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#399290 - 02/02/11 09:36 AM Cola Camps Out In Front PM’s Office
Marty Online   happy
Tonight, a group of about three dozen protestors are camped out in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Belmopan - and they intend to sleep right there!

Their issue is oil exploration in protected areas and they pulled up at the office this morning, Cabinet Tuesday, in symbolic force. 7news was there:….

Jules Vasquez Reporting
The big white bus with a COLA banner on the front grill pulled up at the administration building at 10:00 am and when we saw Belizean for Justice member Joan Sutherland walk out with her pillow in hand - we knew it was on!

And so did the police who were waiting with Assistant Commissioner David Henderson in command - and he laid down the law.

David Henderson, Assistant ComPol
"You all just cannot assembly together; it is illegal for 5 or more to assembly together. It is illegal. If you all will protest then you need to move on and you cannot assembly here."

"But we are not protesting."

David Henderson, Assistant ComPol
"You all are dictating yourself. I will not argue. All i have to say is that you must abide by the rule of law. If you don't abide by the rule of law then the law will take its course."

The protestors committed not to break any law and regrouped with a re-statement of purpose:

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"We are not protesting so they can't charge us for protesting. We are calling for a ban against offshore drilling and oil exploration in protected areas."

"This is direct action; it's not a protest but direct action."

And the first direct action was to make themselves at home, right in front of the Administration building - Brackett had his quilt, Jihad McClaren Breezed out under a coconut tree and even got in a few reps.

Brackett had his kit bag fully equipped and even brought relevant reading material.

While Karim Mawema set up a tent on the lawn - he called it the operational headquarters which he quickly moved into.

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"I am just setting up a camp in front of the Prime Minister office for 24 hours to say Mr. PM listen to the poor people. Nobody is listening to us."

Jules Vasquez
"I see men lying down on the ground, so your tent is the envy of everyone else."

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"Headquarter central."

Jules Vasquez
"You have your conference room?"

Karim Mawema, Executive Member - COLA
"Yes sir. Anytime the Prime Minister or anybody willing to talk and sit down - they can come inside. The poor people are ready to listen. Anytime you ready."

But not just content to sit around - or snack on Johnny cakes and powdered bun, the group also marched around the front of the building until they were stopped - and then the group of about 30 they just re-routed - making their point just as effectively:

And while we don't know who was or wasn't watching form behind that tinted glass

Their mission was clear - gathering signatures:

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"We are calling on the Belizean public to sign the petition to carry this matter to a referendum. Why? Because we want the people of Belize to decide how will the oil industry be developed. Not the government. We are here to sleep for 24 hours to raise awareness."

Moses Sulph
"All we are saying is that the people of this country must have a say. The people of this country must start benefitting from our resources."

And while oil exploration in marine and terrestrial protected areas was the frontline issue, representatives from COLA, Belizeans for justice and BIGYEA made it a catch all event for a panorama of social ills:

Yolanda Schackron, Belizeans For Justice
"Every day our children go to school without eating, our children are hungry. Mothers don't have jobs. All they want is an opportunity; all we want in this country is for every Belizean to have equality and to live with dignity."

Rufus X, COLA
"Belizeans have to realize that this is the time they have to fight for what is theirs or they are going to lose it completely. Jules, we are just about losing it, we have almost lost it."

Jihad McClaren, Commoners
"National security is not working for us, immigration is not working for us, the oil ain't working for us, we just have a new gang suppression unit, all what they do is beat up and taser people."

Aaron Luriano, Participant
"Put politics aside, put all that aside and let us come back as one Belizean brother and sister and work together. It's the only way we will better this place. I can't take it anymore, straight."

Douglas Orozco, Participant
"I just have a little daughter and the way things are going now....I am educated; trust me I know what is happening. And we have to gather like this. Trust me, it will be hell, once all the youths that is behind us come out and support, and I don't want it to be so."

And while power concedes nothing without a demand, political power does not bow to a crowd of thirty:

Jules Vasquez
"I imagine, maybe the ministers will leave through the back, there is a back door which is customarily used. So they will just ignore you and it will have no effect on their deliberations, on their state of mind because they deal in mass numbers and if you don't have 2 thousand people then they know in their mind they won't lose an election that's what they are thinking. How do you all respond to that?"

Moses Sulph
"I would want the Prime Minister to understand that this is just a sneeze that can turn into a real dangerous cold."

Yolanda Schackron, Belizeans For Justice
"We think that this is just a beginning, it's the beginning. We believe that as Belizeans we need to unite, we need to send a message to our leaders. We put them there and we will take them out if necessary - vote them out. We need to let our Prime Minister listen to the cry of the people because the suffering out there it's really a lot."

Geovanni Brackett, Vice President - COLA
"Be glad that it's just the 3 organizations representatives that are out here. Be glad that the climax haven't reached the point whereby you have Egypt, where a man burned himself and you have 40-50 thousand people up in arms. Be glad that your people are still willing to negotiate and communicate but don't take this as a step to fool yourself to continue to live in a dream or a bubble that the people aren't fed up, just be glad that it is what it is right now."

At news time Brackett told us that others have joined them and they are 40 strong at this hour. He says that if anyone wants to help - they can bring tea for them tomorrow morning. There was no encounter between the Prime Minister and the protestors when he left this evening.

The event was staged to coincide with the UNESCO deadline of February first for the government to issue a suitable response on banning oil exploration in and around marine world heritage sites or face the risk of having those sites de-listed.

Channel 7

#399300 - 02/02/11 09:50 AM Re: Cola Camps Out In Front PM’s Office [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy


Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA today started a twenty four hour demonstration in Belmopan. The move has been made against government’s slow response to the organization’s request to stop oil exploration in protected areas within Belize and offshore. COLA is also the chair for the Belize Coalition to save our Natural Heritage. Love News spoke to Giovanni Brackett, the Vice president for COLA.

Giovanni Brackett - Vice president for COLA
“Cola, Executive members, you know have not reached to a point where we have gotten enough of the Government still ignoring our cries. But we are continuing to call on the Government to ban offshore drilling and ban Oil Exploration in protected areas. We have a petition drive going around and today a movement to come up here to Belmopan on a bus marked COLA, to continue to call on the Government to ban Oil Exploration offshore and in Protected Areas. We are calling on Belizeans to sign the petition, to let's take this issue to a referendum, not to let the Government decide if they will drill in our Offshore and in our Protected Areas, but let the people of Belize decide, where we want to drill, how we will drill, how the Oil Industry will be developed, that will be beneficial to the Belizean people, and today is the symbolic day, because it's the day that UNESCO has given Government the deadline to respond to its' concerns. Within the list of concerns was one statement from UNESCO that says, Oil Exploration within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is prohibited. Government has continued to ignore that single fact, that if you meet all the other corrective measures that UNESCO has set forth and you continue to drill that you will be dualistic. How can we support a Government who is willing to jeopardize our patrimony. And that's why we are taking a stand here today.”

Dalila Ical – Reporter
“How long do you plan to be out there?”

Giovanni Brackett - Vice president for COLA
“Twenty four hours. We’ve been here from ten o'clock, we're going to move tomorrow morning. But during the day we'll have different group discussions, we're going to also be breaking up into groups, Big E has supported us, bringing food for us. People who want to support the Movement can come out join us at least for an hour or two, they can bring food to support the movement.”

Joining the organizations are the members of Belizeans for Justice, and Nigel Petillo, President of the Belize Grass Roots Youth Empowerment Association and others.



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