Every now and then the State of Belize pauses to pay tribute to an extraordinary Belizean, who in some way has influenced the course of Belizean history.
Such a person was the late Fred Martinez of Orange Walk, former Belizean Ambassador to Guatemala, and prior to that, Chairman of the United Democratic Party.
At his state funeral in Orange Walk Senior Counsel and Senator Lisa Shoman paid eloquent and moving tribute to Fred Martinez the man – devoted husband, caring and solicitous father and respected patriarch of his family.
She provided intimate details of a person most people saw as only a nice guy.
The image that emerged from her eulogy was that of a man endowed with extraordinary intelligence and integrity, who used his many talents with wisdom and generosity for the good of his country.
Here is a man who had a fulsome appreciation of the arts and the finer things of life, but who also had the common touch and the humanity to look out for people less fortunate than himself.
She recalled how, in spite of his many projects and responsibilities, Fred found time to head a committee to fully renovate La Inmaculada Catholic Church in Orange Walk on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow on the same podium recalled how impressed he was with Ambassador Fred Martinez – his professional acumen and his willingness to go the extra mile as Belize’s Ambassador to the Republic of Guatemala.
The image that emerged from his eulogy was that of a man who cared deeply about his country; a man who was widely admired and respected by his peers abroad and at home, and who by the sheer prowess of his intelligence and character, became a leading member of the negotiating team which got Guatemala to agree to refer her century-old land dispute with Belize to an International tribunal.
Fred Martinez was not content to live with the pain of territorial dispute. He wanted to get rid of it!
In a rare and singular tribute to the late Fred Martinez, Mr. Assad Shoman, former High Commissioner to London, and former Chief Negotiator for Belize, wrote of him:
“I know that nothing can console his wife, children and other family members in this terrible moment of desolation and loss, and I can only hope that their knowing how much Fred meant for Belize and to so many Belizeans will make them feel proud of a man whom I and so many others consider an honest, intelligent, generous and loving person”.
Mr. Shoman recalled: “I really got to know him in and after 2000, during the Facilitation Process and its aftermath. He was the representative of the Opposition (UDP) in the Negotiating Team and he was an exceptional representative of his party and most importantly, of the State and people of Belize.
“He played an important part in helping us to achieve the tremendous gains we made as a team with other worthy Belizeans during that difficult and tortuous process…
“His talent and integrity were such that he goes down in history as the only opposition leader (he was once Chairman of the UDP and a minister in a UDP government) who was named ambassador by the then governing party to no less important a country than Guatemala over the strong objections of people in both parties.
“I must give credit to both Prime Minister Said Musa and Opposition Leader Dean Barrow for that.”
“But what made Fred special were his profoundly human qualities; his genuine humanity, his easy rapport with his team-mates, his generosity and his ever-present optimism and cheerfulness. In moments of great tension and pressure one could always rely on Fred to be cool and acute in his perceptions and analysis.”
“I cannot adequately describe the positive effect Fred had on the Negotiating Team with his effusive and optimistic personality… He dedicated all those last years of his life to the effort to help bring closure to the Guatemalan territorial claim to Belize and to improving relations between the peoples of both countries.
“I know how much he would have wanted to be present when we finally resolve that anachronistic hangover from colonialism. Now he won’t he there, not physically. But there can be no doubt that he played an important role in its eventual achievement.”