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Leader of the Opposition’s Independence Day Speech

Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2019. 7:23 pm CST.

Thank you, Mistress of Ceremonies:

My wife Rosanna and I are truly honoured to be with you all today and to greet Your Excellency Sir Colville Young our Governor General, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow and Mrs. Barrow, My Lord Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Mrs. Benjamin, Those members of Cabinet who are with us here today and Members of the National Assembly, Your Worship the Mayor of Belmopan Mr. Khalid Belisle and Mrs. Belisle, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Celebrations Committee Minister Patrick Faber, Your Excellences of the Diplomatic and Councillor Corps, Reverend Bishops and other members of the clergy, Commanders of our armed forces, Our beautiful children from schools across the City of Belmopan, Other Distinguished guests,
My fellow Belizeans.

On this our 38th anniversary of Independence, we salute those nationalists who believed that we were ready for nationhood.

We honour those men and women who never faltered,
who were never afraid and who were firm in their conviction that we Belizeans should determine the future of our country. No hurdle was too high; no obstacle insurmountable. They laid the foundation for the building of our nation; one where our diversity is the glue that holds us together. They were also the architects of our peaceful, constructive, revolution. A revolution which to this day continues. One that is progressive and truly Belizean, seeking always to drive us ever forward.

Because of what they did we can today celebrate and proclaim that indeed from our Mayan grandeur to our modern glory that together we can shape the Belizean Story. I want to congratulate Mr. Eloy Escalante Sr. from Orange Walk Town who wrote the theme for this year’s celebrations. Eloy is right, Independence Day is a day to celebrate our culture; it is a day to appreciate what we have achieved as a nation and most important, a time to access how far we have come in the advancement of our people and the building of our country.

From our strong democratic roots to our pursuit of a fairer and more just society we must acknowledge how much has been done to shape and form this young nation.

Of course, as we look with satisfaction on what we achieved together we must also express our dissatisfaction over the persistent challenges that hinder our national development. Likewise, we must be determined to address those urgent issues that are impeding our progress.

At the moment, the hope that came with independence; the optimism that accompanied the start of the new millennium and the promise of endless possibilities that were to come in this current decade have been shattered by lost opportunities due to incompetence, corruption and now a general sense of malaise. The result of all this is a people weary from worry; worry about their personal safety. Worry about their economic security; about poverty and deprivation. Worry about an uncertain future and more so worried about the kind of nation we are building for our children.

How could they not feel this way when our poor instead of being uplifted are being dragged into greater poverty due to an all but stagnant economy? How could they not feel this way when our middle class is shrinking and collapsing under burdensome taxes and the lack of vision by their government? How could they not feel this in the absence of any enthusiasm in the productive sector or when their children are not receiving the quality education needed and when their grandparents cannot receive adequate and affordable health care? To put it all in perspective, at present we are a nation weary from worry.

But we are also an optimistic people. We know that the dawn can only come after that darkest hour. And in this dark hour we look to the dawn that is the new decade when together we can construct a fairer and more inclusive society. We look to a new decade that will see us build Belize and allow everyone a better quality of life.

We all deserve a government that will work towards ensuring that every working-class Belizean is able to earn a living wage. One balanced in such a way that our agro-productive sector, our services sectors and new and innovative industries can help us to achieve increased economic growth.

The People’s United Party was built through a meaningful partnership with workers and with our unions. Our workers and their unions long for a renaissance in their relations with government leaders. One that enhances a respectful partnership focused on nation building while respecting the need for the personal development of our workers, where their contribution will no longer be taken for granted or placed at the mercy of political patronage.

I believe that Government must be the biggest promoter of Belizean creativity and ingenuity. And we must lead this effort by removing those obstacles and barriers which hinder economic growth. Government and business must once again re-engage in a constructive partnership where laws are respected and applied equally to all. Where rules are fair, and an enabling environment is created so that business can thrive again. Where a renewed spirit of entrepreneurship will not only be encouraged but vigorously pursued and supported.

All our children should have access to free, quality education that will be more attractive and exciting than a life of crime and violence. Everyone should sleep safe and sound under a decent roof and in a comfortable bed. And every Belizean deserve access to adequate healthcare. This is what our heroes promised, and none of these expectations are unrealistic. At the core of national leadership must be a genuine commitment to uplift our nation.

Hermanos Beliceños…hoy en el marco de la celebración del 38 aniversario de nuestra independencia y a meses de las elecciones generales…seguimos enfrentando desafíos muy grandes y retos bastante complejos y difíciles de resolver. Nuestra nación aún no ha podido superar los problemas de la pobreza y la pobreza extrema, el desempleo que incrementa cada día, la falta de educación, la privación de salud, la corrupción desenfrenada y la inseguridad pública.

Belice atraviesa una hora crítica. Esta es una crisis profunda y sistémica. Explota con alarma en el campo de la seguridad y la justicia, pero también en la pérdida de los valores de convivencia; se manifiesta como falta de empleo e ingresos en el hogar, y como grave carencia de los servicios públicos elementales, pero también se expresa en la trágica ruptura familiar.

En el Partido Unido del Pueblo vemos la gravedad de esta crisis, pero a la vez identificamos el punto de apoyo desde el cual nos moveremos hacia el cambio. El Partido Unido del Pueblo reconociendo que este país cuenta con los recursos suficientes…aspira a devolverles la dignidad a nuestras familias para que puedan desarrollarse y vivir dignamente en sus comunidades.

Con este fin, se plantea abrir las puertas al desarrollo sostenible, a la equidad, a la transparencia y rendimiento de cuentas y a la justicia social. Esto para lograr un país que también ofrezca oportunidades a los sectores excluidos, y así, romper la brecha de desigualdad que no nos ha permitido salir adelante como Nación. Esto también nos ha negado construir un Belice que trabaja para todos.

¡Éste es nuestro compromiso!

With the dawn of the third decade of this still new millennium should come a new awakening in our beautiful Belize and we in the People’s United Party are ready to meet and deliver for our people in this new age.

After a decade of rising crime and violence, where more than twelve hundred young men and women have died, we must do something. We hear and feel the frustration of our people. It is safe to say that government has failed to keep our communities safe.

All our efforts to work with the current government have been ignored. I have directed our standard bearers to embark on consultations with their constituents and with stakeholders to present some workable, common sense solutions to arresting crime. We must and my Party will declare an all-out war on crime and violence, and we will win this war and once again make our country safe.

We are today a four billion-dollar economy so yes, we are optimistic about the creation of thousands of good jobs, of new jobs that will lead to lasting careers. Government can lead in this effort by first improving public finances while keeping taxes low. This will begin by ensuring that the current high cost of fuel is brought down.

We may not be able to control the cost of fuel on the world market, but we can control the taxes on diesel. Today we are committing to reducing the cost of diesel to $9.00 a gallon or less. This will allow the productive sector to grow but more important it will put more money in the pockets of Belizeans.

We are optimistic about our plan to build affordable housing for the middle class, for new families and to partner with community organizations to provide affordable housing for the poor.

We believe we can create an education system that awards merit and provides a space for all our children to learn and develop their God given talents where they are afforded the best possible start in life.

We know we can provide adequate healthcare for our people from San Pedro, Ambergris to San Pedro Colombia and from Bomba to Benque. And that is why the next PUP Government will roll out National Health Insurance to every Belizean man, woman and child.

In this day and age, it is unconscionable that we expect our low-income workers to labour for so little. Today I commit to lead the effort in working towards a gradual increase so that in the near future every Belizean worker can expect no less than a five dollar an hour minimum wage.

If there is one issue that Belizean are very angry about it is the issue of corruption. It is clear that we politicians are incapable of policing ourselves. This current culture of corruption is endemic, and it must stop. If we can halt corruption, we can bring an end to poverty.

Every dollar lost to corrupt practice is a dollar lost to educate our children, to feed our hungry, to provide better homes and to help finance our health care. If we are to deliver on our promise to build Belize, then we have to be committed to good governance.

So, we must, and we will finance a fully functional anti-corruption agency. One that is free from government interference and yes, we will pass common sense legislation to tackle and deal with systemic corruption, from the highest political office to the lowest levels of government.

I have set before you today our vision for the kind of nation our people deserve. Everything that has been laid out is achievable. Our collective capacity, our ingenuity, our commitment to build a fairer and more productive nation must drive this effort.

For too long we have allowed our differences to divide us: political divisions, ethnic divisions, religious divisions and geographical divisions are hurdles that impede our progress. They are relics of a colonial past.

Another relic of our colonial past is the age-old dispute with our neighbour Guatemala. In May the Belizean people determined that this matter should be settled once and for all at the International Court of Justice. As such we have joined with the Government in the work to prepare our case for the ICJ.

The time has come for the blue and red splinters to be removed from our eyes so we can focus on what unites us. Let us change the lens so we can see clearly that what unites us is our love for this fruitful land, this noble spot.

Let us change the lens so we can see clearly that what unites us is our love for our people, all our people. And what unites us is a commitment to live in peace side by side with our neighbours as a constructive member of our global family.

In this spirit I wish to take a minute to express my thanks to our Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow. It is no secret that over the years the Prime Minister and I have enjoyed a cordial friendship. This of course did not stop us from disagreeing on policy issues and did not hinder us from vigorously defending our Party’s positions in and outside of the National Assembly.

The Prime Minister has announced that he will step down as his Party’s leader next year and after thirty-five of service in the National Assembly will retire from active politics.

Dean my friend, I can’t say I will miss you in the House, but I can say this, you have inflicted an ample dose of your verbal blows but you have also withstood a fair amount of verbal assaults from those of us on the other side.

In the end no partisan difference will change what I believe, and that is that we share a deep and abiding love for this nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are ready to go to work and to usher in a decade of social and economic upliftment based on our True Blue commitment that is always about the people — all the people, and always about a shared prosperity.

So, join us and with the guidance of our Creator, let us together make our generation’s chapter in the history of our nation one that fulfilled the promise of prosperity by building a Belize that works for everyone.

We are happy that so many have come to celebrate with us, thank you for your presence and to Belizeans at home and abroad we say:
Long Live Belize,
Que Viva Belice!
Happy Independence Day!

 

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