Posted: Friday, March 12, 2021. 8:39 am CST.
By Ruben Morales Iglesias: Breaking Belize News’ Ruben Morales Iglesias got together with Sheran Sharon Palacio, the first woman mayor of Belmopan, on Saturday, March 6, 2021 and had an open and frank conversation with mayor Palacio, who said that one day Belize will have a woman prime minister, that we unity need to be more polite with each other, that we need unity, and that the people of Belmopan need jobs and land.
We are presenting the conversation in two parts.
In this second installment, mayor Palacio talks about jobs, land and unity in diversity.
RM: As you go in and you said you don’t know how the situation stands at this moment, but I guess you already have an idea of what the needs of the people of Belmopan are. What is in your mind and the other members of your slate when it comes to the next three years?
SP: Well, what we’ve seen on the campaign trail and we are all cognizant of what is happening is that people need jobs. People need to be able to support their families first and foremost. On the campaign trail, we met a lot of people who are not working and that’s something we need to look at immediately. And we have a plan for that. I need to say thanks to the world where I came from, the University of Belize I was exposed to becoming what I would say, I deal with international education and I’ve been named the Champion of the Americas that will allow me to send migrant workers from Belize to Canada. Precisely this morning I had a meeting on that, and we’ll be able to send hundreds of persons; the idea is to use the first world to empower the third world. And it’s going to happen fast.
So what I’ve been encouraging my Belmopanese people to have ready is their passports. Of course, to qualify for a visa there are some requirements you know. Police records become a part of that for sure. So, my people, my Belmopanese, they will really feel this ‘Change from the heart.’ We campaigned under ‘Change from the heart, changing the narrative.’ For the past 15 years, our People’s United Party was out of power and our PUP as such; a lot of things happen along the way. The feeling of exclusion dominates. So, here’s where that feeling will change and as the Mayor of Belmopan, we no longer see colors as such. Yes, we represent the People’s United Party but it’s going to be all-inclusive. It’s, as I say, it’s a movement. I’m very humane and remember it’s ‘Change from the heart’ and ‘changing the narrative’ from pessimism to optimism. There’s a lot of people in the upper room of lamentation. So, it begins with us and there has to be a change.
RM: But you know it’s easier said than done.
SP: Well, that’s the pessimism approach. That’s the pessimist approach. We need to see differently. We say ‘Change from the heart’ and we’re darn serious about it. We mean it.
RM: I’m going back to what you said earlier. You said jobs. But apart from jobs, like infrastructure-wise, to make Belmopan a more attractive place, what do you see?
SP: Yeah, I can answer that. Land is an issue because right now land is in the hands of a lot of people who maybe don’t even need land. The average person in Belmopan, our young people they cried out to me on the campaign trail. And I recall when I was in City Council 03-06, land was not an issue. We awarded lands. I’m awaiting the audit that I’ve asked for and if it’s not there then we are going to do it and we need to see all the lands that are available. As I speak, I know we’ve secured or are in the process of finalizing a 50-acres of land where we want to build low-income housing.
RM: In what area of Belmopan is that?
SP: As it is right now, I won’t declare the area because I will wait for it to be official but there’s a 50-acres that we are looking at. We’re heavy into it and we will be putting a low-income housing project and we will award it to deserving residents of Belmopan. And my interests since we’re speaking about women’s month or international Women’s Day, we have a project, a program that we will be pushing heavily by the name of SWIM, Single Women in Motherhood, because some people can say they are single, you know, but they have no kids. On our campaign we met women and, specifically, there was this one woman who touched my heart. She has two disabled boys and she has no job. That is what you call ‘Change from the heart.’ Her application process will almost be automatic. She needs something of her own for those two boys. So, we’ll be fair and Belmopan residents will feel our vibes. They are going to feel our connection and slow but sure we’re going to satisfy. We’re going to meet people’s expectations and the People’s United Party will be in power. We were out of power for 15 years, so we’re coming back with 15-years, definite and more, without abusing power.
RM: Now you know that people will hold you accountable to what you’re saying.
SP: That’s not a problem. When I speak, I mean what I’m saying and the group that I have, a group of young dynamic counselors that will be working as a team, they respect me and I know each and every one of them. They are no strangers to me and we will deliver and we will deliver shortly. Hold me to that. Because remember, the People’s United Party makes up the Government of Belize. Central government, local government, we’re there. The area representative, honorable (Oscar) Mira, he is phenomenal. He has the heartbeat of the people. Belmopan is his interest. You will not tell me that all of us put together, the prime minister, the area rep, all these area representatives, that we won’t do well because there’s unity for sure. And yesterday, at the swearing-in, the Prime Minister said it repeatedly, they’re going to back us, they are going to help us. We know there is scarcity, but with this kind of support, we’re going to make this difference. We’re going to make Belmopan alive and vibrant again. And mayor Chanona is right there, the best mayor. There was a 25-year-plan under his leadership that we will be looking at and I remember when we left office, we left $5 million behind and the plan was [for] each time a City Council duration, their time comes to an end, they should be leaving for the incoming council $5 million. So, by right, I should be entering City Hall with $25 million as savings. Maybe it’s there, I don’t know.
RM: Now, Ms. Palacio, you’ve been known to promote Africanism and that certainly is a good move on your behalf but now as the mayor and you mentioned yesterday in your swearing-in, you’re going to be working for all of Belmopan. So, it means that you’re going to be promoting, if we may call it Belmopanism, Belizeanism, because you’re serving all the ethnic groups in the capital.
SP: Definitely. Africanism is not only… Africanism encompasses the world but, of course, I wouldn’t be using Africanism in Belize because that would take some time to be understood. But the same concept about all-inclusive, a movement, people movement. Those are the exact terms that I’ll be using whereby everybody will be involved. The one thing I stand for is unity in diversity whereby we all become world citizens, everybody. As you heard in our manifesto ‘Everybody fu win.’ I take that seriously and under my leadership as the mayor of Belmopan, everybody will win. Rest assured.
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