By Alexis R. Milan
A group of cane farmers and stevedores, led by attorney, Audrey-Matura Shepherd and representatives of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) staged a small but spirited protest on the steps of the National Assembly on Monday in opposition to the government’s amendments of the Belize Sugar Act.
Matura-Shepherd and BSCFA representatives, Alfredo Ortega and Javier Kemé were joined by executive members of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and members of the Christian Workers Union (CWU) who all expressed support for the farmers and their struggles in the industry.
The Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) also supported the cane farmers by joining in the protest.
The protesters remained outside the National Assembly Building for the entire length of the House sitting. They bore placards and held symbolic cane stalks. They also marched continuously around the building, singing and chanting.
Matura Shepherd said she was encouraged by the support they had received and added that the protesters were voicing their opinions and fighting for their rights.
She disregarded comments made by the Prime Minister and said she would not resort to personal attacks as he did, but vowed that she would stick to her message and the dispute at hand.
According to Ortega, although the gathering was small in number ,the crowd represented the many disgruntled farmers who were unable to make it to the protest. Ortega said he wanted the government to give the farmers the respect that they deserve.
NTUCB second Vice President, Marvin Mora said that the union stood in solidarity with the farmers from the onset and it had been on the ground for the past two months but its leadership was slow to react.
According to Mora, the union’s executive had to go around its leadership to express its support for the farmers.