BELIZE CITY, Sat. Nov. 4, 2017–This evening, the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) launched its Belize City Council slate, consisting of its mayoral candidate and 10 city councilor candidates who will attempt to wrest power from the incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) in next year’s Municipal Elections in March.
The PUP’s launch, which it calls “The Rebirth”, took place at an old-school rally at the Pound Yard Bridge, where a sizable crowd of city residents and party supporters turned up for an evening which featured musical entertainment and speeches from some of the PUP’s heavy-hitting parliamentarians. The evening ended with an address by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño.
The PUP’s only incumbent mayor, Orange Walk Town mayor Kevin Bernard, led off the evening’s speeches, and he was followed on stage by Hon. Kareem Musa, the Caribbean Shores representative, who said that since Dean Barrow and the UDP took office, “he has increased our debts by double. He talks about Petrocaribe, but Petrocaribe done.”
Musa said that Dean Barrow made a 200-million-dollar mistake in the settlement he signed with Lord Michael Ashcroft re the nationalization of BTL, adding that “this man is playing some serious games.”
Following Musa’s speech, all the candidates were sworn in by the party’s chairman, Henry Charles Usher. Each candidate went to the center of the stage, along with the person who nominated him or her, to accept their nomination, after which each candidate spoke to the audience.
There was a lot of “Team 11” shouts, as each candidate accepted their nomination and promised to take back Belize City from the UDP, who have held the reigns at City Hall since 2006.
John Swift, a voter from the Freetown Division, nominated Bernard Wagner as the party’s mayoral candidate. Wagner is a former Belize City branch manager of the Belize Bank who has given the better part of the last couple decades to being a basketball bureaucrat and organizer. He presently owns his own business.
After Team-11 was finished with their nomination, they took the oath of office and were sworn in by Chairman Usher.
Each candidate then approached the microphone and made a short speech. Amandala reporter, Micah Goodin, who is among the 10 councilor candidates, remarked that the only thing different since the UDP took office is the quality of the streets black men are killed on, while there is deafening silence from the incumbent mayor and his councilors.
Another councilor candidate, the young Allan Pollard, Jr., said, “As a young man I have witnessed firsthand how the UDP has neglected us, and then they wonder how the youth are out of control. We tayad a live in a city with no opportunities. Change is on its way. I feel it.”
Candice Pitts, who comes from humble beginnings and used to sell journey cakes to assist her single parent mom, told the audience that she has been inside many of their homes and knows how many people in the city live. Pitts, who has a PhD in literature, promised to make a difference in the lives of the residents of the city.
“Good night, everybody, unnu know a love unnu bad,” Lake Independence area representative and the PUP’s deputy leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, said, as he took to the microphone to introduce the mayoral candidate, Bernard Wagner.
Hyde said that the team is a really nice mix of youth and experience, but particularly youth, adding that some of their candidates are as young as 22, 24, and 28 years old.
Hyde said that while they have bankers, and teachers and “even a PhD on the slate,” they also have a lot of roots. “All of our candidates even if they are from the Northside have their roots on the Southside. They were born and raised on this side of town,” he noted.
“They are diverse; they reflect you. You can look at them and see yourself. They are you,” he told the crowd.
And while he pointed out that the UDP have become a national disgrace with all the scandals erupting almost on a daily basis, Hyde said it wasn’t enough for the PUP to “just hope that the people would vote out the UDP. We have to give the people something to vote for. And that’s why we took our time in constructing a team that the people can believe in. This team represents a rebirth.”
When Bernard Wagner took the mic from Hyde, he was humble yet fiery. “I want to ask you the people of Belize City to give us a chance, and we won’t disappoint you,” the PUP’s mayoral aspirant said. “Give us a chance to serve as your servants, as your employees, your workers, your handymen [and women], your mayor and your councilor,” he said.
“I am honored and at the same time humbled at the prospect of serving my community,” said Wagner.
Wagner, who is running for political office for the first time, said he could not help but reminisce about his childhood on the way to the launch, and “the humility, compassion and consideration for others that were bestowed [on him] at an early age” by his late mom, who used to sell bread and bun to make ends meet along with his father, a cabinet maker.
Wagner described the PUP as the party of social justice.
“As we launch our campaign tonight, I promise to you the voters that our campaign will be one of high moral standards, taking the high ground, so to speak. We will leave the petty politics and the mud-slinging to those that do it best,” he said.
Wagner went on to say, “I honestly believe the voters are tired of the lies and promises, and being paid a couple of hundred dollars for their votes, while the politicians laugh all the way to the bank. Our voters want solutions to everyday challenges.
“The UDP has been in power too long. Instead of becoming agents of change, they have become agents of personal enrichment, agents of nepotism, and agents of dishonesty.
“We will take care of the fundamentals of City Hall. We will cut your grass and clean your drains; we will fix your streets and pick up your garbage, but we will do more. We will ensure that there are parenting classes for our young mothers and fathers. We will make sure there is support for the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to gun violence. We will work with BEL to make sure the street lights are brighter, so that our streets are safer. We will abolish the London Bridges and build a Southside park that will rival anything we have in this country. We will bring back the Belize City Games, and under-17 basketball, and little league baseball, and we will make sure the city has a semipro football team we can be proud of. And we will introduce a municipal bus service for our young students. And much more.”
Wagner assured the sanitation workers that they will be paid first, before the councilors and the mayor, and that there will be no more issuing of contracts without the benefit of a public tender. “We believe that together, we can craft a new Belize City, a city that we can all be proud of,” said Wagner.
PUP leader Briceño wrapped up the rally by reminding the audience of the $450 million of Petrocaribe funds that the UDP have squandered on projects instead of putting people first, adding that he agreed with Cordel Hyde that if the UDP ever give out any contract to privately manage the City Center building the next PUP government will tear up the contract. “That City Center belongs to you, the people of Southside… and not a handful of UDP cronies”, declared Briceño.
“You have two options. You can sit back, stay quiet, noh pay no mind, wait mek the UDP give yu wahn lee $50 fu vote fu dem. Or we have to get up and fight every single day, right up to March 7, to make sure Bernard Wagner becomes the new mayor,” Briceño told the audience.
Briceño urged the City’s residents to chase the UDP out of Belize City, and to chase them out of Belmopan.
“For decades you on the south side have been voting for the UDP. In Queen’s Square, this man noh got no shame. He said he did not even visit one house in Queen’s Square during the last elections.
“This man borrow money two times fu build the Haulover Bridge, but dem thief the money. That’s why they can’t build the Haulover Bridge,” the PUP leader said.
Briceño said he is full of hope tonight, “because the UDP always feel like they have Belize City locked in. But I want dem come out here tonight and feel the love.”