The Government has taken a step back on its decision to refer to the October 12 holiday as Dia de la Raza. The decision was met with much opposition and criticism in the court of public opinion. Initially, it was thought that the government was bowing to the public pressure, but it turns out that there were some communication kinks along the way.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Ministries: “We had formed a committee to determine the holidays for 2022. That committee had met and made certain decisions as it relates to the holidays for next year and it went to Cabinet for approval. Unfortunately at that cabinet meeting I was out of the country and Cabinet had made a decision to have October 12th as a holiday. Now in terms of the actual name for the day that was not decided at Cabinet. We only revisited that matter yesterday but apparently I think it was some two weeks ago when the government press office had published the list of holidays and as I understand it it was because there was pressure coming from the printers who print the calendars for next year to have an idea of what the holidays were going to be. And so in that first list it was erroneously placed as Dia de la Raza because like I mentioned no decision had been made in terms of the name itself. October 12th for many countries goes under different names and of course has different meanings as you have rightly seen over the last two weeks. I know that there has been a lot of lash back because of that first publication and yesterday I am thankful that when I was present we were able to discuss the matter and all of Cabinet unanimously agreed that the proper name for October 12th should be Indigenous People’s Resistance Day to acknowledge and to recognize the survival , the struggle and the resistance of indigenous people in Belize in particular the Mayas and so that is a day October 12th is not going to be Dia de la Raza as I mentioned that has been rectified and there is the name change so to speak. I actually signed it yesterday after the Cabinet meeting and so that will be published as the new holiday.”
Another public and bank holiday that the public has taken issue with is the subtraction of the May 24 holiday dubbed as Commonwealth Day or Sovereign’s Day. As of next year, this will no longer be dubbed a holiday. Minister Musa says that the decision came with consultations with members of the private sector.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Ministries: “That committee had met to come up with a proposal for the number of holidays for next year and like I mentioned that then went to Cabinet for approval but that first recommendation coming from these partners had left in Sovereign’s Day. So when it went to Cabinet Cabinet removed Sovereign’s Day and replaced it with October 12th so there was a change that happened at that Cabinet and like I said I was not there. Commonwealth day is not as far as I’m aware celebrated in other countries as a holiday. Yes you do recognize it but it’s not celebrated as a holiday. Belize might be one of the few or the last countries in th world to actually acknowledge that day Commonwealth Day as a holiday. Other countries have it as Labor Day but our Labor Day is celebrated on May 1st. So May 24th is no longer going to be a holiday, yes we can recognize it and all of that but it’s not going to be a holiday. Definitely we have too many holidays I think the chamber would say we still have one too many and so they would want to see one removed so we might work on that for 2023.”
Minister Musa says there was also considerations to remove Boxing Day as a public and bank holiday. But for now, it remains a day-off.