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Sep 3, 2015

COLA Reboots and Stays on Course with Anti-government Campaign

COLA is stepping up its aggressive campaign called Protect Belize, Build the Base Now.  As its slogan proclaims, the organization wants the government to proceed with the construction of a forwarding operating base in southern waters where there has been confrontation between the Guatemalan military and the B.D.F.  Buoyed with new support and financing, this morning at the Belize Institute of Management, COLA brought out a respectable number of supporters. At the event, COLA also invited Belizeans to wear T-shirts that carry their message. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Since kick-starting an aggressive public campaign a week ago, Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA, has maintained a firm policy on a three-point ultimatum issued to the Government of Belize.  The primary item on that agenda is the immediate construction of a forward operating base on Sarstoon Island.

 

Harley Burn

Harley Burn, Liaison Officer, COLA

“We are here to get the base built now, that’s what we need.  We need that base there.  We need for this country to be protected on all its borders.  We don’t have a problem with Mexico, we have a problem on the west and we have a problem on the south.  Now it is the duty of any elected official, the first duty of any elected official to protect the borders of the country.  We as Belizeans have to understand that.”

 

Notwithstanding a tenuous explanation as to why a military installation cannot be placed on the island, there is still an overwhelming demand from members of the grassroots organization for the facility to be built at that location.  Bear in mind that the reason given by Brigadier General David Jones is not grounded in fact.

 

Rufus X

Rufus X, Executive Member, COLA

“In the river and the sea is the best place to build, how you think all those big oil rigs out there are standing up with millions of tons to them.  Tons and tons.  Man, we don’t have a problem with building in the sea, you drive concrete pile and suspend the [structure] beautifully.  You could park all the boats and thing underneath and have a luxury on top.  This is no problem at all Daniel.  And to see that the politicians have converted these two people that I have come to respect so much, the commandant and the admiral, to simple political sissies this really moves me.”

 

Patrick Menzies

Equally poignant is the angle taken by Patrick Menzies.  He calls to attention what several others, including those who are not affiliated with COLA, have been saying.  It is apparent that the prime minister and the various heads of departments are not singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to Sarstoon Island.

 

Patrick Menzies, Guest Speaker

“The admiral says one thing, the general says one thing, the prime minister says one thing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs says one thing.  Now who is in charge of this country?  Who is in charge? So who do we believe?”

 

In that light, COLA is also taking General Jones’ description of the pursuit on the Sarstoon River with a grain of salt.

 

Harley Burn

“I’m not even a seaman, but that just doesn’t make any sense at all.  Why would you go into a river mouth near the shallows fast?  A sandbar could develop at any time, an amount of sediment could settle and cause your boat to hit bottom.  It just don’t make any sense and then you say you come out fast again.  Well I can understand you come out fast but then why is the Guatemalan boat behind you going fast?  That appears to be a chase, I don’t care how you want to interpret it.  One boat di go fast, di other boat di go fast, must be ih di chase ahn because dehn noh deh pan di same patrol.”

 

Today’s press conference was also used as a medium to launch its new t-shirts.  Supporters of COLA’s cause are encouraged to wear the garment with its demand for the construction of the base emblazoned on it.

 

Geovanni Brackett

Geovanni Brackett, President, COLA

“When you’re doing a campaign people want to be a part of it; people who may be in PG but they might not be able to make it out to a press conference.  But by wearing a shirt they are showing solidarity and so the shirts are there, the back of it has our theme for this campaign: Protect Belize, Build the Base Now.  This was effective when we did the No ICJ campaign, we had a skeleton budget but at the same time it made the government have to spend millions in advertisement to battle this.  We believe it is the same strategy that we’re using and people and our membership they want to be a part and wearing the shirt is showing solidarity and it’s always a good way to market the campaign.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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