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Sep 24, 2002

Independence day addresses avoid politics

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On the twenty-first of September those Belizeans who ventured out to Memorial Park or tuned in on their radios were treated to a rare experience; a series of Independence Day addresses devoid of discord. Here are some excerpts, beginning with guest of honour Sir Shridath Ramphal, followed by Opposition Leader Dean Barrow and concluding with Prime Minister Said Musa.

Sir Shridath Ramphal, Belize’s Facilitator

“twenty-one years ago today I was here in Belize City as the flag of Belize flew dramatically for the first time in an independent land. I was here in Caribbean kinship and I was here representationally as the Secretary General of a commonwealth that had stood in solidarity with Belize during the torrid years preceding September twenty-one, twenty-one years ago. I have been back many times and in many different roles and I have never been back as a stranger… And today of course I am here as your facilitator, committed as I was twenty-one years ago to a free Belize, overcoming all threats to your then newly vested sovereignty, and now, striving to assist the consummation of that yearning in a practical way.”

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“In the current era though, nationalism seems under implicit attack from the economic, political and cultural hurricane that is globalization. But for small countries such as ours, the reaffirmation of the norm that enshrines the nation as the greatest political good, is absolutely necessary for the validation of our Belizean heritage. The socially and culturally malign consequences of neo-liberalism and cable TV, can only be beaten back by the continued assertion of those values that make us uniquely Belizean.”

“There is, then, much pleasure on this anniversary. Look around, reflect, think on these things: the way, for example, in which the national discourse, our democracy, is being enlivened and strengthened by the free media in this country – our editorial writers and our columnists and our commentators – grappling with the large issues of the day, crusading in their insistence on executive accountability and political transparency, analyzing and fructifying our culture of diversity, dissecting global currents and geopolitics, locating our place in the region and the world.”

“So let a hundred Belizean flowers bloom, pollinated and fertilized by immigration from Central America and the West Indies, and Asia and the Middle East. Let the work continue apace of perfecting this peculiar, particular, richly-hued, many-faceted, variegated jewel that is our Belize-American and Caribbean in geography, but limitless in imagination and creativity. Happy birthday Belize and may God bless us all.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Twenty-one years ago, as we celebrated the culmination of our struggle against colonialism with the independence of our country, there were several banners and posters with uplifting or thought-provoking messages. One of them said: Independence is only the beginning.

It was a troubled beginning as well, with our nation divided over the fact that we were becoming independent without having resolved what used to be called The Anglo Guatemalan Dispute, with civil disturbances having threatened to tear the delicate fabric of our emerging national unity and consciousness.”

“The people of Belize took that brave decision to face the challenges and survive and grow as an independent state. The people’s desire to determine the future of this nation and to be the architects of their own development was greater, much greater, than the sum of those fears which earlier divided us, and this strength has grown from year to year, to the point that today we proclaim that we are Proud and Strong at Twenty-one!”

“Today, no one doubts that the decision to take our independence then, and in that way, was the right choice for Belize. No-one argues for a return to colonialism. No one gainsays the fact that, yes, with independence there has been more development, more prosperity for more of our people, more opportunities for advancement.

In these twenty-one years we have matured as a nation and as a people. Our political discourse is robust yet generally more civil; the media free and independent; greater respect is shown for our diverse cultures; our citizens more alert in demanding accountability and transparency. Our democracy is more firmly rooted in the rule of law. And I assure you that the Leader of the Opposition and I did not compare notes. Yet as a small state, as a young nation, we know how vulnerable we are. Our world of the 21st century with all the major advances in science, technology and material progress is bedeviled by insecurity, wrongs unrighted, of disputes left to fester for too long, of poverty and deprivation.

But no one doubts we are better able to face our challenges and work together as one to overcome our problems, because we are independent. Our independence has always been troubled by the fact that Guatemala has maintained a claim to our territory, a claim dating back to the century before the last, and emerging from a disagreement between Guatemala and the former colonial power. We have all agonized over the effects of this on our security and our development, and have tried, both before and after independence to bring this dispute to an end, but a settlement has always eluded us.

Today, our people have the opportunity to put an end to the Guatemalan claim once and for all, and instead of bequeathing to our children the millstone of that claim, we can choose to leave them a legacy of peace, security and cooperation for development.”

The agreement by the two political leaders to temporarily bury the hatchet was brokered by Tourism Minister and celebrations chairman Mark Espat.

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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