An Address of Hope

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Independence Day

Hon. John Briceño

PUP Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition

Belmopan, Monday 21st September 2020

Thank you, Mistress of Ceremonies.

Good morning. What a difference a year makes. Last year we were here for a packed event, now we speak to a virtual audience.  I also recall bidding a fond farewell to our Prime Minister and thanking him for his service to the nation.  Once again I am happy to recognize his many years of public service to our nation and say on behalf of everyone, thank you.

Your Excellency Sir Colville Young, our Governor General,

Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow and Mrs. Barrow,

Your Honour Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana,

Hon. Patrick Faber, Chairman of the September Celebrations Committee,

Your Worship the Mayor of Belmopan Mr. Khalid Belisle and Mrs. Belisle,

Rev. Elswith Clare of Belmopan Methodist Church,

And to all who are able to join us on television and through social media.

It is truly an honour to greet you as the leader of the People’s United Party on this Independence Day when we celebrate who we are and how much we have achieved over the past 39 years.  And yet, as we celebrate, we do so in the midst of one of the greatest challenges of our generation.   As we get ready to start our 40th year as an independent nation, we do so in an atmosphere of uncertainty, fully aware that just as our 39th showed our obvious fragility, forty must demonstrate our resolve to never cower nor yield, not bend nor buckle, but instead to show our grit to fight and soldier on in these troubled times.

There is no doubt that the coronavirus has hit us hard.  Not just us, we have seen and felt the entire world experience seismic changes.  But it was not just the virus that has brought our nation to the preverbal cliff’s edge, we were already there.

For nearly thirteen years Belizeans have witnessed unprecedented corruption, cronyism, nepotism and mismanagement of the economy and our precious resources. A small group of well-connected UDPs have plundered the Treasury, stolen the people’s lands, and prostituted Belizean nationality. The record of this UDP administration is one of betrayal, scandal and mismanagement.

But we already know this and what we must do to correct these wrongs. We must vote.

Another thing we must do is face the coronavirus pandemic determined, not to allow fear or the uncertainty of this time to overcome us.  Most importantly, we cannot allow it to change who we are as a people.

We are formidable Belizean men and women who will endure the pandemic of 2020, just as our ancestors endured the pandemic of 1918.  We will endure this and all the hardships of our time as they endured the hardships of their time.  And like our great grandparents, we will bounce back because of our indomitable spirit which will not be broken.

Already we see this in our health care workers who choose hope rather than fear as they head to work each day despite the risk of working in a health system that was already weak and inadequate.

We see it in the contact tracers who toil each day to find and test potential carriers.

We see it in our sanitation workers who face exposure daily in their commitment to public health. We see it in our security forces who go out each shift to maintain the peace.

We see our indomitable spirit in our teachers who are adapting and finding new ways to teach our children.

They are not the only ones however, our business community as well as our civic and community leaders are also exploring new ways to create opportunities in this new normal. And we see our resolve in the everyday kindness of the Belizean people who, with even less to share, still show how much they care.

This is the true spirit of Belizean nationalism and patriotism manifested in each of us who deep down inside desire to be a people who believe that no matter the trials or tribulations we are our best selves in our acts of love. This is why so many of you gave food hampers to the needy, bought a few extra masks for your friends or relatives and why you keep reminding each other to “stay safe.”

We are people helping people and communities helping communities to keep each other safe by practicing the measures that will keep the coronavirus from spreading out of control.

I sincerely believe that we all want to get past this moment for we know that we have a nation to build. Our children and young people need real quality education – free – from preschool to junior college.  Young families need a place of their own to call home.  Our farmers need to get back to growing again from the farm to the table with love.  Our productive sector needs to be reinvigorated and revitalized so that our Belizean brand can be shipped abroad for the world to see, taste and experience.  Our people are ready to go to work in new and exciting jobs in agriculture, technology and our young entrepreneurs are ready to make dreams into reality.

In our communities, we need to get back to working together to keep everyone safe, where our police officers are respected again and where the uniform of the police reflects a desire to serve their communities instead of one that symbolizes a declaration of war.

All our people from every corner of our jewel need to enjoy the security of an adequate and affordable national health insurance. And we need to elect an honest, accountable and competent government.

El año dos mil veinte ha sido un año muy difícil y muy complejo. Nos llegó con muchos retos empezando con la pandemia que expuso lo débil y lo vulnerable, que por doce años, hemos estado como pueblo. Como dice el dicho: hoy nos llovió sobre mojado.

Esta fragilidad económica y social nos hace impotentes ante tantos desafíos y nos tiene agobiados. La pandemia se unió a los retos ya presentes que hace años nos tienen cansados…el crimen, la corrupción, la inseguridad personal y la incompetencia. Todos estos son síntomas de un gobierno fallido. Esta administración nos ha fallado y nos ha traicionado al no cumplir con las promesas que tanto nos hicieron.

En unas semanas vamos a las urnas y mantengo la confianza que este pueblo no será golpeado otra vez. Este pueblo tiene la necesidad de darle la confianza al equipo que si tiene un plan de recuperación y que cumplirá. Como pueblo valiente y fuerte, y con una capacidad de recuperación increíble…el pueblo beliceño una vez más saldrá adelante.

! De eso estoy seguro!

My fellow Belizeans, in the weeks ahead we will go to the polls to decide how we will get through these troubling times.  This is our appointment with history.  We get to decide if we want to live in a country where we will say no to corruption and cronyism, no to lawlessness and crippling poverty.  No to mismanagement and incompetence.  We must decide if we want a fairer more prosperous nation where everybody wins or if we want more of the same.

The work ahead will not be easy. Our challenges will be great, but each generation must keep working to build the nation we deserve to live in.  A good nation.  Each of us must sign up, and with the guidance of our Creator we will build a Belize that works for everyone.  We believe this is possible just as we believe Everybody fi win!

To Belizeans at home and abroad we say Long Live Belize, ¡Que Viva Belice! Happy Independence Day!

Websitehttps://planbelize.bz/