Dangriga, Monday January 4th 2016
Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage, “Since king hatchet was a hammer.” Then again you probably haven’t. In many conversations here in Dangriga, that saying is synonymous to the many promises of having an auditorium being built for the citizens of this southern town. In the research for this story, it is alleged by some well-informed individuals that this building has been in the proverbial pipeline for close to 30 years and has often been used as a political gimmick by the PUP to garner votes. Former Dangriga UDP Representatives, the late Russell “Chiste” Garcia and Arthur “Turo” Roches both made conscious efforts to get this project off the ground, but due to budgetary constraints, were unsuccessful. As alluded to, repeated PUP administrations had this project listed in their manifestos almost every election season. No sooner than they were returned to Belmopan as ruling government, the sweet promises became yet another bitter pill for the Dangriga constituents to swallow – No Auditorium!
2015 was an unprecedented year as it relates to Belizean politics. There were two bi-elections, one in the Cayo North Constituency in January, and six months later in July, the other was here in Dangriga, followed by the general elections in November, all won by the ruling UDP government. The Dangriga bi-election as you may recall, was a result of former PUP Representative Ivan “Macka” Ramos resigning from the PUP and vacating his parliamentary seat at the House of Representatives. The Dangriga bi-election was an overwhelming victory for the Honorable Frank “Papa” Mena. He obtained his ticket to the House of Representatives and became the Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security.
Leader of the opposition Francis Fonseca, who had coined the phrase and adopted the battle cry “Call elections now,” got his wish. A mere three months after Minister Mena was accompanied by the rhythmic sounds of the drums of our fathers on his way to be sworn in as a member of parliament, general elections were called. To the detriment of Fonseca and the PUP, they lost the general elections and will have to wait another five years for a shot at becoming the ruling government.
The morning after the UDP victory at the polls in becoming the first government to be elected to a historic third consecutive stretch, ill-advised mischievous morning talk show junkies took to the airwaves in an effort to discredit Mr. Mena and the UDP. Obviously, the intent was to misinform the electorate. It was alleged that Mr. Mena was abandoning the land distribution and auditorium projects slated for the Lakeland area of Dangriga. According to the callers, Minister Mena was defeated in one of the Lakeland areas of the Southside, so to “punish” the voters of that area, he was abandoning the projects.
In the three months Minister Mena became a parliamentarian, he wasted no time in taking the challenge of embracing some huge projects, the renovation of the Carl Ramos Football Stadium, on schedule to be re-opened in February 2016, and the building of the long promised Dangriga auditorium in the Lakeland City area of Dangriga. In one of Mr. Mena’s political speeches at a rally, he said, “Education is the way out of poverty. I want to be remembered as an individual who helped to lead my people out of poverty. Getting an education has no color. UDP or PUP we all deserve a decent education.” Several PUP supporters as well as UDP supporters, are recipients of financial educational assistance through the Ministry Education.