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Aug 1, 2011

Citizen Groups protest in the Old Capital

The proposed ninth amendment is at the center of a firestorm. Lawyers, policy makers, and activists have been vocal about the controversial amendment, which—if passed—will prevent the courts from reviewing amendments to the constitution. That was top on the list of contentious issues that have Belizeans on edge.  On Saturday, persons from across the country gathered in the old capital to stage a protest against what they say are undemocratic moves by government to deprive personal liberties. Though small in numbers, the demonstrators were vocal with their concerns. New Five’s Andrea Polanco was there.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

A crowd of about two hundred marched through the principal streets of the city bearing placards with poignant messages about the state of affairs in the country. Some were fearless in expressing their sentiments. And collectively the common thread weaving through them was concern over the future of the jewel.

Marcel Cardona, Orange Walk East Representative

Marcel Cardona

“The message that I am sending out here along with the rest of the regular Belizeans that are out here, is that you know something, the time has arrived, when as Phillip Goldson use to say ‘you have to save yuh country.”

Moses Sulph

Moses Sulph, President, COLA

“We’re out here today because we’re unified as Belizeans, not as any political party, not as any one entity, but as a people sending a message that we want change in this country, and we want those changes now. Enough is enough and the time for change is now.”

The proposed ninth amendment was the nucleus of the demonstration. Protestors say they’re not satisfied and strongly against the implications of such a move by Government.

Kareem Mejia Mowema, COLA

Kareem Mejia Mowema

“What rights are being taken away? Our basic fundamental liberty, if he can’t understand or respect our fundamental rights then we have a national issue here.”

Andrea Polanco

“So you believe your presence out here is going to make a difference?”

Kareem Mejia Mowema

“I hope to, yes ma’am make a difference here yes.”

Yolanda Schakron

Yolanda Schakron, Founder, Belizeans for Justice

“We’re tired that our Constitution is being amended we want to send a message to the Prime Minister that we cannot allow this to continue. Belizean people really need to stand up. We, me, COLA, the other organizations have been out here talking but it’s only the people power that can make the people listen.”

Kevin Mendez, Protestor

Kevin Mendez

“Really and truly we have to try understand weh dis man di try duh cause dah grassroots people ah feel yuh know and when u really watch pahn it and thing yuh know. I gat wah young kid pahn the way yuh know and I really and truly jus di look afta fi he future, all I have to seh.”

Anne Palacio, Protestor

“We all have our own political views, but this is not political, this is personal. The ninth amendment is telling us that we don’t have any rights or liberties if it’s passed. And if it does pass then he can bring back all the other amendments that he had written before. This man has done so much with a pen than what these guys have done with bullets.”

Moses Sulph

“We don’t want that to be passed because we understand the implication it can have. We’re not against; I will say that I don’t believe it is against the nationalization at all for us, because it’s about the other clauses that are in that ninth amendment that we believe will affect us negatively. And it is too broad, it can leave way for victimization and it can leave way to take away many of our fundamental rights and freedom.”

Marcel Cardona

“When you no can longer resort to the courts to protect yourself against abuses by the government, then what happens? In what state are you going to be living in? In my mind we will be moving away from a democratic state and moving towards a despotic and autocratic state.”

While the proposed ninth amendment is of national importance, the demonstrators say they haven’t forgotten the many other issues plaguing the country:

Anne Palacio

Anne Palacio

“Yes we’re looking at unemployment, the high rate of crime, the despair, the distress that our people are feeling. Look at how many businesses have closed down and are closing down because the economy is bad. Now if he would pen those then we’re ok so leave the Constitution alone and deal with what is important. Get our people to work, get our children into schools and make our country a better place that it should be and it should always be.”

Francisco Bo, Protestor

“Lot of people, like rich people, are getting our land. Worse now the rosewood are going and that is the gold of Toledo.”

Mary Toy, Protestor

Mary Toy

“I see so much of a focus on things that aren’t really helping people. The unemployment rate is just incredible, the number of poor that we have, the number of people that are almost poor. There are so many solutions that have been offered for Belize.  I mean things just seem to be done and they’re put on the shelf and nobody ever really make and effort.  It takes work; it takes work to solve problems. It’s not just standing up and making announcements that you’re gonna have preventive detention or the legislature is Supreme Being of everything in Belize. You’ve gotta get down and roll up your sleeves and get your fingernails dirty and I don’t see that happening.”

Marcel Cardona

“This is the time to be nationalistic, this is the time to stand up for the fifty thousand or so cane farmers and other persons that are dependent upon that sugar industry in the north.  And where is the Prime Minister, where is the government, nowhere to be seen on those areas, selling out to the foreigners. Again when it comes to the oil industry, they promised that they were going to nationalize the oil industry and they were going to allow every single Belizean citizen to have a share, stake in the industry. Where are those plans? If you are truly a nationalist that you claim to be, stand up for the cane farmers, stand up for Belizeans.”

Ligorio Coy, Chairman, Mayan Leaders Alliance

Ligorio Coy

“We stand in solidarity with the Belizeans because as am saying, as Mayan people we stand together in Toledo and many times we have seen a lot of injustices. Especially with us the Mayan people in Southern Belize. With our land case issue there is now a respect of the injunction.”

But the turnout for what’s termed a national demonstration was poor. Schakron says, however, that it’s still a success considering people fear victimization:

Yolanda Schakron

“We did expect a bigger crowd. I have spoken to a lot of people who are happy with what we are doing. They stand in solidarity but they’re very scared to lose their jobs. They’re very scared to be seen with us because they are threatened by the government. If they come around us they will lose their job, some of the said deh tell deh deh weh tek weh deh scholarships yuh know suh I understand the plight ah the Belizean people.”

Andrea Polanco

“So even if you’d say if you had only five people out here, it’s still a success for you all?”

Yolanda Schakron

“It is because this is the beginning, and we intend to keep up the pressure.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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14 Responses for “Citizen Groups protest in the Old Capital”

  1. Liberty and Freedom says:

    Great to see some Belizeans with the guts stand up for their rights.Yes, small in numbers, however, the fire storm is just beginning. Barrow take note – you were elected by the people;
    you work for the people.

  2. REGGIE says:

    NICE TO SEE MY PEOPLE DOING THE RITE THING.ALWAYS REMEMBER IT IS THE STRAW THAT BREAK THE CAMEL BACK.DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE TURN OUT.HE WILL FEEL IN THE POLL.PEOPLE IS ALWAYS AFRAID OF A DICTATOR.I AM HOPING THAT WHEN HE GOES TO NYC THE BELIZEAN CAN PROTEST HIM AT THE DINNER DANCE THEY ARE PLANNING FOR HIM.BUT WILL GET IN CONTACT WITH SOME CONCERN BELIZEAN TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.KEEP THE PRESSURE ON PM AND HIS FOOTBALL PLAYERS.HE HAVE IN HIS PARTY.

  3. wisdom says:

    Again, I am glad to know that at least people have jobs and scholarships that they fear losing. It is an indication that people are working and getting an education in our country.

  4. Rod says:

    All you belizeans who didn’t come out are losers and you deserve whatever you get in the future I applaud all the people who came out out with barrow out with vega out with perdomo the will of the people will prevail.

  5. Roy Yates says:

    Oh yes Rod, This is just what I remember of the majority of Belizeans, very selfish, they’ expect someone elce to put their head on the choping block while they stay in the safe zone and reap whatever benefits come along. (Wisdom) you need to shut up with your lame excuse that only make sense to you. Have you seen how people around the world these days are loosing their lives for what they believe?

  6. Elgin Martinez says:

    I really don’t see the wisdom in giving up your rights for a scholarship or a job.You people really need to educate yourselves.

  7. Earl Grey says:

    SOMETIMES YOU HAVE SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER………and it’s not easy.

  8. Real Honest Belizean says:

    Well I must say to you Rod. Some belizeans didn’t show up because we have to put food on the table everyday. We are suffering out here. One day out of work means a lot to us. But I must applaud you in the job well done sanding up for our rights. Some of us are out of district, why not start protest in all of the Districts and the major towns. I will definitely support you once this is done. PEOPLE THE SUFFA HAADA OUT YA!!

  9. CC says:

    I wish these kinds of events were spearheaded by ordinary Belizeans who are not in it for political reasons. When you continue to see certain names in the limelight b/c they have political aspirations, I am not encouraged. I do not have any confidence or hope in neither PUP nor UDP so I wish this was an effort from ordinary Belizeans who “REALLY” care about Belize. Politicians will quickly succumb to power, greed and money once they are in power and forget these causes. History is our best evidence!

    And I say this for both PUP and UDP exisiting and aspiring politicians who continue to seek out the spotlight. Channel 5 perhaps you can find other more intelligent people who will provide you with unbiased responses.

  10. Indian Woman says:

    Elgin Martinez….you it seems,,,,, have no common sense. Sacrifice is why people get ahead and create a better world for their children and grandchildren. Belizeans are a lazy people.It seems that the criminals have more courage than the rest of the population.What can you do with a scholarship when the country goes to $#!%$? The old folks who fought at Saint Georges caye……turn in their graves to see what lame humans their offsprings have turn into.Shame on all of you who have no guts.LIVE FREE OR DIE!! LIVE FREE OR DIE!!

    Real Honest… YOU say that you are suffering out there? Do nothing and today will seem like a vacation when it gets worse. Don’t visit Hattie.. Hattie will come to you.The truth is that leaders in Belize will never do what’s right for a people…. when those people are lazy and have no drive to sacrifice for their rights…..

  11. Elgin Martinez says:

    Indian Woman: You’re talking about common sense when you can’t even comprehend what i wrote?What’s you’re point?

  12. Indian Woman says:

    Elgin Martinez….. I meant… you it seems have common sense. Forget the NO. Thanks.Hope you get my point now….. if you read my comment again.

  13. Protest Supporter says:

    An excellent beginning! Numbers are not very important at this point. Many groups representative of a cross section of the population were out there. That’s about it. Where was the ACB? Association concerned for Belize?????? Another important thing is that Saturday’s protest shames Barrow’s government. Check the reaction of Channel 7; the report of the protest in their newscast took an unimportant place. So it is just a beginning and I am sure that the next protest will attract many many more concerned Belizeans.

  14. Moses says:

    CC I THINK YOU ARE BLINDED BY YOUR OWN IGNORANCE, I AM AN ORDENARY BELIZEAN WHO HAVE BEEN STANDING UP FOR THIS COUNTRY FOR MANY YRS NOT FOR THE PUP OR UDP, WHEN THE PUP WAS IN POWER I STOOD UP FOR OUR PEOPLE, NOW THE UDP IS IN POWER I AND DOING SAME, YOU CALL THAT FARE AND BALANCE.. SO U SHOULD REALLY ANALYZE WHAT YOU SAY AND NOT JUST SAY FOR SAYING SAKE. THE NEWS STATIONS WHO WANT TO BASE ON THE NUMBERS ARE SINGING FOR THEIRS SUPPER REMEMBER THE SPARTONS, IN HISTORY ITS ALWAYS THE DEDICATED MINORITY THAT HAD MADE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POSITIVE CHANGES TO OUR WORLD. IF YOU WERE A ORDENARY BELIZEAN CC YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN OUT THERE, HOW COWARDLY HIDING BEHIND TWO LETTER CC.. PUT YOUR COUNTRY FIRST PEOPLE

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