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Aug 15, 2023

A New “Home” for Belize’s Declaration of Independence

Having been stored in a metal safe in the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly for the past forty years, the Declaration of Independence now has an accompanying document that stipulates how it will be properly stored and preserved. The document dates back to 1981, when Belize gained political Independence from Great Britain. The M.O.U. also establishes a modern method for the proper management for identifying, classifying, indexing, digitizing, and preservation of Belize’s parliamentary records. During a briefing signing ceremony at the National Assembly Building on Monday, the officers of the National Assembly, namely: the Speaker of the House, Valerie Woods, President of the Senate, Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Eddie Webster signed the M.O.U. with Kevin Montero, the Director of the Belize Archives and Records Service. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday between officials of the National Assembly and the Belize Archives and Records Service established a professional, modern and proper way for the storage and preservation of Belize’s Declaration of Independence and Parliamentary records for posterity. Speaker of the House, Valerie Woods explained what led to this arrangement.


Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives

“We went to the clerk’s office, and we looked at how it was stored. We had a conversation with Mr. Montero thereafter, and we were convinced that indeed, this birth certificate, the constitution – the official constitutional instrument that provides for Belize’s independence, should be properly stored. The National Assembly does not have the facility for it, but even if it did, it really belongs in the National Archives. And so began the discussion, what’s involved, the process, and how can we go beyond just storing it? We then reached out to Minister Fonseca, under whose portfolio the Archives rests, and CEO Diane, and thankfully they were sold on the idea, and they welcomed it. Throughout the process, what I believe came as a surprise is that there are quite a few Belizeans – many, including parliamentarians – who don’t necessarily know what it looks like, where it was stored, and how it was being stored. And so, all around we thought this would be a good way to not only recognize, but to preserve.”


President of the Senate, Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, pointed out that the time has come for this kind of preservation of Belize’s birth paper, and what more fitting time than now, just before our National Celebrations.


Carolyn Trench-Sandiford

Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, President, Senate

“This is our birth paper. It represents how we became an independent and sovereign nation called Belize, a birth paper which legitimized us such that we were able to take our rightful place amongst the nation states on the world stage 42 years ago on September 21st, 1981. It is therefore fitting that as we mark Belize’s 42nd Independence Anniversary under the theme: “Hope Ignited, Hands United, Vision Renewed, Belize at 42,” we bring this sacrosanct document to the light for knowledge, recognition, visibility, and accessibility, and a must-see for each Belizean. This MOU will facilitate this. We at the National Assembly also recognize the need for the preservation and security of Belize’s historical and parliamentary records and the necessity for establishing a modern and proper records management system.”


The MOU facilitates the creation of a records classification system for all parliamentary records, which will make them available online upon request. Director of the Belize Archives and Records Service, Kevin Montero explained how preserving the parliamentary documents will be managed and made available.


Kevin Montero

Kevin Montero, Director of the Belize Archives and Records Service

“The department will conduct the necessary preservation assessment to determine the condition and conservation needs of the original paper. These interventions will restore the document to a state that allows for access, as well as for its digitization. The digital copy of the instrument will then be uploaded to the website of both the Belize Archives and Record Service, and the National Assembly of Belize and made freely accessible to all. The original document will then be stored in a fireproof safe in the storeroom of the Belize Archives and Records Service for its safeguarding, accessibility, and for its permanent preservation.”


The Declaration of Independence will be kept in a fireproof safe in a storeroom at the Belize Archives and Records Service. Marion Ali 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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