Independence Day Ceremony Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 27 September 2012 00:00

PM Hon. Dean Barrow greets Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Francis FonsecaOn Friday, September 21st, Belize celebrated its 31st anniversary of Independence. No one could have asked for more pleasant conditions to celebrate such occasion. The official ceremony was held at Independence Plaza in Belmopan City. On Friday, Belmopan saw an overcast sky with temperature in the low 80s and a constant soothing breeze. Representatives of the Diplomatic and Counselor Corps from all over the world began taking their seats just after 9:30 a.m. During this time, the Belmopan Choral Society provided entertainment with their renditions of several cultural songs. The Master of Ceremonies, Rene Villanueva, Sr., took over at 10 a.m. and announced the arrival of the Guests of Honour.

First to march on to the scene was the Guard of Honour. The Guard of Honour was supported by the BDF band, which also included two officers of the Louisiana National Guard. His Worship, Simeon Lopez then arrived with his wife and made their way to their seats. They were followed by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Francis Fonseca, and the Chief Justice of Belize, Hon. Kenneth Benjamin. Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow and his wife Kim followed the arrival of the Chief Justice. Before PM Barrow sat down, he stood before the Guard of Honour and received a national salute. The Governor General of Belize, Sir Colville Young, was last to arrive. Before taking his seat, the Governor General inspected the Guard of Honour. He was pleased and eventually granted them permission to leave the area. Villanueva then conducted the official Independence Day ceremony.

The ceremony started with an invocation by Pastor Eugene Crawford, President of the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches. Mayor Lopez gave the welcome address. He started by returning back to 1981 when a crowd gathered at Independence Hall for the first Independence ceremony. He looked at the steps of the National Assembly and said, “Thousands of dreams were born on these very steps.” He called for a state of unity during the celebrations and, since all politics is local, Mayor Lopez then took the time to mention some of the projects that are underway in Belmopan City. He spoke of the many streets being rehabilitated under the Municipal Development Project. Millions of dollars will be invested in a new market and other community projects. Mayor Lopez was followed by the Chair of the National Celebrations Commission, Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr. After wishing all Belizeans a happy Independence Day, Heredia put on his cap as Minister of Tourism and shared the latest tourism statistics with the nation. He said that, though tourism is down globally because of the economic crisis, Belize continues to do remarkably well. There has been an increase of 5% in tourist arrivals over the past year. He credits this to the plans outlined in the Tourism Master Plan in which the BTB chose to target new markets in a more aggressive manner. They became more creative in marketing by taking advantage of social mediums and attending more showcases abroad. Minister Heredia challenged all Belizeans to work together in an effort to provide the best product possible. He said, “We must never be satisfied with mediocrity. We must never be satisfied with good enough. I believe that no power in the world can stop us from achieving the success we wish for ourselves.”

The most anticipated speeches of the Independence Day ceremony are the addresses by the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. Last year, Belizeans witnessed the worst and most inappropriate speech ever by a Leader of the Opposition when Johnny Briceno behaved like a political junkie in a time the country was mourning the father of the nation. This year, in his first Independence address as Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca was determined not to repeat such a performance. He started by referring to documented accounts of July 16th, 1981, the day that Price announced Belize was going to gain its Independence at the Civic Center. He spoke about the emotional reception of that message. He continued with a summary of the days leading up to September 21st, 1981 and the night that the Union Jack was pulled down and the Belize flag raised to the sound of the independent Belize National Anthem. He reminded Belizeans that Price challenged us to be “Nation Builders” and asked that we embraced a spirit of unity during these difficult times. It was an inspiring speech to that point, Prime Ministerial even. Unfortunately, Fonseca could not refrain himself from ranting and going extremely divisive. He condemned this administration for not involving the Opposition in the decision making process – knowing well that the decisions being made are initiatives to fix messes that his party caused. Prime Minister Barrow did not allow himself to be drawn into a mud fight on Belize’s 31st Independence Day. He knows that the day is not about him or party politics. September 21st is about “Many Faces, Many Dreams, One Goal – Celebrating Belize”. PM Barrow said in the beginning of his address, “The theme for this year’s celebrations encapsulates the vision of the Father of the Nation. Today, we celebrate him even as we celebrate Belize.” He went on to outline what was a very proud year for Belizeans. In saying this, he spoke of Rowan Garel’s inspiring walk across Belize to raise funds for the BCVI’s camp for the visually impaired. He spoke of the firefighters who acted bravely and prevented a catastrophe from unfolding during the fire at the Western Gas Butane Company at Mile 4 and a half on the Western Highway. He spoke of the Cayo residents, who stood together in an effort to demonstrate clearly that acts of violence will no longer be tolerated upon our children. PM Barrow said, “I have great respect for their resolve which has resulted in the Cayo District having the lowest murder rate in the country.” In this proud year, he is reminded of the Inspiration Telethon, which saw over $1 million raised in a country with less than 400,000 people. He also spoke of Victor Lima, a police officer who was killed while responding to reports of an aggravated burglary in progress. Lima did not give his life in vain. It probably saved that of the home owner. In a proud year, PM Barrow is reminded of Doctors Adrian Coye and Joel Cervantes, who performed the country’s first open heart and spinal surgeries at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Finally, he is reminded of the efforts of the Debt Restructuring Team, who are fighting whole heartedly to save the very economy of our country.

Prime Minister Barrow also made two huge announcements during his Independence Day  address. He announced that the Government of Belize, in conjunction with the National Celebrations Commission, is officially naming the Western Highway the George Price Highway and the Northern Highway, the Phillip S.W. Goldson Highway. Those highways will look appropriate for the names they carry as soon as Government’s road safety project is executed. Safety features such as reflectors and lane lines will be painted on the highways. PM Barrow also announced that BTL’s 30 million 4G network will be rolled out in October and the Government-controlled BTL will continue to provide the best service in the country.