If one were to ask most Belizeans who are 45 years or older where they were at about 11:59 pm on Sunday, 20th September 1981, they would perhaps say they were at a Flag Raising Ceremony in their town or city or listings to it on radio, awaiting the stroke of midnight when the sirens would roar, fireworks would light up the sky, cannons would sound off , as the Union Jack would be lowered for the last time. In itís place a brand new Belizean flag would be hoisted for the very first time. The new nation of Belize would be born. Although it all happened 35 years ago on that rainy September night, it is fresh in most of our minds as if though it happened a day or two ago.

What followed on the 21st day was the actual reading of the proclamation and the delivery of the instrument that granted us our Independence from the United Kingdom .We unlike many of our Central American brothers and sisters did not have to go to war for our independence . For us it was gained without bloodshed.

That day was also filled with merrymaking and joy , as Belizeans from all walks of life partied together as one people. We had many World Leaders including those from most of the Caribbean and Central America. Some countries were not represented by their Leaders but were represented by some other highly placed individuals. Belizeans were gracious hosts, the place was clean and well decked out for the arrival of this brand new baby called Independence.

Belize has come a long way since Independence. A lot has been accomplished in the thirty five years since independence and we have much further to go. Some people appear to be still at one of those 1981 parties. There have been EIGHT General Elections since our independence and there has been a change of government in FIVE of those General Elections. Each of those elections including those where there has been a change of government has been peaceful. In this country we have a proud history and tradition of respecting the decision of the people. It has not however been only positives that we have seen. Sad to say, weíve had our share of the negatives. We could say that that is a natural part of life. There have been people, who perhaps for greed and their own selfishness have slowed down the growth of this country. Those people still continue to do so up to this day. In the spirit of Independence we wonít call names or give instances of those occurrences at this time. You the readers know exactly who those persons are and what they have done.

Then there is perhaps the greatest and most recent occurrence that has negatively affected us , the violence and bad blood amongst mostly our urban youth population. We donít speak of it so often, either out of fear of reprisals or we just donít care enough to do anything to try and slow down or stop the situation. Even families it seems are afraid to do anything about youths in those families who are involved in the thuggish behavior. Those families prefer to suffer in silence. Then there are some people who prefer to live in burglar barred houses with our alarms, cameras, security guards and guard dogs. All the while pretending, that it does not concern us or will not happen to us, until one day when the situation is visited upon us by way of a home invasion by a stranger or that family member they chose to have kept silent about.

Even with all the negatives that have taken place, there are a lot of good things that have happened in this country. Just over the last year alone we can report on many of the things that have gone right for us. Take for example, the improvement to our sporting facilities and our highways. Tourism has also been doing good. Agriculture is doing good despite climate change. Our trade in marine products have been doing good. Aquaculture it seems is about to make a comeback after that sector was almost wiped out by diseases. Never before have we seen more Belizeans being educated at the highest level. Just look at how many Belizeans have returned home from their studies abroad and are now doing their part to build this nation. All these things put Belizeans to work, so that they are able to sustain themselves and educate themselves.

Then there is the safety net that government provides for the less fortunate Belizeans, through itís various social programs with the intent of giving people a hands up rather than a hands out. Our people now, unlike before Independence, enjoy freedom of speech .That freedom of speech is sometimes used in a negative way, but that is a risk we will take anytime over censorship. Belizeans are now using our courts to ensure that their rights are not violated. We are now set to shape the type of Belize we want to be. Here at this newspaper we take this opportunity to implore Belizeans to play their part in developing this country. Belize can only develop if we all do our part as Belizeans, as shareholders. Please join us in saying HAPPY 35th INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY BELIZE. LONG LIVE BELIZE!

Amandala