BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 21, 2018- Inclement weather was no deterrent for a crowd of People’s United Party (PUP) supporters which gathered on Vernon Street in front of the Berger Field yesterday morning. They took up positions behind three trucks that were equipped with large speakers, and then they moved forward, marching and dancing to the party’s battle songs all along a route that took them to their destination, the Charles Bartlett Hyde building, where they went to nominate the party’s Belize City Council slate, which has been dubbed as the “PUP-11 Rebirth team.”
The crowd, estimated to consist of about 1,500 persons, came to a halt and waited at the junction of Mahogany Street and Administration Drive, while each of their candidates, and their two nominees, made their way onto the compound of the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building, in which the Elections and Boundaries Department is located.
Inside, the candidates were met by Returning Officer, Colin Griffith, and his team, who were waiting to proceed with the nomination process of the PUP’s 11-member slate (10 councilor aspirants and 1 mayoral aspirant) making them official candidates for the March 7 municipal elections.
While the nomination was going on in the late morning, PUP leader, Hon. John Briceño, listed to reporters some of the issues he believes are of concern to the voters of Belize City in this municipal election:
“Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on Belize City and we have no clue as to how those monies have been spent. How these contracts were given out? Why were they given to the same people over and over? Why is it that the streets are breaking up? Why is there a 33 million- dollars basketball court here in Belize City that was inaugurated in December, yet we can’t have a single game?” are some of the questions on the minds of residents of Belize City, Briceño said.
Hon. Briceño was asked if the PUP brought out the crowd to send a message to the government. The PUP leader replied that the crowd which was present at their convention two Sundays ago was the crowd that sent the message. “Today, what we did is only brought out some supporters for our candidates,” he said.
Hon. Briceño also remarked, “The mismanagement of the government, the corruption, the cronyism, the vindictiveness of the UDP is starting to wear down the Belizean people. I do believe that that will have some kind of effect on the results of the elections.”
“The Barrow/Faber government is corrupt, our economy is collapsing,” he said.
“The Barrow/Faber government has to start looking after the interests of the people, and not of the millionaires they have created,” Hon. Briceño went on to say. “The Barrow/Faber government has failed miserably. They were given an opportunity to serve, but they have failed,” he stated.
Hon. Briceño was also asked what strategy the PUP is using for these municipal elections, especially in Belize City, which is a United Democratic Party stronghold.
Hon. Briceño explained that it is a ground campaign and the PUP is not able to fight the UDP with money. “We are on the ground fighting them with love, good ideas and great candidates and hard work. The UDP cannot do that…I believe that we are going to do well in Belize City. I think Bernard is going to win in Belize City. Infrastructure and pretty buildings are not going to do it. It’s about the people,” he said.
The PUP deputy leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, who is also the party’s “ground commander” for the Belize City municipal elections, also took the time out to speak to reporters about the campaign and the candidates.
Hon. Hyde said that Bernard Wagner, the mayoral candidate, has been involved in the community for a long time. “He is an original thinker, who is the one who established the Belize Bank Bulldogs, a team of elite basketball players, many of whom have gone on to another level. He has been involved in the community long before he entered politics. He has been involved in the community for as long as he has been in banking. So, leadership is like a natural evolutionary process for him. He is more than ready. He brings a unique mix to the table, having been corporate and roots at the same time. You can’t get better than that,” Hyde said.
Hon. Hyde spoke about another financial expert on the team, Oscar Arnold, a former manager of Scotia Bank in San Pedro. He spoke about two teachers from St. Luke’s Methodist Primary School, Deltrude Hilton and Ryan Elijio, describing them as “awesome.”
He spoke about another teacher on the team, Dr. Candice Pitts from the University of Belize. “She came up hard, used to sell johnny cakes and tamales. She got an opportunity to go to school. She got a scholarship to play basketball in the States, but when she got there, the coaches decided that she was not at that level, but to keep her scholarship, she did a Master’s degree and then went on to Howard University and did a doctorate,” Hyde explained.
“We have two retired public officers, Albert Vaughan and Michael ‘Chips’ Norales, retired public health inspector,” Hyde said. He continued, “We have two very young candidates, Allan Pollard, graduated from Sixth Form and has his own mechanic shop. He is really entrepreneurial, grew up in the hood, and knows all about the hood, really been impressive. Micah Goodin is 24 years old. He is a journalist at Amandala. He is fearless, you all know him, and he brings a lot to the table, a unique perspective. There is 28-year-old Aisha Gentle, a community organizer. What young people bring to politics is a new perspective, a new energy.”
“They’ve been there too long [the UDP incumbents], they have become corrupted by the system,” Hon. Hyde added. “Belizeans see the UDP for what they have become. Their priorities are messed up. They are building a building for 4.7 million dollars on Lake I Boulevard, lousiest street ever. When you ride on that you are reminded of just how corrupt this government can be. They call the building a resource center and right behind that building, people are walking on London Bridges, they don’t have access to light, don’t have access to water. They live on swamp all year long,” he commented.
Hon. Hyde pointed out that the UDP government is paying 8 million dollars to pave one mile of street on Fabers Road, when they paid 3.25 million dollars per mile on the Philip Goldson Highway, a road which runs beside a river, thus requiring re-enforcement on the sides of it.
He charged that $4 million out of money for housing under the Southside Poverty Alleviation Project, money we borrow every year from the OPEC Fund to reduce poverty on the southside, is being used by the UDP to buy votes in the municipal elections.
“People have to send a message to the government,” Hon. Hyde explained, “Look at BTL. We paid 564 million to Lord Ashcroft for BTL. You know what we could have done with that money? We could have sent every single child to high school for the next 20 years,” he said.
On March 7, voters go to the polls to elect new municipal bodies countrywide.