SANDHILL, Belize District, Sun. May 31, 2015–A sea of red T-shirts dominated the landscape around the area of Guadalupe Roman Catholic School in Sandhill, Belize District, from early this morning, as hundreds of voters from the 28 villages of the Belize Rural North turned up to cast ballots in a convention to select the United Democratic Party (UDP) standard bearer for the next general elections.
The incumbent area representative, Hon. Edmond “Clear the Land” Castro, Minister of State in the Dean Barrow-led UDP administration, fought off challenger Dwight Tillett, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Castro’s former campaign manager.
One did not have to wait for the ballots to be counted to determine which way the political wind was blowing; the optics on the ground were a clear indication of the likely outcome:
Castro’s supporters, decked out with their red T-shirts declaring, “We deh with Clear the Land,” dominated the polling area for the entire day.
Dwight Tillett’s supporters, wearing T-shirts saying, “Competent and Trustworthy. Vote Dwight Tillett,” were hardly visible, appearing to have been swallowed up.
Following the casting of ballots, during the counting, Castro could be seen on the grounds gesturing with his hand that he had defeated Tillett by a 3 to 1 margin.
Indeed, there was no sight of Tillett by the time the UDP Chairman Alberto August was ready to announce the results.
Out of the 2,170 ballots that were cast, Tillett received 537, while Castro came out on top with a whopping 1,612.
Chairman August said that 21 ballots were rejected, bringing the total votes to 2,170.
About two hours before the polls closed, Tillett was seen courting a few voters, but his machinery appeared to have been totally overwhelmed.
In an interview with Amandala prior to the counting of votes, Tillett had said he was not fazed by the people in red: “A lot of them are wearing a shirt for money,” he said.
“It could be that they have misled me and they are genuinely Castro; more power to him, but I don’t get that sentiment,” he had stated.
Tillett had complained in the course of the voting, however, that some of his supporters had been taken off the list by the UDP secretariat, which, he said, had “overruled” many of his “arguments”.
“We have observed some wrongs going on at this convention; people who have never voted for PUP have been struck off the voters list.” he had said, adding, “I am a bit skeptical about the complete fairness of what is going on here today.”
Asked if he would work with Castro in the general elections if Castro was selected as standard bearer, Tillett replied, “I can never vote for Castro again; to me he is a disgrace to Belize Rural North. I worked for him for seven years, but if it’s him they want, I go back to my job on July 1.” He is the manager of a small credit union in Belize City.
Tillett said there is tremendous joblessness in Belize Rural North, and this is the cry of the people. “I am in this because I see how we can change this around,” he said.
After Castro had been declared the winner and the gates were opened to allow his supporters on the school grounds, some women attempted to carry Castro to the gate. “Mek we back am,” one of the women urged the other women, who had encircled him with chants of “Clear the Land.”
In his short speech after he was sworn in by the Party Chairman, Castro said, “We have the best committee in Belize Rural North.”
“We will continue to deliver the seat for the United Democracy Party. I would like for us to continue to the next general election with this momentum. We will roll through like PetroCaribe,” he said.
Following his remarks, Castro, who did not put down the microphones, paid tribute to Prime Minister Dean Barrow for the assistance he has received for his constituency through the PetroCaribe funding.
In the 2012 general elections, Castro garnered 2,103 votes to defeat the People’s United Party candidate Arthur Saldivar, who obtained 1,560 votes.
In the upcoming general elections, Castro will face off against the PUP’s retired Major Lloyd Jones, whom the PUP has selected as its Belize Rural North standard bearer. Jones replaced the attorney Arthur Saldivar, who was stripped of his standard bearer position by the PUP National Executive due to a scandal involving one of his former clients.