Belize’s first Governor General Dame Minita Gordon will be laid to rest via a State Funeral on Wednesday, January 20 with internment at the Lord Ridge Cemetery in Belize City. Dame Minita is the only Governor General to have occupied what is now known as the House of Culture where her body will lie in state next week. The State Funeral will be a 3-day event starting with the arrival of Dame Minita’s remains at one thirty on Monday via an American Airlines flight. Briefing the media on the plans was Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Stuart Leslie along with Head of Protocol Tasha Cain.
Ambassador Stuart Leslie, Cabinet Secretary: “Dame Minita is scheduled to arrive at Philip Goldson International Airport at 12:49 on Monday the 18th of January. Upon her arrival ladies and gentlemen of the press there will be a ceremony at the airport, the ceremony is being coordinated by the Protocol Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the Belize Defence Force. The Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Minister Henry Charles Usher who is the Minister of the Public Service, Minister Dolores Balderamos Garcia along with the president of the Senate and her family members will be at the airport. Mrs. Kelorah Franklin who is the sister of Dame Minita will be accompanied by an officer of the Belize Defence Force and basically from there the procession and as Tasha said you have the route, the procession from the Philip Goldson to Coye’s Funeral Home and that would be it for the first day. Officially the period of mourning begins on Monday so as you all know flags will be brought down at half mast and so that’s our first day. The following day the arrival on the Tuesday the 19th of January is when we will have the body lay in state at the Belize House of Culture. 8:40am in the morning the cortege will arrive at the Belize Bank Limited and from there the procession will go to Government House for the beginning of ceremonies which we are inviting the press to cover live since we can’t have big crowds it has to be virtual and so there will be some officials there to view the body of the late Dame Minita and she will be there from 9:30 until 2:00 at the House of Culture. On Wednesday the state funeral for Dame Minita will start at the base of the Swing Bridge at 9:15 then at 9:30 we’re asking all churches to toll their bells countrywide. At 10 o’clock we have the arrival at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist. The Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Mayor of Belize City will all be there for what will be an ecumenical service to be celebrated by Bishop Philip Wright. We are inviting in addition to usual officials we are asking, because Dame Minita was so involved with the Girl Guide Association we’re inviting Commissioner of the Girl Guides Association as a special guest at the state funeral among others. Immediately following the church service we will proceed immediately to Lord Ridge Cemetery where she will be laid to rest.”
Official remembrances will be delivered by Prime Minister John Briceno and the Leader of the Opposition Patrick Faber. The eulogy will be presented by a family member. Dame Minita’s State Funeral is the third such to occur in Belize leaving officials with not much experience to mirror. Leslie explained that the planning has required heavy research. He added that the Cabinet had also approved a half day of work for public officers on the day of the funeral.
Ambassador Stuart Leslie, Cabinet Secretary: “We looked at funerals for former Governors General in the region and then we had to also look at Governors General who were not serving at the time because this is not a Governor General who died serving in office. We also studied very carefully protocol and the BDF studied very carefully what was done for Mr.Price’s state funeral and so it’s a hybrid of what we saw out there and from the other state funerals for Governors General and what we did for Mr.Price. One of the distinctions for example that the Prime Minister did that I forgot to mention was in the case of Mr.Price on the day of the funeral it was a national holiday, in the case of Dame Minita what the Prime Minister determined and Cabinet approved yesterday was a half day for public officers for those who might want to attend the funeral or who might want to watch it on television since you can’t really go out there for them to be home to show their respect for the former GG.”
Dame Minita passed away the day after her 90th birthday in Inglewood, California on January 1, 2021. Love News understands that she was ailing but had quietly slipped away.
Ambassador Stuart Leslie, Cabinet Secretary: “I was called in the morning the day after she died and basically Dame Minita had just celebrated her 90th birthday, she was at home. They couldn’t have a party for her because of COVID but her sister had gone over to see her, she was fine, there was nothing wrong with her and then the day after her birthday her sister Kelora went to visit her and she was non responsive so she called the ambulance and they took her to the hospital. Because of COVID Kelora could not go with her and so a couple hours later the hospital called her to tell her Dame Minita had died but she was no ailing per se as far as her sister told us she was in good spirits and in good form and they had lamented the fact that she couldn’t have a 90th birthday party.”
According to Cabinet Secretary Leslie the several agencies will be involved in the execution of the events over the three days including the Belize Defence Force, Belize City Traffic Department and the Belize Police Department. All units will play a key role including public control amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the next few days we will be keeping you updated on this historical moment for Belize.