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May 13, 2016

Teachers Rally Against Sarstoon Law

Teachers descended on the Old Capital today for a protest march against one of the most controversial and unpopular laws to be put in effect. The march started from the Pound Yard Bridge and meandered through the streets, ending with a rally at the B.T.L. Park. Despite sweltering temperatures, the teachers trekked peacefully, calling for the repeal of the Sarstoon Law which essentially was ratified to prevent an expedition by Wil Maheia’s Belize Territorial Volunteers. The law, however, is having serious ramifications because it encroaches on the right of movement of other Belizeans and organizations from accessing the Sarstoon River. The Belize National Teachers Union led the march which was bolstered with the participation of political parties.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize National Teachers Union, by far the most vociferous of the labor movement, has galvanized its membership to rally around the most pressing issue at this very moment.  Educators from across the country have journeyed to Belize City on a day that has been reserved for them to celebrate their profession.  Instead, they have gathered in numbers, taking to the streets of the Old Capital to make known their disapproval of the Sarstoon Law.

 

Luke Palacio, President, BNTU

Luke Palacio

“The Belize National Teachers Union constitution mandates that BNTU speaks out and act on national issues and issues of our sovereignty.  And so, therefore, when our council of management met last Saturday it was agreed that this SI which we believe is unconstitutional, we know is unconstitutional.  Our membership, our council first agreed that they would have had their members agree to a council decision that we forego the activities we had planned at the branch level and to bring those activities to Belize City.  That would have been preceded by this rally and demonstration that we are having this morning and this evening each of the branches will continue with whatever they had planned for their respective branches right out here at BTL Park.”

 

Since its hurried passage a few weeks ago, discontent with the controversial piece of legislation has been made public in various forms, primarily through the media.  Today’s demonstration however, is the first unified front taken by Belizeans against government for passing the prohibitive instrument.

 

Patrick Rogers

Patrick Rogers, Party Leader, BPP

“It’s a great feeling Belize.  I mi think wi noh wake up but certainly the teachers are not sleeping and like in 2005, da di teachers weh gah wi back again di start di  move to di streets when di government noh di listen to we.  So I’m proud to be wahn Belizean today to see dat yeah, history di repeat ihself with the teachers taking the lead in starting the Stand Up for Belize Campaign.  Of course yoh wahn always sih we out here just di be wahn notha count to the overall number.  So I mi di hope and pray last night dat ih reach two thousand and as you all could see, I believe wi deh well ova two thousand people that turned out in solidarity with the teachers.”

 

The cause, a national issue which stands to affect our very way of life as Belizeans, has gotten full support from various corners, including the political parties.

 

John Briceño, Party Leader, PUP

John Briceno

“We the PUP, we feel that we should stand up with anybody, any group, any organization that is prepared to stand up for Belize.  The teachers decided to take their day off on Teachers Day to stand up and to bring awareness about the issues or the challenges that we’re facing, in particular the challenges that we face in the Sarstoon River where presently the government has passed an SI preventing Belizeans from getting to the Sarstoon.  So we decided that we need to stand up, to walk with the teachers, to show the teachers that they are not alone, that we the PUP are also with them on this matter.”

 

While the Belize/Guatemala differendum is not a partisan issue, the fact that it is endorsed by teachers, politicians and civilians alike speaks volumes, particularly where it concerns general consensus on the matter.

 

Luke Palacio

“We are very much pleased with the outcome.  We are satisfied with the support that we have been getting, not necessarily only from teachers but from the Belizean public which tells us, which signifies to us that the Belizean people are no longer taking things lying down.  It is of national importance.  We need to demonstrate, not only to the government, not only to the adults, not only to our children in school but also to the world that the Belizean people are fully well aware of the threats and the potential danger that can arise out of this Guatemala differendum if we do not try to resolve.  But it cannot be resolved by trying to play party politics with it.  It will not be resolved by a few people trying to deny the reality.  The reality is that Guatemala is aggressing the Belizean nation and we need to do something about it.”

 

That action by BNTU is being taken peacefully.  Chanting their famous battle cry ‘Solidarity Forever’, the teachers proceed in droves as they make their way towards BTL Park.  In tow are the People’s United Party, Belize Progressive Party and COLA.

 

Eamon Courtenay, PUP Senator

Eamon Courtenay

“I, first of all, want to salute the teachers.  I think they have taken a bold step.  Their education campaign which they launched some weeks ago and now this very public demonstration of their disapproval of the Sarstoon Law is to be commended.  Stand Up for Belize is the message and that is why we are here.  I believe that this is a matter that is for Belizeans and for Belizeans to show to the international community that our country is united on this issue and that we are prepared to go to whatever lengths that’s necessary in order to make our point.  In so far as the People’s United Party is concerned, the strategy and the march by the National Teachers Union is completely aligned with what we are doing.  They believe the law should be rescinded immediately and that is why they are doing this and so we decided to come out here and offer them our support and collaboration.”

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

 

The rally ended at noon but activities commemorating teacher’s day continued at B.T.L. Park.

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1 Response for “Teachers Rally Against Sarstoon Law”

  1. carlos says:

    Very good. I hope that it should have been planned a little earlier but a few schools had planned long ago for teacher’s day but we all support this move. But one thing is clear our government is preventing our own people from going to the Sarstoon but is allowing the Guatemalans to enter our boarders and these are not only civilians , they are military people with machine guns. Our government has to wake up and if they can’t do the job, well they know what to do voluntarily or else they will feel the power of the people.

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