BELMOPAN, Belize -- Belize's Governor General, Sir Colville Young, has spoken out against the upsurge of violent crime in the country at a function to mark the 29th anniversary of independence from the United Kingdom.

Speaking on Monday night to dignitaries, including Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and more than 28 diplomats including the Ambassadors of United States, Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico, Guatemala, as far as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Spain, Cyprus, Egypt, and Austria and the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, Sir Colville said, "Belize is not, and never will be, a land of murderous thugs, even if an underworld of criminals wants that. Let us, as the saying goes, accentuate the positive: Belize, beautiful in its diversity, overwhelmingly friendly and law abiding, united and proud, moving forward. Yes, we are Belize, land of the free."

Governor General, Sir Colville Young
The Governor General said, "The year 2010 finds Belize at the crossroads, where the vast majority that is comprised of decent, friendly and law-abiding Belizeans seems more and more to be at the mercy of a tiny majority, that, sad to say respect neither our laws nor human life itself."

He added, "We see children gunned down simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, our brothers and sisters terrorized for seeing the wrong thing done by heartless wretches, and mothers and fathers crying out in anguish as they no longer recognize the beautiful jewel they grew up in."

Sir Colville said that he received more than a dozen congratulatory messages from world leaders, but read only one - from the President of the United States, Barack Obama, which read in part, "The United States and Belize share a close relationship based on our common fundamental values - a strong commitment to democracy, good governance, and public safety. The United States deeply appreciates and honors our close relationship with Belize and looks forward to working together to address the challenges of the 21st century."

Belize is a member of both the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is said to be the bridge to unite the Caribbean with Central American countries.

The anniversary celebrations, which started three weeks ago, come to an end this weekend.

Twenty-five people received national awards last Friday night for their sterling contributions to the country,

At midnight on Monday night there were flag raising ceremonies at Belmopan and Belize City, followed by fireworks.

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