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Sep 22, 2022

Both Sides of the 2022 Independence Day Speeches

The forty-first anniversary of Belize’s independence was celebrated in grand fashion on Wednesday, with an official ceremony being held in Belmopan. It was full pomp and circumstance, as the prime minister, government officials, and other dignitaries were in attendance.  As is customary, we took a closer look at the speeches that were presented by Prime Minister John Briceño and Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Belize at forty-one is perhaps a ripe age for sober reflection.  On the heels of a global pandemic that all but crippled our local economy, Belizeans are battle-tested and have demonstrated resolve in the face of a most challenging time in recent history.  The prime minister’s address on Independence day spoke directly to that spirit.


John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“Our resiliency is homegrown, not IFI-imposed.  When we look in the mirror at 41, Belizeans should see a country on the cusp of being able to feed itself, a goal so many of our peers yearned to attain at the peak of the COVID pandemic.  Domestic production of various food staples has reached truly impressive levels.  For example: In 2021, rice production was over thirty-three million pounds, beans was over twenty million pounds, corn was over two hundred and fifteen million pounds, chicken was over forty-two million pounds, over five million dozen eggs, sixteen point five million pounds of milk, the national cattle herd stood at one hundred and seventy thousand heads of cattle and in citrus, it has been announced that our growers are getting the highest payment in more than fifteen years.”


But while the Briceño administration proudly beats its chest, touting a speedy recovery from the economic doldrums of COVID-19, the opposition is singing a different chorus.  This year, a new party leader, almost twenty-four months since the United Democratic Party suffered a bitter defeat at the polls, addressed the gathering at Independence Plaza.  What he painted was an image of gloom and despair.


Shyne Barrow

Shyne Barrow, Opposition Leader

“In 2022, COVID-19 is gone, but we are faced with a new pandemic, that is the blue virus, spread by an administration that continues to strangle our economy with lack of investor confidence, with the highest gas prices ever which causes the highest cost of living ever, giving no home for our treasured middle class to return, driving the working class further into poverty and the impoverished to inhumane standards of living.  This is not the promise of independence.”


Notwithstanding that sharp observation made by the opposition, PM Briceño maintains that strong public policy led by his government continues to benefit all Belizeans.  In his address, he also touched on the pending People’s Constitution Commission.


John Briceño

“Whether in the case of constant financial support starting with capping the cost of fuel by reducing fuel taxes, subsidies for our cane farmers, further subsidies for our bus companies, tour operators and bakers, Belize can be proud that our public policy makes creative accommodations for the common good, notwithstanding external pressures.  Of course, a nations life, its evolution, does not end at forty-one, and pride and confidence must, as I said earlier, be matched to resolve to address those facets of national development that remain unconquered.  And it is this requisite resolve that has led to the launch of the Peoples Constitution Commission, whose work shall commence shortly, to consult far and wide and to recommend constitutional changes that will enhance national unity and enlistment, as well as good governance.”


From a nationalist point of view, PM Briceño highlights the push by Belizeans for their voices to be heard on matters that affect the citizenry.


John Briceño

“Belizeans can be proud that our constitution is unblemished in forty-one years.  Six times since independence, there has been an orderly transition of political power, without violence or even the threat of violence. Just two weeks ago, a new Chief Justice was sworn in and she will oversee an entirely independent judiciary, free of political control or interference. The Belizean public square, buttressed by myriad freedoms, and a vibrant, independent press corps, is more lively and more animated than ever.  In just the last few months, two unrelated national petitions have attracted tens of thousands of individual signatures.  This is but one example of Belizean democracy in action.  These are ample reasons for national pride and national confidence.  All of this in partial fulfillment of Plan Belize.”


The peaceful, constructive, Belizean revolution, famously described by the Father of the Nation, was, according to Shyne Barrow, a vow that was never honored by his party.


Shyne Barrow

“The revolution that was promised at the arrival of this current government never materialized. This quickly revealed itself as nothing more than a sham, a continuation of the vicious cycle of poverty, economic and political dependency that we have suffered the last forty-one years.  We have gone from British colonialism to neo-colonialism, administered by political masters who treat the electorate with the exact disdain dispensed by those colonial powers from their grand palaces in England.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

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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