President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, Osmany Salas, made history today by being elected as the 13th Senator to represent the NGO community. The election was held in Belize City at the Belize Audubon Society headquarters where Salas became the victor after two rounds of voting. Hipolito Novelo has the story.
HIPOLITO NOVELO REPORTING
“Since the idea of the 13th Senator was introduced by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in 2008 as a manifesto promise, Osmany Salas has been elected to represent the non-governmental organizations in the Senate. From the twenty nine NGOs considered to be in good standing, twenty three cast their votes and after two rounds of voting, Osmany Salas, the President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, emerged as the victor. “
“Janelle Chanona – three; Juan Pablo Collado – 1; Donovan Reneau – 1; Edilberto Romero – 7; Osmani Salas – 11. No rejected ballots all of those came up to 23 total votes cast. That meant that we immediately went into the second round. The second round had two candidates, Eloberto Romero and Osmani Salas; their names were put on the ballot and at the end of that second round Eloberto Romero had 7 votes and Osmani had 16, zero rejected ballots; 23 votes total were cast.”
“The appointment of the 13th Senator was one of Barrow’s manifesto promises made in 2008. It was not until 2016 that the Prime Minister signed the commencement order to appoint the 13th Senator after tremendous pressure from the Belize National teacher’s Union.”
“I want to say again and I will never tire of saying it, a huge thank you to the teachers of our nation, to the BNTU, to the BNTU, the business community lead by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and industry and the Belize Business Bureau for all the struggles and all the members of civil society for really fighting and struggling to ensure that we get this opportunity to be represented in the senate and to be involved in the campaign in the work to improve governance in our country.”
“The voting and counting took less than an hour and Salas promises to work for the betterment of the NGO community.”
“I will depend and I will work very closely with our NGO community and the structures that we will put in place. I think we have really raised the bar we have set a precedent and I think we can’t go anywhere else but up. I am very proud of my colleagues, I am very happy to be a member of this community and I commit to serving the community all to ensure we are part of improving good governance and we can do our part to improve the lives of our people in this country.”
“Salas was chosen by 17 NGO’s from 29 NGOs that are considered in good standing. Some say that hardly a true representation of the community since the NGO community is made up of one 143 organizations.”
“There is an NGO act that we must abide by with the requirements set out in that act and the companies act as well so what transpired as Ms. Salam and other members of the committee have mentioned repeatedly is that the NGOs who participated in the process were the ones that were certified in good standing. There were a few who didn’t file their papers in time and I am a little disappointed in that for them because I would have wanted them to be involved in the process, we had mentioned repeatedly that there are 140 plus registered NGOs and it turned out that only 29 were able to file their papers and get in good standing and participate in the process. Now as we have mentioned several times our first order of business will be to organize the community to work with them to find out why the others are not in good standing and help them to get there because we will have to work with them, we will have to represent the entire community which covers a whole lot of areas. Just within the 29 NGOs that participated in this process there are a huge number of areas of work and needs and other issues that they represent that are represented so I would say that it is accurate that that small percentage contributed to make this decision but we will be representing the senator and the support structure that we will put in place we will be representing the entire community.”
“A meeting has been scheduled for January 24 with the wider NGO community where a term of reference for the NGO Senator will be established. It is also expected that members will discuss the formation of a council that would advise Salas.”
“Because we are cognizant in this room that not all of the NGOs in Belize were able to participate in this process so going forward the senator needs to be as well informed as possible on the seminal issues that affects us as NGOs.”
Salas’ name will be submitted to the Governor General by January 17.