Juan Alamilla, the master of ceremonies for the occasion welcomed visiting party leaders - Hon. Henry Young, Minister of Tourism and the Environment, Hon. Eduardo Juan, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Cayo South Standard Bearer, John Saldiver, Belize Rural South Standard Bearer Louis Sylvestre and Executive Committee member Mark Cuellar. Mayor Heredia welcomed party members telling them it was his pleasure to speak on the occasion. "Your UDP has done a good job, already you have seen a difference in San Pedro. It is not my intention to criticize those before us, everyone has heart who serves their community. San Pedro now has had a chance to compare - a party that has served the community, the people not a party. I have tried to serve everybody, regardless of where you come from - to give a home you want to enjoy. Over the past 2½ years you are the judges - nobody has been victimized, everybody has benefitted. Even if there is a change (in the future election) we have had respect for everyone. Some of the PUP is pledging support of the UDP for town board. We promised to do better, and we have done even better than that."
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Henry Young, began his address by saying, "The message today is very simple. If the convention today was held by the opposition you would be seeing banners, T-shirts, free food and drinks. As far as the UDP is concerned nothing is free, somebody has to pay for it. And what they give, the people pay for. This town board is a bold government. It is only two plus years that the UDP has had the opportunity to serve and they have done that with a clear voice and clear conscience. They have collected your taxes and used them with accountability.
Prior to this town board there were problems with law and order, problems with land distribution, problems with medical services and problems within the tourist industry. Government has worked with San Pedro to make sure law and order were established, not only in San Pedro but in the entire country. I dare anybody to look me in the face and say crime against tourists has not been reduced to the lowest level in Central America.
We have moved forward in ways that are meaningful;
1.Tour guide training and licensing has been set up for Belizeans or Belizeans with acquired nationality to guide - we have started to implement and it's not discriminatory - it ensures that guides are equipped to perform the services they sell.Hotel bookings look good - Belize is being marketed as a country, ruins, rain forest, barrier reef. What's in store for San Pedro? Next week the extension of the airstrip runway will begin. Small aircraft will be able to come directly to San Pedro bypassing the International Airport. Customs and Immigration will be located in San Pedro.
2. The problem of not having safe and sufficient water has been addressed to the tune of 26 million.
3. The BTIA and BTB and other interested parties have worked together to the effect that no more taxes will be attached to the tourism industry. Taxes at parks and ruins have been cut in half. VAT as it affects the industry will be looked at. Some businesses at below the $100,000 level have been have been suffering, VAT is affecting their cost of existence. In January we will come back and say some VAT tax has been removed (from certain items).
Condo laws will be modified.
We will be improving on the electricity supply to the island with a better electricity supply.
I am able to say that it's only fair that you think carefully, that you elect people to carry on the business of San Pedro. It's not easy to accomplish a lot in two years - if you give people from the UDP the opportunity they will complete the projects and see things finalized."
On a more serious note, the Minister reflected that the UDP had held a national convention to determine the party's leadership. "This may not seem significant, but it's important to me so I want to share with you. When you are elected as a representative you don't just serve the people who voted for you, you serve the entire country, all the people. When the PUP held their convention they made an agreement - no banners, no T-shirts. Married people make agreements. I am a married person and I, like those of you who are married, have agreements I am supposed to keep. I am concerned with the new leader of that party (PUP). He won in a way we cannot respect, he broke the first agreement. He said he didn't know who did it and there stood his wife beside him wearing one of the T-shirts.
If you want to be leader, you have to abide by certain rules. When we look at the leadership of the UDP, Honourable Manuel Esquivel, he has made us understand that we inherited problems and the things that have to be done. He made the conditions clear to the nation and steered the course. I can stand here today and say to you that in January, February and March the government will be able to report more good news. We will prevail in March in San Pedro - the difference is clear - you have seen this town being developed in a way that is pleasing and peaceful. There's the usual haul and pull, but most of you are enjoying and sharing.
Make sure you vote when the town board elections are held. There are countries where people die to cast a vote. Just because things are good doesn't mean you don't have to cast your vote."
John Saldiver in his remarks said he shared Minister Young's views about the UDP party and said that over the past two years there had been occasions it would have been easy to disassociate from the party because of the hard times, but now they are over and everyone will reap the benefits the Prime Minister has revealed are coming. "Electricity is going down, phones are going down, the cane farmers will be able to buy duty free gas in the Free Zone. Thanks for keeping the faith, in the end it will be the UDP who will bring us into the 21st century and now that we are getting the benefits, please give the Prime Minister the praise - he took the blame."
Commenting on the positive development of San Pedro under the UDP town board leadership, Mark Cuellar encouraged the party to support the new candidates for town board. "They will give nourishment to the good leadership that has proven itself." He told the party members that they are the party's ambassadors and and must go out and give the message. "We call this campaign HTH - house to house. A party that does not develop its people does not deserve to be in government. It is our duty to make sure the leadership of San Pedro has continuity and only then will you see San Pedro and its people and the country of Belize progress."
Reminding San Pedranos of the peaceful and progressive community they live in, Louis Sylvestre commended Deputy Prime Minister Dean Barrow on the progress made in the war on crime and the end of gang wars. He praised Prime Minister Esquivel for keeping a course that was unpopular and gave him credit that the Belize dollar had not been devalued.
Minister Juan opened his remarks by saying he loved to work with the San Pedro Town Board, that San Pedro was the most advanced town in the country. "When my secretary tells me that the mayor or deputy mayor of San Pedro is on the phone, I tremble and think what more do they want?" Juan invited the audience to attend the inauguration of the new water and sewer plant, stating that it was second to none in Central America and was vital to the people of San Pedro and the country's number one tourist destination. He cited Cuellar and Sylvestre as two of the most loyal former PUP party members, and said they left the PUP because of George Price's romance with Said Musa and Assad Shoman. "Now Price has been forced out, yes, forced out. Said and Ralph told George get out before we get you out because the PUP is run by two people - Ashcroft and our Coca Cola friend Barry Bowen. Don't let Said and Ralph tell you different, it's true. Who's responsible for the bankrupt country? Said and Ralph. I am here to tell you our economy is vibrant. I am not here to talk about promises, the promises have been done. Now government is discussing reducing VAT - taking off 100 more items - we will never promise to throw away the VAT, the country cannot exist without people paying taxes."
Nominations from the floor were received and the seven candidates were nominated and endorsed by party members. Deputy Mayor Fidel Ancona gave the vote of thanks.