Thinking Out Loud

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By: Kevin Bernard

All discussions and debates these days seem to be about the upcoming referendum, and the advisability of going to the International Court of Justice. I like it. I think every voting Belizean should be fully engaged in this discussion because it is possibly the most important one of our time. The issue on the table isn’t a trivial one. It is our very territory.

What we decide at the referendum in April will affect our country, and all of us, for generations to come – whichever way it goes. So join in. Be engaged. Don’t wait for the Government to come and educate you, because a REAL education campaign is not on their agenda. Learn the issues, and listen to both sides of the argument, and then vote your mind and heart.

I have made no secret of what my decision will be when we go to the referendum. I made my decision long before the PUP came out with its official position and People’s Declaration recently. I happen to share the views which created the People’s Declaration. I feel that government has slipped down badly in its bogus education campaign.

I agree that Belizeans living abroad should be allowed to vote in this most critical referendum. I believe that our Foreign Minister has messed things up badly, and if we go to the ICJ now it would be from a position of weakness, and not strength. That is my position, and those who know me know that when I take a stance I stand by it.

I have watched as persons on both sides of the argument battle it out. I have seen friends become enemies on Facebook, based on their positions. I have seen those who think they are brighter than everybody else try to push their position down people’s throats.

I have seen persons being insulted, and bullied, and called all manner of things. I have also watched as government tries to push its position on people with ads and propaganda all saying YES. Trust me, there are bullies on both sides. I have heard that if you vote YES, you don’t love Belize. I have also heard that if you vote NO, you don’t love Belize. Why do we have to be like that?

It’s been happening a long time – this reality that we don’t get the concept of respect. We don’t understand that people have a right to their own opinions, and also a right to be respected for their opinions. Some of us believe that because we have an opinion, it becomes a fact. I have no difficulty with those Belizeans who will vote YES. I don’t think that they are traitors. I don’t think they are betraying the country. I respect their opinions. It is as simple as that. And the ICJ is only the latest thing. We lost our respect for each other, as a people, a long time ago. What politics has become is a good example of that.

Recently the Orange Walk Town Council was doing some paving works on Fonseca Street. It’s a part of our ongoing program. We have managed, with the support of the community and with responsible management, to pave an unprecedented amount of streets in Orange Walk. And we will continue to work. There is not a municipality which can boast the work that we have done, and I say that proudly.

While inspecting the works, I met former UDP Mayor Phillip de la Fuente, who is a good guy and a friend. He took a photo with me in front of the works, and it is interesting the way it caught people’s attention. It was almost like some people believe that two persons on different sides of politics should not be friends, and should not collaborate. Maybe Phillip should not have been seen in a photo with me because he was obviously happy about the work being done. And he shouldn’t have been? As a people, we need to grow up. We need to become more mature, and we need to get this concept of valuing people for who they are and what they do, and not because of their political party or affiliations or beliefs.

And that is the message I would like to send out this week. As we head to the referendum, and even beyond, we need to remember that we are Belizeans, and we are human beings. Let’s learn to love and value and respect each other. The truth is, we’re all in this together.

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