The “Operation Stand Strong campaign” which COLA organized held a press conference featuring a panel to speak in solidarity with the Belize National Teacher’s Union. COLA’s objective was to show support for the eight demands the teachers are making from the government and to encourage the public to support Wednesday’s rally. Among the speakers were, COLA’s President Geovanni Brackett, Leader of PPHORPS Raymond Rivers, Belize Territorial Volunteer leader Wil Maheia, Belize progressive Party’s leader Patrick Rogers and Marissa Cervantes from St. John’s Junior College.
“Operation Stand Strong Campaign in support of the teachers.”
“I come here today this morning to take a stand. To take a stand in solidarity with the BNTU and to support their eight demands out of the many because we all must remember that this is just the beginning. The Union that is currently saving the youths and their future, my future, the union that fights national issues and demand good governance, a 3% salary adjustment, and laborer’s protection, people this is a revolution and I am a revolutionist. The BNTU does not promote violence but they call for a change. I stand against corruption and no the BNTU is not political. In 2005 the union stood against the PUP and now in 2016 they are standing up against the UDP.”
“I want to applaud the parents who have stuck with the teachers who have stuck with the BNTU for the past two weeks; without you this movement wouldn’t be what it is today. So parents I salute you. Ladies and gentlemen this is a time we cannot afford to back down, we have to stand strong with the BNTU.”
“There is a void in Belize for a liberal party and that is where the BPP doesn’t want to end up so we are certainly a labor movement aligned with the teachers and in 2005 the principals of our party were there in the streets with the teachers knowing that it was not a political issue then. Today the BPP stands in 100% solidarity with the teachers and again we know it is not a politically driven movement. It is a movement of hard working Belizeans. Some of our most honest Belizeans are right there amongst the rank and file of those teachers in the BNTU.”
“So you say that you can’t pay the teachers but you can pay John Saldivar’s sister to sit at home for a year and do nothing. You cannot pay the teachers but you can replace a $100,000 vehicle. You say you cannot pay our teachers but you can pay your brother millions in legal fees. You say you cannot pay the teachers but you make sure that your law partner and firm benefit from this stupid litigation with Ashcroft. You say you cannot pay the teachers but your son and cronies at BTL are reaping the benefits of our taxpayers dollars. You say you cannot pay the teachers but you can write off $25 million dollars for BTL. You say you cannot pay the teachers but you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ad campaigns against the teachers. You say you cannot pay the teachers but you spent hundreds of millions of PetroCaribe dollars just to ensure that you would win another term. You say you cannot pay the teachers but you allow your Ministers like Gaspar Vega to rape the Ministry of National Resources to make his own family and friends very wealthy. Millions of dollars where is it. Mr.Barrow it is not that you cannot pay the teachers, the reality is that your priorities are hopelessly skewed and you want to ensure that you and yours get their and to hell with the rest. We are here to tell you that we will not continue business as usual. We are here to tell you that business is now closed for the UDP corruption.”
We spoke with President of COLA, Geovanni Brackett after the press conference to find out what would be the steps to be taken to ensure good governance.
“The allegations against COLA sometimes is that there is a lot of talking, a lot of instigation but not a lot of pragmatic solutions towards getting people organized or to what your goals are.”
“COLA was the founding person for Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, we formed that, we formed campaigns like Build the base now. We found a tremendous amount of other campaigns, in fact we partnered with I want my country back to lead that mass demonstration. Organizing people is what we do and we have membership and we have done that. We’ve done it on bigger scale. I was the founding chairman of the mock referendum so those critiques we don’t mind but those who are informed know the worth of COLA.”
“Is there a plan after that?”
“Of course we have a campaign it’s called Operation Stand Strong. We are standing with the teachers and we are not about to be backed down. We’ve led several other campaigns we are not about to give the government our strategy. Campaigning for good governance with the teachers. Maybe when you meet the teachers this afternoon to see if they got the results that they wanted we can all discuss what is next. What we know now is what needs to done now and we need the things that the teachers are asking for.”
Around fifty people were in audience at the Radisson’s VIP room where the Press Conference was held.