BELIZE CITY, Fri. May 13, 2016–The Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) militantly marched through the streets of Belize City today.
The usual festivities of Teachers’ Day were replaced by defiance and demonstration as hundreds of teachers, backed by the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) and the Opposition PUP, marched through the streets to express their objection to the government’s recently imposed “Sarstoon Law.”
One of the main messages of the march was that the “Sarstoon Law,” which was passed to prevent the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) and other like-minded groups and individuals from their expeditions to the Sarstoon River, infringes on our right to freedom of movement in our own country and it has been one of the most controversial and unacceptable laws passed by the current Barrow administration.
The prevailing sentiment among today’s protesters is that the Government of Belize should immediately rescind the “Sarstoon Law.” That sentiment was coherently expressed after protesters gathered at the BTL Park, where community activists such as Wil Maheia, Mose Hyde, Audrey Matura and other union leaders surgically slammed into the “Sarstoon Law” using numerous lines of reasoning and forceful rhetoric.
Retired teacher and former BNTU leader, George Fraser, told Amandala, “We are here to show our solidarity and love for Belize.”
In commenting on the fact that there were fewer participants in the rally and protest than what the BNTU had projected (which has been attributed partially to political victimization, as well as to the seemingly irresistible lure of a free Chetumal trip that was being offered to teachers), Fraser remarked, “Those who prefer to go elsewhere, will have a day of reckoning.”
National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and Civil Society Senator, Elena Smith, told Amandala, “We knew that there would have been some interference trying to get some teachers not to join us. That is okay, we are happy with what we have.”
According to current BNTU President, Luke Palacio, “The Belize National Teachers’ Union constitution mandates that BNTU speaks out and acts on national issues and issues of our sovereignty. And therefore, when our Council Of Management met last Saturday, it was agreed that this SI, which we believe is unconstitutional, that we know is unconstitutional, our membership, our Council first agreed that they would have had their members agree to a Council decision that we forego the activities that we had planned at the branch level and bring those activities to Belize City.”
Though today’s protest was organized and led by the BNTU, the Opposition People’s United Party and the Belize Progressive Party participated.
As a matter of fact, the PUP Party Leader, Chairman and all its Deputy Leaders were in attendance and visibly supporting the BNTU.
When asked if this was simply a move to secure political mileage, PUP Leader Hon. John Briceño told Amandala that “the PUP is prepared to stand up with any organization that is standing up for Belize. The teachers are standing up for Belize and we believe it is the right thing to do. We in the PUP, we are in the party of Independence and we believe that wherever we are needed, we are going to be there, because we want to protect every single square centimeter of our territory. This has nothing to do with partisan politics.”
“It is incumbent on us to stand up for what we believe in because I think we have to send a signal to our kids that we are not going to sit idly by and allow our country to go to the wayside. We have a responsibility to those who came before us, who sacrificed so much for us to be here and we have a responsibility to those in the future that we will bequeath this great nation to. We have to stand up now, we can’t wait until we lose it, as the great Philip Goldson said,” remarked PUP National Deputy Leader Hon. Cordel Hyde.
The Party Leader of the Belize Progressive Party, Patrick Rogers, who also had party officials in attendance, commended the teachers for taking the lead in their Stand Up for Belize campaign. Today, he said, reminded him of the movement led by the BNTU in 2005 when it felt that the then Government was not listening to the Belizean people. Like Briceño, he announced that wherever he and the BPP are needed, they will be there to answer the call of the people.