Belize to celebrate Independence Day

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 37            September 16, 1999

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I AM BELIZE
Heritage Poem

Pine, Cedar, Mahogany,
I the rain
As I overflow the Macal,
I am Belize
I bring life to the thirsty city,
I am Belize
The human beings
Black, Yellow, White and Brown.
Busy merchant, the farmer, the sweat laborer,
I am Belize
I money. Greedy, selfish money
Cruel master, humble servant
Yet I am Belize
I the trial and sorrow in every town,
The love and happiness in every home.
I am Belize
The people and lands, the forests and farms
I the sugar cane swaying in northern plains
I am Belize
I cockscomb
Alive with the spirit of the Baymen
Watch and guard, wonder and smile
I am Belize
I the citrus in Stann Creek
The fish, I coconuts
In the Cayes, I the Coral Reef
I am Belize.
I the brown dirt in the south
The rice of Toledo
White and grainy
I the dazzling skies and salty seas
I in all these
I am Belize.
My age is that of the Baymen
Buried deep in my heart forever in honor and pride
I am an old Belize
Aged in wisdom, old in experience
I am a young Belize
Fresh in the blood of new youth
Fine, upright and loyal
Whose spirit throb with love and hate,
Fire and zeal
I am Belize
I welcome tomorrow
So I'll root out the treason of yesterday
I live without fear
I will prosper and grow
For I am Belize
I will persevere
I am indestructible
I am great
For I in all these
I am BELIZE.

    As we get ready to CELEBRATE BELIZE, we should take time to recap the important people that help Belize gain its independence. The following information comes from the book "I love to tell the story" by Lawrence Vernon.

    In November 1980 the United Nations passed a resolution that called for the secure independence of Belize, with all its territory, before the next session of the U.N. in 1981. It further called on Britain to continue to defend Belize. The vote was overwhelming in favor, and it is interesting to note that for the first time even the U.S.A. voted in favor. The Organization of American States, which had previously taken Guatemala's side, now fully endorsed the U.N. resolution.

    At this juncture it appeared that Belize would soon become independent, but the problem was how to actually achieve this status with territorial integrity and security.

    Britain was still refusing to provide a defense guarantee, insisting that greater efforts be made to reach a settlement on the Guatemalan claim. Talks began in early 1981, resulting in a document popularly called the "Heads of Agreement" signed between Britain, Guatemala and Belize. The Belizean people, suspicious of any terms that would amount to land cession, rejected the document causing several days of rioting and the declaring of a state of emergency. It was expected that agreement was to be reached in future negotiations, but as time passed Belize and Guatemala were unable to agree on all points.

    The decision was taken, with the consent of the British government and the support of the international community, to proceed to independence and to continue efforts thereafter to develop peaceful and friendly relations with Guatemala.

    In July 1981, Britain agreed to maintain presence in Belize for an appropriate period to guarantee its defense.

    The Belize government, on 26 July, 1981, announced that the date for Belize's independence would be 21 September, 1981.

    Throughout all the international campaigning, lobbying and negotiations, although the right of the people to independence was intertwined closely with negotiations to end the Guatemalan Claim, Belize was unable to insist that it be regarded as a separate issue. The insistence was not successful.

    On 21 September, 1981, Belize became an independent nation and in Belize City, as well as towns and villages all over the country, a midnight flag raising ceremony was held. One month before, another major milestone in the constitutional history of Belize was reached with the passing through the House of Representatives and the Senate of a Bill for a constitution for the independent State of Belize. The basis of the Constitution is Christian principles and practices, and gives recognition to the dignity of the family and the principle of human rights for all Belizeans.

    It is worthy to note that this important occasion in Belize's constitutional advancement came 110 years after the country became a Crown colony; April 1871 being the date when the first session of the Legislative Council under Crown colony rule took place. The Constitution later evolved toward full internal self-government, with major amendments in 1954, 1960 and 1963.

    The Belize Constitution makes provision for the economic system to be operated in such a manner as to result in the material resources of the community distributed so as to allow for adequate means of livelihood for all. This will only come about if Belizeans become more conscious of their realities, of the economic, social and political environment in the nation, the region and the world.

Happy Independence Belize!!!


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