Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2022. 11:38 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: On Wednesday, the September Celebrations will reach its climax in the New Capital.
On the eve of Independence day in the Old Capital, the traditional flag-raising ceremony will occur alongside a “soca and culture” concert across town at Marion Jones Stadium.
But on Wednesday morning, all eyes will be tuned to Belmopan for the official Independence Day ceremony, which in recent years has brought the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition for a diplomatic clash in front of the National Assembly.
It seems like forever, but the current format of official ceremonies during the celebrations – official opening, St. George’s Caye Day and Independence Day – was only established in 2009, when responsibility for the National Celebrations Commission moved from the Belize Tourism Board to the then-new National Institute of Culture and History (NICH). Then-president Diane Haylock explained it this way to Channel 5 News: “Since St. Georges Caye was the first capital, in a sense we then have these three capitals; St. George’s Caye, Belize City and Belmopan. So why not symbolically take the opening of the celebrations to St. George’s Caye … then we would do the official Tenth celebrations or the official Tenth ceremony in Belize City as well as the citizen’s parade. … And then we would take the official Independence Day ceremony and parade to the current capital of the country, Belmopan.”
As Haylock noted, each municipality continues to organize its official program.
This year there was no official opening but each of the other events went off as planned. As for the annual clash between Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, Channel 7 News claims that the then-holders of those posts – Said Musa and Dean Barrow – had an informal pact to ease off on the politics and put the nation first. The pact held with the successive changes – from Musa to John Briceño, then Francis Fonseca, then Briceño again, while Barrow made all but one speech as Prime Minister before bowing out to Patrick Faber due to ill-health in 2020. Briceño faced off with Faber again in 2021 but it will be a younger Barrow, Moses “Shyne” Barrow, who takes over for 2022.
The now-Prime Minister contended that he didn’t think he was being adversarial then and he expects some pushback from his younger counterpart: “I was just getting out the shortcomings of the government at that time and not at once, at no time I believe I was being disrespectful, um, the 21st is one day when we should come together as a people. It does not mean that we cannot point out our different views, our opposing views but we celebrate as a people…I do believe that [the Leader of the Opposition] probably will point out shortcomings but there are ways of how you do that… So, I don’t expect him to be out there throwing bouquets at us. But that is part of the democratic process.”
As for Barrow, while he disagrees about the tone of Briceño’s speeches versus Francis Fonseca and praised the elder Barrow’s performance, he will hold his fire for now as to the content of his debut speech except for one provocative suggestion: “…you’ll have to stay tuned and see what happens on Independence Day. I hope Mike Rudon doesn’t cut my mic.”
Fonseca will also be there as Minister of Culture and Co-Chair of the National Celebrations Commission, as will Mayor of Belmopan Sheron Palacio in her traditional role of greeting representatives at the start of the ceremony.
Stay with Breaking Belize News for live updates as the ceremony progresses, starting at 8:30 a.m.
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