BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 22, 2021– Yesterday, Belize commemorated its 40th year of Independence with a mid-week public and bank holiday and the traditional Independence Day ceremony, which took place in Belmopan. As is customary, the leaders of the Government of Belize, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, took to the podium to deliver their first Independence Day speeches to be presented during this new administration. And while the politically charged aspersions that have become characteristic of the Opposition Leader’s Independence Day address were by no means missing from Hon. Patrick Faber’s speech, there was also another refrain in his remarks: a call for unity to achieve the common goal of nation-building.
After a months-long struggle to retain his leadership of the UDP and regain his position as Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Faber was just a little over a week ago able to secure the votes of two other Opposition members of the House of Representatives, namely Hon. Tracy Taegar Panton and Hon. Hugo Patt, in order to reclaim his seat as Leader of the Opposition just in time to deliver the important address yesterday.
Faber began his remarks by looking back at the 40 years of the country’s independence and noted that the majority of our population, almost 78%, are persons who were born after the country achieved Independence.
“The age of 40 is a profound number for Belize. As it stands today, some 78% of our population represent citizens that are younger than the nation itself. I myself was only a child when Belize gained its independence in 1981, and a comparatively few Belizeans alive today ever knew this nation before it became independent,” Faber noted.
He said that, notwithstanding the accomplishments of past prime ministers, an antiquated form of governance which benefits only a select few continues to exist within the country.
“Despite our solid democracy that has ushered in changes in administration, successive leaders of this nation still persist in holding on to some of the old ways of governing. This tradition of governance for the favored few while paying lip service to the many just to get a vote on Election Day still remains intact,” he said.
The Opposition Leader called on government to “reset” itself and go back to the mandate that afforded them an overwhelming general elections victory in November 2020.
“Ten months later, as we look back at those promises, and reminisce at the euphoria that followed the landslide victory, all we can do is to hang our collective heads in despair, like spurned lovers regretting our mistake, because all of the grand promises that were made, that gave us hope, seem to have been long forgotten.” Faber said.
In reference to the recent awarding of a $3.3 million contract to Speednet’s SMART which resulted in the diversion of a large amount of revenue from BTL, which is nationally owned, to the privately owned SMART, Faber commented, “Belizeans learned very quickly that no institution is sacred; not even one that is owned by the people and workers of Belize. We learned that priority will be given to a favored, closely connected company in the guise of competition, despite the damage that such a move will cause on the viability of the investment of thousands of Belizeans in our national telecom.”
As he neared the conclusion of his remarks, Faber spoke of the internal rift within the UDP that spilled over into the public domain over the past few months. Having taken back the steering wheel of the Opposition, Faber renewed his call to the people and this PUP administration to work side-by-side in hopes of bringing about much needed change.
“Recently there has been some turmoil in our own United Democratic Party. Turmoil that reared its ugly head in the form of hatred, deceit and disunity… turmoil that didn’t make for our strongest position as Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. The fact that it would only be accentuating the U in the UDP that we would be progressive, dawned on us eventually and today we stand more ready to stand in defense of the Belizean people, but perhaps more importantly, to stand side by side with our government to bring about the change that is so desperately needed,” Faber said.
He added, “And lest my friends from the PUP rejoice in what I guaranteed them was a temporary stint, let their history remind them that it was the same kind of disunity that caused them a second loss at the polls in 2012 and that it was the piecing back of the foundational cornerstone of unity that would eventually bring them to glorious victory in November 2020 many years later. The lesson, my friends, is that we all know too well, if even only from within our own respective internal party struggles, that to defeat giants, we must unite.”