By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Belize celebrated the 34th anniversary of her Independence on Monday, with official speeches in Belmopan from the Mayor of Belmopan, the Leader of the Opposition and from the Prime Minister.
Belmopan Mayor, Khalid Belisle, who revealed that he was born just months before Belize got independence, told the gathering that he has never known a Belize that was not politically independent. The mayor urged all to do all they can to take our country to new heights and advised while the struggle to do so can be arduous, there is no challenge that is insurmountable. He also said that as we go about our individual work, “there is no other agenda than the belizean agenda to be advanced.”
Diane Haylock, co-chair of the September Celebrations Commission, and who represented the Chair, Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia said, “It is clearer today that what we sought prior to 1981 was not about severing colonial ties”, but a desire to be resolute in our fight to create democracy.
Haylock went on to say that Belize has seen significant growth in tourism, particularly since 2012. She also spoke of efforts to advance tourism standards under the National Tourism Master Plan and shared the Ministry’s ongoing projects, which include the establishment of a new cruise port in southern Belize, a new football stadium in San Pedro, a new international airport in San Pedro and the coming on stream in October of two international airlines: Southwest and Copa, which is expected to open new avenues for Belize from South America.
Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca acknowledged the sacrifice of the people before our time, whose efforts were “to free Belize from the colonial chains.”
“Belize has claimed its place as a sovereign nation” with its own unique identity, Fonseca summed up, but “there are lessons to learn from the past. And what will we make of the next 34 years? What will we make of the next chapter” of out country’s existence, he challenged, and what will we do to aspire for better.
The opposition leader also paid tribute to the roughly 200 Belizeans who, on August 16, displayed patriotism and determination to ensure that their country remains intact, when they journeyed to the Sarstoon. Before ending his address, Fonseca called for governance reform. He also quoted from speeches that the late Father of the Nation, the Right Honourable George Price delivered in the early 60’s, when in his words, Mr. Price defined the true essence of independence – when a people has its own flag, anthem and passport.
The Prime Minister, in his speech, started off by speaking of the government’s achievements to regain the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL).
He also revealed that the government will offer an dditional 10 percent in both companies to Belizeans, and will write off the $9 million debt that Belizeans have with the Karl Heusner Hospital and another $2 million at other public hospitals throughout the country.
The PM also spoke of new infrastructural work to begin shortly and investments in the country’s security forces. Additionally, he spoke of another salary adjustment to take place next fiscal year for civil servants.
The official ceremony had in attendance the Governor General Sir Colville Young, members of the Judiciary, members of the National Assembly, members of the Clergy, and other invited guests.
The traditional student parade in Belize City was called off due to inclement weather.