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Jun 18, 2008

COLA organises downtown march against Michael Ashcroft

Story PictureIt was not the biggest demonstration to ever hit the streets of Belize City but today’s protest had significant implications because it was against the country’s most powerful businessman. News Five’s Marion Ali reports on the war that has been declared against Michael Ashcroft.

Marion Ali, Reporting
This afternoon an estimated three hundred people took part in a march in downtown Belize City against banking and business mogul Michael Ashcroft. Protestors moved off from Battlefield Park around noon and demonstrated around Market Square for approximately two hours. The event was coordinated by COLA, Citizens Organised for Liberty through Action, previously known as the Committee to Oust Lord Ashcroft.

Evan “Mose” Hyde, Member, COLA
“This is about getting back the interest of the Belizean people, getting back the money that belongs to the people of Belize. That is the point of this.”

Marion Ali
“You’re going up against a giant…”

Mose Hyde
“No, no. We noh deh gainst wah giant. Wah giant deh gainst di real giant, the people ah Belize da di sleeping giant. Dat da di real giant.”

Marion Ali
“Are you satisfied with the turnout today?”

Elena Smith, Interim President, COLA
“Yes we are. If we had five persons it would have been good for us because we are here for a cause and so we will stand out here for that cause. Anybody can only take so many licks. After a while you have to bow down. In 2005 we almost brought the government down. So if you can sustain your actions eventually they will have to bow down and we will get our victory.”

Participants in today’s march represented a wide cross-section of society, with politicians all sectors interspersed in the crowd.

Michael Finnegan, Minister of Housing
“I am not here to say anything negative about anybody but we ask for respect and I want to send a message to the business community that when you come here to do business you are not allowed to stand or to go behind closed doors with a politician or two and sign deals that are not in the interest of the people of this country.”

Mark Espat, Albert Area Representative
“I think the Belizean people have gotten enough of the parasitical approach of certain business groups and we’re out here to say that enough is enough. The clamor of the people is to get back the money that was intended for housing and for the relevant companies to pay the taxes that they’re supposed to pay.”

Cordel Hyde, Area Rep., Lake Independence
“When this man doesn’t pay his taxes it is all people in this country who are deprived, whether it be victims of the storm Arthur or whether it be the persons who need their roofs fixed, whether they need better housing, whether they need education, that is what we use our taxes for and it is also important that we get our twenty million dollars. At the end of the day wi need wi ting man.”

Patrick Rogers, Member, V.I.P.
“I guess ih tek wah organisation weh have wah lot ah fight eena deh fi start lead the charge. Having said that, I guess I’m out here in solidarity with COLA and everybody else who woulda want see deh tyrants flee noh?”

Marion Ali
“You think they have what it takes to sustain this planned series of events against Mister Ashcroft and if things don’t go their way, if they don’t get what they want then what next?”

Patrick Rogers
“I believe as long as we commit into doing something and noh leave up to no one individual it will get done.”

Dickie Bradley, Attorney
“The thousand of marchers who are out here only represent a bigger amount of Belizeans who are seriously concerned that the new boss of Channel Five is now considered to represent a very serious danger, a clear and present danger to the country of Belize. So I’m showing solidarity with the aims and objectives of the march.”

Marion Ali
“Mister Ashcroft is a known sympathiser of the same administration, past government of which you are a member. How does this look for you being of the same party that he supports?”

Mark Espat
“Well I think my position has been clear from day, if you recall, Marion. In the House of Representatives I voted against the re-acquisition sale and resale of B.T.L., I left the Cabinet over the matter of U.H.S. and the unjustified debt and my position remains the same. We do not need another King Leopold in Belize.”

Wilfred Sedi” Elrington, Attorney General
“We are very upset with the performance and behaviour of the entire Ashcroft group of companies. I certainly have long held the view that it has been a very one-sided, exploited relationship, which of course has been facilitated by people who we elected to office. That is unfortunate. Of course most people view the overt acquisition by him of Channel Five as an ill omen for the country because we are of the view now that he is going to use that medium to try to further influence and indoctrinate people.”

George Frazer, Executive Secretary, B.N.T.U.
“We want genuine investors. Mister Ashcroft has invested many of his funds but again playing games and being accommodated by politicians doesn’t always benefit the Belizean people. We also want to send the message to the politicians and others that all these kinda secret deals and thing cannot and will not be entertained.”

Kenroy Young, U.N. Youth Ambassador for Belize
“We are here today fighting for what youths might not understand so much as fighting for a cause that will help benefit our country because we have a man that is here buying out half of our country and leaving us as Belizeans to not voice our opinions and he’s casting down on us a great burden as such, high rates in B.T.L., now he’s bought over the Channel Five broadcasting industry. He’s trying to shut the Belizeans up and we will not stand for that as youths.”

And while today’s protest only lasted a couple hours, organisers plan to carry out a sustained attack against Michael Ashcroft.

Mose Hyde
“If wi want righteousness, if we want justice da Belize we gotta get up and fight for it. Dat dah di point ah dis. Michael Ashcroft I noh give a damn bout. We dah like wah stain. We noh gwein no way. We dah like old time bad card. We noh wah stop draw. We eena dis to di full.”

Elena Smith
“The group that we have is a group of warriors, as Mose said, we are a group of warriors. So we are willing to fight to the bitter end. We are not going to give up until we have achieved our goal and our goal is to get back all the money that is owing to this country of Belize and to eventually get him outta here.”

News Five understands that following this first demonstration of its intentions, COLA will now call on Belizeans to boycott the use of cell phones for an entire weekend next month. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

Our attempts to solicit a reaction from Mister Ashcroft today were unsuccessful.

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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