And while there was some heated moments inside the National Assembly, outside its walls the heat was on as a large crowd of supporters of the United Democratic Party gathered at the steps of the National Assembly in support of the Referendum Bill. The crowd chanted and cheered on the government but the morning. We had anticipated some friction outside but the police presence was heavy and the day went by without major incident. Here are some of the highlights on Independence Hill.
Hansel Warrior Toledo East Resident: “We are here at the National Assembly steps to demonstrate, to send a signal that we want our rights restored back and we want to restore and exercise that right in a Referendum either we decide to go, yes or no.”
Dalila Ical: “Hansel Warrior a number of people traveled from Toledo to show support to the passing of the Belize Territorial Dispute Referendum Bill. Others came from various parts of the country. The crowd erupted when Prime Minister Dean Barrow arrived and made his way to them.”
Jose Garcia Armenia Village Resident: “I was ready for Wednesday and I had already made my decision because I believe that we have gotten so much information out there about what facts or what things we have on the table so that we can actually win this case and I truly support and I believe there is a strong case this time up which we are living to have a strong case to win.”
Hansel Warrior Toledo East Resident: “Wednesday should have been a Referendum day so that I as a Belizean should have exercised my democratic right to decide whether I wanted to go to the ICJ but we have so few mischief makers within the PUP who believed they are above the law, who believe that Belizean rights should not be respected so personally, I think that I am convinced that the PUP filed an injunction to them to deny Belizeans their democratic right to exercise whether they want to go or not to the ICJ.”
Dalila Ical: “Police were out in full force, Western Regional Commander Senior Superintendent of Police Lydon Flowers says they learned of the gathering ahead of today’s sitting at the House of Representatives but adds that the crowd did not obtain permission.”
Western Regional Commander Senior Superintendent of Police Lydon Flowers: “Nobody obtained a permit, today all the persons who came are individuals to support from their individual constituency. Nobody got a permit so nobody came in, in terms of if a group or an organization to say that so a number of persons brought their different plaques in support of what is going on here and so far it is going peacefully. People started gathering at 9 o’clock this morning and up to this end everything has been going peaceful.”
Dalila Ical: “And indeed the crowd was mostly calm except for two minor incidents during the Leader of the Opposition John Briceno’s address inside the house. At one moment a couple of men attempted to rattle the barricade but police quickly stepped in. Not too long after members of the crowd took a PUP shirt and set it on fire but nothing came out of that. These supporters say they are eager to settle the matter once and for all.”
Finnegan Junior Toledo West Resident: “We have been waiting for this time, we are Belizeans, we want Belize for Belize, we want the Guatemalan claim to end and they don’t want it to end. This is what they are doing in the House of Representatives. I think it is time to end, let us close the door and get it over with, we have been with it for such a long time.”
Hansel Warrior Toledo East Resident: “We have a strong case. I am confident that we will win at the ICJ so we are here this afternoon to demonstrate and to tell this nation we want our rights back to vote in the referendum either we vote yes or no.”
Jose Garcia Armenia Village Resident: “I feel like they are getting more politicized and they are trying to delay more to make confusion for the people and of course that happens and then people start to think should I even go to polls to vote or not or just stay home. It is just getting like in a term that it will be getting out of the main objective which is going out there either for a yes or a no vote. It is very hard for Guatemala, I have realized that for Guatemala to reach an agreement on taking this matter to the court and now that both countries have decided and reached the agreement to do so why should we wait and wait for some other years for them probably in the future to say you know what your opportunity is gone. We are not ready for it and maybe things in the south which is the Sarstoon and the Chiquibul will be getting into very serious trouble and probably Belize, all of Belize because then more conflict you know and that is the worse thing to have. We do not want to have neighbors having a conflict with us.”
The crowd dispersed by midafternoon, well ahead of the conclusion of the Sitting of the House of representatives.