She's Ms. Froyla Tzalam of the Toledo district, an educator and
advocate who has become the first indigenous woman to be named
Governor-General in any commonwealth country.
Her appointment has been in the works for over a month now, ever since
Sir Colville young, demitted office at the end of April.
With approval from the Palace in the UK, the transition was completed
this morning with a ceremonial passing of the flag, as Tzalam took up
the post of Head of State and the most senior diplomat in the country,
Governor-General of Belize. Cherisse Halsall reports:
Belize's Froyla Tzalam is a Mopan Maya leader, gender equality activist,
researcher, and educator.
And today with all the requisite pomp and ceremony, she was installed as
Belize's 3rd Governor General.
It was an historic installation all around with the first indigenous G.G.
in the Commonwealth, sworn in by a Garifuna woman, Chief Justice Michelle
Arana, and supported by Ensign Melissa Jones of the Belize Coast Guard, who
becomes the first female aide de camp to be assigned to a G.G.
This singular appointment was spearheaded by Prime Minister John Briceno's
Cabinet after an ageing Sir Collville Young stepped down from the post.
Today the PM praised her elevation as yet another move in leadership for
Hon. John Briceno - Prime Minister of Belize
"For the first time in almost 40 years of independence a Mayan, Belizean
woman from the south, actually from San Antonio Toledo, is the
representative of our head of state. This in and of itself is historic not
only for Belize but for our region, I am now told throughout the
Commonwealth. I am sure that this makes all Belizeans very proud."
Especially proud though are Mayan Belizeans those who got to hear the
governor General's opening remarks in their own native language.
H.E. Froyla Tzlam - Governor General of Belize
"(Speaking Mayan) I am honoured to stand before you today as a Belizean
Mopan woman and to express my deep ---and gratitude for this recognition I
am very aware of the responsibility that comes from holding this office and
I will do my work as I have done elsewhere with passion and commitment to
do good to the best of my ability. For us in Belize we're beginning to
understand that there is more than one way to live. More than one way to
talk, more than one way to see reality, as someone who has been vocal and
passionate about our culture and history and looking at how society is
organized the office of governor general can provide a platform for
unifying our diverse voices. I will do my part to empower Belize at all
levels from the individual to the national. Many roots people and others
have expressed their pride and happiness in seeing someone like them
reflected in the highest office in Belize. All children can now aspire to
be a Governor General, no matter their background."
Unlimited dreams in an unlimited vision of Belize but not without a nod to
tradition and to the past.
Hon. John Briceno
"You have to pass on the torch and tonight the torch was passed on to a new
governor general, Governor General Froyla Tzlam, a woman of distinction, a
woman who has served this country exemplarily, highly educated but more
than highly educated she has been a woman of the soil, a maya woman, a
Mopan maya woman who's very proud of her heritage. And we believe that she
is going to do a wonderful job in representing all Belizeans. We always
claim that Belize is a melting pot of so many different ethnicities and our
G.G. now exemplifies what is the true Belizean-ness and we are very happy,
we're very excited, and we wish her all the best and as a government we
want to be able to commit ourselves to be able to cooperate with her to the
best of our abilities."
Now it's left to be seen if this indigenous woman GG will be a state
figurehead, or if she will use her high office and her high profile as an
indigenous woman to transform a traditionally very staid post into
something that helps uplift her people - from centuries of oppression
brought on by the same monarchy she now represents - a rare opportunity to
turn history on its head.
Notably, the Prime Minister would only consent to speak on one issue,
which is the GG's appointment.
Tzalam's appointment is also being applauded by many of the
organizations that she has served in.
First, the Toledo Maya Council called the appointment the recognition
of Ms. Tzalam's decades of research, advocacy, and leadership in
promoting the historical and cultural contributions of Indigenous and
traditional peoples to our national patrimony, history -- and most
importantly, to our future.
She was also praised by SATIIM, where she was the Executive Director.
They say that Tzlam's installation quote: "brings them full circle."
with this high recognition of a Mopan Maya woman's knowledge, skills,
and experience. End quote
The G.G. also received praise from APAMO, the Association for the
management of protected areas, they called their former chairlady's
appointment "distinguished and unprecedented, expressing their
confidence that Her Excellency Froyla T'zalam's long-established
career, education, skills, and accomplishments have prepared her to
fully execute this noble position."