a purge from this repressive UDP regime. Let this despotic and callous UDP administration know that their time is up. It’s checkout time for the UDP”, Wagner thundered.
Following Wagner’s welcome remarks, the Belize City slate was introduced.
The convention then moved into the presentation of a number of resolutions, among them a resolution to have a Belize City that cares for women. The resolution, which came from the PUP women’s group, condemns all acts of corruption by the present UDP government which has had a negative impact on women. The resolution demands that the present government give greater priority to reducing the gender pay gap as well as fighting all forms of discrimination against women and girls. And it also calls on government to work to eliminate gender inequality.
A resolution to make municipal bodies have greater autonomy was also passed. The resolution is also committed to the adoption and implementation of the PUP’s Good Governance agenda that was passed in 2016.
The broad, sweeping resolution will also establish public accounts committees within each council to ensure accountability and transparency of the council’s expenditures, ensure that financial decisions that affect the municipality are made with the input and consultation of the residents of the municipality and are not vetoed by the final approval of the Minister of Local Government; and ensure that municipalities have greater say in public safety as it relates to the work of the police, fire service and other services of first responders assigned to municipalities.
The resolution continues: “Give municipalities’ direct authority over appointments to liquor licensing boards in the municipalities and over the issuing or cancellation of liquor licenses without political interference; ensure municipalities are child-friendly and promote an e-governance approach to be more effective and efficient; establish responsible regulations relating to environmental protection, health and nutrition standards, movement and storage of hazardous waste; determine codes and standards for construction and zoning that improves the quality of living for residents; seek the approval of municipal authorities in determining subdivisions and lands usages in its municipalities; set up municipal courts to strengthen the council’s ability to recover fees and fines; and remove partisan politics from the councils including the subjective extension of contracts for political appointments prior to a municipal election.”
The convention also passed a resolution on Belize/Guatemala relations. The PUP renewed its pledge to be in the forefront of the defense of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize against Guatemala in order to ensure that the national interest is fully protected, and that Belize’s just cause is advanced in the international community, to ensure that Belize remains a peaceful and secure nation.
It was stated, “The resolution demands that Guatemala immediately respect Belize’s right to its part of the Sarstoon River in accordance with the 1859 Treaty between the United Kingdom and Guatemala and international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity; demand that the government of Belize sign a protocol on the Sarstoon,”
Another resolution against corruption and mismanagement was also passed. This resolution addressed the escalation of violent crimes and calls upon the Barrow/Faber-led government to re-motivate police officers and members of the security forces with an increase of salary. The PUP pledges that a new PUP government will give priority to citizen security; implement new and innovative strategies to address the increase in crime by fighting the causes of crime with a multi-agency approach; adopt an intelligence-based, targeted approach to crime-prevention; appoint a competent Commissioner of Police; introduce the teaching of the respect for law, patriotism and social responsibility in schools to put all our youth on the right path to good citizenship; secure a much higher conviction rate by supporting better crime-scene investigation and increasing resources for crime-solving; and foster a community-based approach to citizen security.
Later in the afternoon, Hon. Cordel Hyde, the PUP’s National Deputy Leader, walked up to the microphone to begin his address. Hyde looked out at the massive crowd and said, “I know that some people are beginning to quake in their boots. We have been losing for too long; it’s time to get back to our winning ways. You know, they say the power of the people is greater than the people in power.”
Hyde said that it’s time for the people to stop accepting the 50 dollars and 100 dollars and start to understand the power of their vote. “Start to understand the power of their vote for themselves and their children and grandchildren. I know that it’s not easy,” he remarked.
Hyde said that the ruling party gives the people small change and they take home millions of dollars. “We have to change that,” he said.
“Check the Barrow family, check Boots’ family, all of them are rags to riches,” he remarked. Hyde explained that in the Gungulung area they are constructing a building that costs over 3 million dollars, but, he noted, “nobody could eat den deh. When they are spending 8 million dollars on Fabers Road, and some people can’t feed their children, something wrong with that picture.”
He went on to say, “We own BTL, BEL, we have oil, but the people still di suffer, something wrong with that picture. There is a reason why they focus on buildings and streets, because they get kickbacks.”
Hyde said, “We have to work together and we have to love one another. We have to see the bigger picture. We have to understand the value of fu we votes.
“The challenge for the PUP is that we have to return to our social justice roots. We should not be suffering like this in this country. In Belize City, we should not di suffer like this; all the powerful ministers are from Belize City. This government squander 450 million dollars from Petrocaribe, yet still you have more poverty. We should not be living like this in this country. What we sick and tired ah the same people di get rich… something wrong with that picture people. Da time fu mek the people get more; when the People’s United Party win, the people win. We have to return to the George Price PUP whe part the ordinary man and woman matter.”
PUP Leader, Hon. John Briceño, began his address by reflecting on the history of the ITVET compound.
“We meet here in Belize City at the old Technical College, a facility that was built by the PUP. It did not cost 40 million or 20 million; it didn’t even cost us 10 million dollars to build. It is now the ITVET campus and it continues to be a place where thousands of Belizeans come to learn and to uplift their lives. Today we have come back to the old Technical College grounds to send a loud and clear message that the PUP is ready to lead and we are ready to win,” Briceño declared.
Briceño went on to express his thanks to all the PUP candidates who are running in the municipal elections and to the Belize City mayoral candidate, Bernard Wagner, for his welcome address.
“Like Bernard and the Belize City team, all 67 candidates for the upcoming municipal elections are prepared for the task ahead. Together they stand ready to lead our cities and towns in a new era of meaningful social and economic improvement,” Briceño said.
Briceño also thanked and congratulated the new PUP national executive who took the oath of office earlier.
“My fellow Belizeans, I accept this task to lead this party with my firm promise to work with each of you to strengthen our party and to live our creed of social, economic and environmental justice. We say boldly and with confidence that our family, our PUP family, is the greatest political party in Belize. Today, we gather together as a dynamic, vibrant and united party with a message of hope and a plan to build a Belize that works for everyone. March the seventh will be the day of our rebirth and the beginning of our march to Belmopan. Over 60 years ago, right here in Belize City, our party was formed by brave men and women who themselves were tired of the oppression that accompanied colonialism,” said Briceño.
Briceño urged all PUP supporters to work hard to secure victory for the PUP municipal election teams across the country.
With his eyes on the bigger prize of winning Belmopan from the UDP, the PUP leader declared, “This is the commitment we make to you today, this is your Belizean Bill of Rights: jobs for everyone, land in the hand of our people so that we can all own a decent home, have access to adequate health care and live in a better educated nation. My vision for our country is one that can be fulfilled if we seek to accomplish four goals: First we have to develop a plan that will see us reduce poverty by 50 percent in 10 years. We can do this.”
“Second”, said the Party Leader, “we have to reduce our trade deficit; let’s work to cut it in half in a decade. We can do this. If we do this we will grow the Belizean economy and in so doing accomplish our third goal. You see, with a growing economy we can push for full employment for women and young people. We will do this. The sooner we get on with this work, the better, for this will impact our fourth goal, which is citizen security.”
“We have to feel safe again, safe in our homes, on the job and in our streets. This is our solemn promise, working to ensure that prosperity is shared, where everyone is lifted up and everyone can believe that truly, we can make it if we try. My friends, we have work to do first, we must rebuild our nation’s fragmented democracy,” he said.
Briceño ended his address, saying, “With heart and hands we rededicate ourselves to the work ahead, confident that having listened to the people, we are on the right path to fulfill our promise to create a nation where there is no more poverty, no more joblessness, no more hopelessness and no more despair.
“And with the guidance of our Creator, let us join with every freedom-loving person on this march, which ends on that day when we get to Belmopan and have a government of the People’s United Party.”