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Apr 23, 2021

The Unions Descend on the Steps of the National Assembly

Day two of the national budget continued today inside the National Assembly. But it was outside where all the action happened.  The joint unions, galvanized by a common stance against G.O.B., brought out the numbers, as well as the drums and dance moves.  It was a lively and colorful scene as the union members demonstrated against the government.  The message has remained the same, but the showing was bigger today. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was there for the start as the drums began to beat and has this report from Belmopan.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The joint unions, primarily the B.N.T.U. and P.S.U., brought the numbers, the energy and the rhymes to demonstrate against the government on the steps of the National Assembly. It was a show of force with easily more than three hundred green and yellow shirts – a sea of teachers and public officers who chanted and danced to the rhythms of the Garifuna drums.


Elena Smith

Senator Elena Smith, National President, B.N.T.U.

“Our teachers have been waiting for this day for a while you know. They are excited to be here and they are finally here so they are just showing that excitement in the midst of the message that we are sending across.”


Dean Flowers, 1st Vice President, P.S.U.

“It’s a beautiful scene out here. It is an expression of freedom. It’s an expression that enough is enough. It’s an expression that reform we must!”


That reform they are clamoring for is good governance – a call for government to implement anti-corruption laws. And that demand has become magnified and as government gets ready to cut salaries by ten percent and implement a wage freeze.


Gerald Henry

Gerald Henry, President, P.S.U.

“This is not about our ten percent only. The ten percent is actually the bottom of the list of priorities that we are taking action out here today. On top of the list is the good governance legislations that we want the government to give us some commitment that we are going to implement. We want the whistleblowers’ act; we want the illicit enrichment act and we want the asset recovery legislations. Those are some of the immediate ones that we want. For the government to say to us that they are having problems drafting those legislations man those legislations exist somewhere in the world. It is just to tweak it to our Belize situation so they don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel and so it can’t be that it will take a whole year or two years.”


And today, as the national budget debate took place inside the National Assembly, the public officers and teachers found creative and lighthearted ways to drive home serious messages to the government. They used posters and banners to songs and one man even pulled out a “bukut” that has become symbolic to the movement were used. But they say that this stand is not just about their own interests.


Dean Flowers

Dean Flowers

“This one is for Belize. There is no turning back in this. As we have said day one, this is not the path we chose, this is the path the government chose. This will continue out here. This is a resistance that will continue at all costs until we achieve our just objective which is to fix this broken system which caters only to ministers and their families.”


Andrea Polanco

“Can the P.S.U., can the B.N.T.U. sustain this?”


Dean Flowers

“Well, that would be seen. This is the beginning and it will be sustained. Like I have said from day one, it is a resistance that will be sustained and it is a resistance that’s never seen before.”


But it’s left to be seen how far this will go because demonstrations against the government are not new and these issues can persist for years. A man who has tussled with different administrations for close to thirty years – long time unionist George Frazer knows this all too well. And today he stood tall with the teachers.


George Frazer

George Frazer, Former General Secretary, B.N.T.U.

“This dah part ah mi life, part ah mi life. I was born in freedom and we got to have it and good governance. We are also against cutting the ten percent if there are other ways. For years, especially under the U.D.P. we were negotiating and usually under two and half years we finish negotiate. When I left it was twelve years we still never finish negotiate. So, we are here to fight for Belize. Teachers must take the lead. We want the enactment of those good governance things like the UNCAC.”


Andrea Polanco

“Mr. Frazer, do you think the unions have the power today to twist the government’s arm to implement these legislations?”


George Frazer

“We have proven it and we can see right now that only one bus per branches came. So, don’t underestimate the power and the determination of the unions.”


But is anyone listening to the message of the unions?


Senator Elena Smith

“We believe that our message is always heard you know. It is whether those persons who are hearing it will be honest to say that they heard the message. But we know that the message is being heard.”


The P.S.U. and B.N.T.U. leaders were also joined by the N.T.U.C.B. and the U.B. Student Union for today’s demonstration. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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