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Sep 24, 2018

I.C.J. and the State of Public Emergency Resonate at Independence Day Ceremony

The official ceremonies on Independence Day took place in Belmopan. Since Prime Minister Dean Barrow was not available for the event and still in recovery, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber was named as the PM’s representative.  Faber is one of the few that have given the official G.O.B. statement on Independence Day. He spoke on a number of projects that the government has embarked on or will undertake. One of the issues to resonate was the state of public emergency; it was raised by Faber as the answer to crime.  But the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño delved on it through a different lens. The April tenth referendum was also cause for reflection in the statements of both Faber and Briceño.  Here is a report from News Five’s Isani Cayetano.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The annual Independence Day speech which serves as somewhat of a state of the union address was delivered this year by Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber, in the absence of Prime Minister Dean Barrow who returned to the country on Saturday.  Focusing on five areas of interest, the deputy touched on issues of service delivery, national security, the economy, infrastructure and the future of Belize as a country.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Acting Prime Minister

“We realize that the quality, accuracy and integrity of the services that we provide to the public is fundamental to good governance.  Since independence, government has not kept up to pace with technology and up to today we remain mired in antiquated ways of delivering services to our people.  It is our determination to ensure that every Belizean client is treated with respect.  Honesty, efficiency and service at the best possible cost to taxpayers are also of paramount importance.  With this in mind, we are embarking on a system wide program to re-engineer the processes and systems that power our government.  At the very top, we in cabinet will be moving toward a digitized e-Cabinet system, and will be setting the example for the rest of government for a system-wide digital transformation that will see marked improvement in the level of service to the public over the next two years.”

 

In contrast, Leader of the Opposition John Briceno anchored the opening of his subsequent address by alluding to national issues, including Belize’s territorial integrity, in light of the ongoing border dispute with Guatemala.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“When you think about our territorial integrity, which is one of our most important national issues, we must admit that what was true thirty years ago, or even ten years ago, does not obtain today.  Belizeans are no longer able to visit Sarstoon Island or traverse the Sarstoon River freely without being stopped or restrained by Guatemalan naval officers who inform us that we are in Guatemalan waters.”

 

It is a point which the Acting Prime Minister also touches on in the context of the upcoming referendum.

 

Patrick Faber

“On the international front, our efforts to peacefully address and resolve the territorial claim by Guatemala will arrive at a very important milestone in April of 2019, as Belizeans participate in a referendum to decide whether this generational question should be taken to the International Court of Justice.  This action, one more step in the efforts by countless patriots over many years, will reflect the true sentiment of our Belizean populace, and will undoubtedly set the stage for a possible final resolution of the this dispute.”

 

From a social perspective, the issue of citizen safety and confidence in the judicial system are also points of interest that were raised during the Independence Day speeches.

 

John Briceño

“If you pause to consider how much we respected and value the rule of law, or our fidelity to a fair system of justice and how much pride we had in our government institutions, built over the years on decency, honor and merit and how those institutions have been broken or even crippled it can cause us to despair.”

 

The latter part of that excerpt from Briceño’s address correlates directly to with the issue of national security.

 

Patrick Faber

“This vexing problem of crime has to be tackled with all our might.  Our recent move to declare urban violence in Belize City as a national emergency was one that was necessary, and in my mind an appropriate response to what has become no less than a national crisis.  Since the detention exercise in early September, we have seen an exponential fall in the number of street killings, and this is not by accident.  This is proof that it is without a doubt that this small group of young men; members of gangs involved in turf warfare, armed with dangerous weapons, have been the main contributors to the spate of violence that dominated the headlines.  While caution is being taken to ensure that the rights of all Belizeans are respected, we must ensure that the safety and security of law-abiding citizens are placed at the forefront, and if drastic measures have to be taken to ensure this, so be it.”

 

The healthcare system also remains an area of concern for the opposition.

 

John Briceño

“We are troubled by a failing health system that is not addressing the chronic diseases affecting us, that is not poised to guide us to appreciate the change that is needed to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Belizeans also want a more equitable health care system that is affordable and that offers quality healthcare for all.  Likewise, Belizeans want leadership that is ready to take the action required to provide everyone with a place they can be happy to go home to and opportunities for them to own a piece of land.  We are ready to usher in an age that will bring about an end to their friends and family living from day to day, under the stress of low and stagnant wages while the cost of living continues to rise.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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