Inaugural Opening of the 13th National Assembly
The first meeting of the House of Representatives under the leadership of Prime Minister John Briceño was an outdoor affair in Belmopan this morning. A host of dignitaries and other invited guests were socially distant under a large tent where they sat and witnessed the administering of the oath of office, as well as remarks delivered by the Governor General and the new Head of Government. At the ceremonial sitting, two new women parliamentarians were introduced as President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, respectively. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was in attendance and has the following story.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The ceremonial opening of the thirteenth National Assembly was made complete with an inaugural sitting of the House of Representatives, led by Prime Minister John Briceno. From the dais, the new Head of Government commenced the maiden parliamentary session with much pomp and circumstance, beginning with the playing of Belize’s national anthem.
Held outside of the Assembly Building at Independence Plaza, the gathering saw a majority of the elected officials on both sides of the floor in attendance. Presiding over the introductory sitting was incoming House Speaker Valerie Woods whose oath of office was also administered today.
Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House
“I thank the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for reposing sufficient confidence in nominating me and to the Leader of the Opposition and all honorable members for electing me. I’m only the fourth woman of twelve speakers of the House of
Representatives for Belize.”
On the other side of the floor are Leader of the Opposition Patrick Faber, Deputy Party Leader and Corozal North Area Representative Hugo Patt, Albert Area Representative Tracy Panton, Mesopotamia Area Representative Shyne Barrow and his aunt, Queen Square Area Representative Denise ‘Sista B’ Barrow. They too were administered the oath of office.
Oath of Office
“I do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Belize. I will uphold the constitution and the law and I will conscientiously impart readily and to the best of my ability, discharge my duties as a member of the House of Representatives and do right to all manner of people without fear or favor, a question or… So help me God.”
Following the delivery of the government’s speech by Governor General Sir Colville Young, Prime Minister Briceño addressed the meeting.
Prime Minster John Briceño
“We gather this morning in Belmopan on Independence Hill to participate in a ceremony steeped in tradition. Ceremonial openings of the National Assembly have been held nine times since Independence on September 21st, 1981. These proceedings, with the attendant pomp and ceremony, are an important symbol of Belizean governance, a democratic Central American nation in the heart of the Caribbean basin. The Belize constitution proclaims, as a foundational principle, that we believe that the will of the people shall form the basis of government in a democratic society in which the government is freely elected by universal adult suffrage and in which all persons may, to the extent of their capacity, play some part in institutions of national life and thus develop and maintain due respect for lawfully constituted authority.”
The People’s United Party, as the Government of Belize, is now charged with carrying out its term of office.
Prime Minister John Briceño
“On November 11th, 2020, quietly, at physical distance with minds made up,
Belizeans joined lines across this beautiful jewel of ours, of the one hundred and eighty-two thousand, eight hundred and fifteen registered voters, a hundred and forty-nine thousand, six hundred and fifty electors went to the polls. A remarkable eighty-one point eight-six percent of those entitled to elect representatives, risked contracting the dreaded COVID-19 virus and solemnly exercised their right. They voted. That sacred act, marking a mark on a ballot, is the ultimate act of people’s power. I stand here, proud but humble, as the leader of the People’s United Party whose candidates collectively received eighty-eight thousand and forty votes or fifty-eight point eight-three percent of all votes cast. Therefore, the government I lead has been given a strong and unquestioned mandate to implement Plan Belize.”
Inaugural Parliamentary Address was Melancholic
P.M. Briceño’s address during this morning’s ceremony served a number of purposes, including a call to action for all Belizeans to continue adhering to all COVID-19 protocols. The speech was delivered amid melancholy, following the passing of Dido Vega, but it also served to contextualize the economic and health and wellness state of affairs of the country. We caught up with the prime minister on adjournment of the house meeting.
Prime Minister John Briceño
“It’s a somber moment actually, in my speech I wasn’t too triumphalist, I was more somber and trying to alert Belizeans to understand that we are in the midst of the worst crisis this country has ever seen, both health and economic and that the government can do everything as much as possible to fix things but if Belizeans do not participate, if they do not help, we are going to lose this battle and that‘s my message. You have to help us, that is why we are telling people try to maintain your distance. If you notice today, not even our families came because we wanted to give that example to show how serious it is. For Christmas, please, no Christmas parties, you know, and we said for companies, we have our frontline workers that have been risking their lives and instead of spending it on parties let’s give something to our frontline workers. Let’s show an appreciation for them and instead of throwing parties, give food to your neighbors, to people that don’t have. Let’s share, let’s do everything possible for us to be able to go through this crisis, both financially and health-wise together and I believe and have every confidence that we are going to succeed.”