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Sep 7, 2006

U.D.P. Mayors say G.O.B. playing politics w/ September $

Story PictureThe history of September celebrations has, for much of the last century, never been far removed from politics. This year, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Independence, the milestone has lived up to its unfortunate reputation. A number of U.D.P. controlled municipal councils are charging that a vindictive central government is withholding promised funds and giving the money instead to political operatives looking to keep the events under the P.U.P. banner. This afternoon News Five’s Stewart Krohn spoke to the not-too-happy Mayors of Corozal and Dangriga. How much of their complaints are political theatre and how much constitute genuine indignation is not necessarily apparent, but it is safe to say that in the next eighteen months before national elections the problem is not going to go away.

Hilberto Campos, Mayor of Corozal
?At the beginning when no money was promised to the municipalities we had formed a September celebrations committee. Headed by myself and heads of department in Corozal. Everything was running smooth. We had a programme out and we had everything in place. Nevertheless, the twenty-five thousand dollar promise came forth by the honourable Vildo Marin. He imposed his chairmanship and he said that he is the chairman of this committee no matter what. He was accepted and he came to the meeting last night, where he started imposing and dictating certain things and obviously the committee did not accept.?

Stewart Krohn, Reporting
?Let me get something straight mister mayor the twenty-five thousand dollars in question that was given to the municipality or that was given to the area representative, Vildo Marin??

Hilberto Campos
?According to the area representative, he got it. He has the twenty-five thousand dollars. Nothing was handed over to the municipal authorities. As a matter of fact after the meeting last that went really bad when he started dictating what to do, he called this morning and said that he is going to take over the rest of the celebrations leaving the Corozal Town Council completely out the picture.?

Stewart Krohn
?Now in past years how was the money for September celebrations handled? Was it given to the municipality or was it given to the area representative to control??

Hilberto Campos
?It was given to September celebrations committee.?

Stewart Krohn
?What you are saying is that the official September celebrations committee of Corozal is the responsibility of the Corozal Town Council??

Hilberto Campos

Stewart Krohn
?But you are not getting that money??

Hilberto Campos
?I am not getting that money any at all. As a matter of fact he imposed his chairmanship; we agreed to that as long as he would not change anything that we had decided so far because it would be totally unfair. The minute he got up and a member of the committee said lets put something to the vote and he said he could over ride everything and that he has the last say that is when everything went bad. As a matter of fact he called this morning and said that the Corozal Town Council has nothing to do with it, and that is totally unfair for the people who have worked so far to put a programme together, to organize sub-committees and to put everything in place for us not to get a copper now we won?t be able to do any celebrations. I mean the first thing that we were promoting, me myself as a mayor, was to be patriotic enough to forget about politics in this, however, he cannot do that. He wants to bring in politics and we will not play that game with him. We have better principles than that and we will stand up for what we believe. We will not be dictated upon and have him come and impose anything else on us.?

Echoing the sentiments of Hilberto Campos was Dangriga Mayor Frank “Pawpa” Mena. According to Mena, unlike the situation in Corozal where the man with the money is an area representative, in his town the P.U.P. politician in charge of the funds is not even an elected official.

Frank ?Pawpa? Mena, Mayor of Dangriga
?I decided to call on behalf of the committee, which is chaired by Deputy Mayor Grace Fairweather. I decided to call the Ministry of Finance to check on the subvention on the September celebration and I was then told that money has been forwarded to Mr. Cassian Nunez. I thought it was very disrespectful. More so the fact that I think that it was not one of the best strategies, in that we are already very much divided and this creates even greater wedges. So I have been saying that the great disrespect is not a healthy thing. When in fact there is a well structured and organized committee to run the celebration and at least have the common decency to inform the office of what is being done.?

Stewart Krohn
?What are you going to do about the situation? Where will you go from here??

Frank ?Pawpa? Mena
?Well the way I consider it–this is what I consider challenges and little obstacles and they could be easily overcome. The September celebrations will happen in Dangriga and nothing will stop it. I?ve sent some letters prior to this money issue to various businesses, so this evening and tomorrow I will spend my time making a couple calls and seal off. At the same time I got a call from the prime minister earlier and he assured me that he will get in touch with Mr. Nunez so that we could sit down and dialogue. I think that is the way forward. The bottom line is that we have always remained humble and try to get things the right way for the best and greater benefit of Dangriga. So the political games are a natural thing so the decision and policy makers at the top need to really sit down and re-examine and don?t only rhetorically preach. We respect that it is the opposing part and we want to work with that, that is becoming only rhetoric. We want to see that in action as well.?

Stewart Krohn
?Bottom line is there going to be two September celebrations or one in Dangriga this year??

Frank ?Pawpa? Mena
?One celebration. I know about one and that is the one that is on the agenda.?

Late this evening a release from the Prime Minister’s office referred to the U.D.P. complaints as “misrepresentations” and said that the existing model called for September celebrations committees to work together with town councils. The release failed to address the issue of funding or who actually appoints the committees. In recent years this problem did not often arise as most town councils were held by the ruling People’s United Party. Since March all of the nation’s municipalities belong to the United Democratic Party.

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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