On Wednesday, February 15th, 2012, the first ever Belize Rural South Standard Bearers debate was held in San Pedro at the Sunbreeze Hotel Conference Room. Candidates Mike Campbell, Patty Arceo, Bobby Lopez and Manuel Heredia Jr. squared off on topics ranging from crime and corruption to education and tourism. Over the next few days we will be presenting a verbatim transcript of all the questions, answers and rebuttals by each candidate for you to view, read and discuss in detail. We now get to our second topic… Caye Caulker
The Topic is Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker residents say the feel forgotten, neglected and only remembered at elections time. Do you think this is true and how do you intend to change this perception?
Robert “Bobby” Lopez:
If the people of Caye Caulker say so then it is true. I have been working with the schools in Caye Caulker since 2005 when I introduced the Lion’s Quest Light Skills Program to this country. I visit Caye Caulker at least 4 or 5 times a year and I got to know many parents, teachers and the principal. And because I work so close with them and because they are such a passionate group of people Caye Caulker emerged at the model school in the Lion’s Quest, so much that it will be featured in a film to be done in September. They have been neglected, I have heard that over and over, and when I walked the new site in the last weekend and the people showed me where the alligators come out, and the parents showed me how their children have to walk with their tennis in their hand to get to school during the high tide and the rainy season, they have been forgotten, neglected and that’s what my song says, Caye Caulker feels that they are” out of range”. Thank you
Well, I have to agree, if they say it, it’s because they are feeling it. And I guess that they are feeling that since 2003. Caye Caulker is like our little sister; we have to take care of her. And the things is with Caye Caulker is that they are also growing very fast. There are issues that need to be addresses. I firmly believe that the Central Government must and should be working hand in hand with the village council, not only during election time but throughout the year. The thing is with Caye Caulker in 1998 and 2003, when we were able to serve them. When we went in there Caye Caulker needed a lot of help, especially when it came with infrastructure. I am very happy to hear that finally the beach will be reclaimed, because back in 2000 when the beach was reclaimed in Caye Caulker, it transformed completely the island, and the good thing about it is that the business was owned by local business people. When it came to the health, we were able to allocate a new doctor, and also a fulltime nurse at the Caye Caulker health center. We were able to open new streets and also able to put new lamp posts with light right there in Caye Caulker. On the north side we were able to allocate close to 265 lots and in Bahia Puesta del Sol, which is a new subdivision, we were able to about 250 lots to the residents of Caye Caulker. Caye Caulker, also the central back pier was rebuilt, because they needed to offload and load there goods coming into the island. The airstrip was resurfaced again. So these are some of the many things that we were able to do for Caye Caulker. At that time we worked with two village councils and our work never ended, there was more to be done, unfortunately 2003 came and since then very little have we seen happening in Caye Caulker.
Manuel Heredia Jr.:
Well definitely I feel that Caye Caulker needs a little more attention, but as I mentioned a while ago, you have to work with the resources that you have, but yes I agree with Patty that there is nothing better than working with the village council, and I have done that very very perfectly. I have worked twice with Alberto Juan in a position and now that he is the new chairman I have worked closely with him, any decision that will be made first have to be recommended by the chairman. I am not the type of representative that because I am a member of government I will go ahead and do whatever I want. The village council chairman have the a authority, the village council, the councilors have to be notified of what decision will be made, and the chairman can tell you that by Bahia Puesta del Sol we have fixed those streets several times in these four years between partnering between the chairman and myself. In the school we are having two additional classrooms because I fell that it is overcrowded. With the high school also we are making progress, we are looking into the possibilities of getting the social security land besides the airstrip for expansion of the high school, and I am very hopeful that at the end of the day we will be able to get that land and will have sufficient room to expand it even to higher grades.
I would like to say to the people of Caye Caulker, well first a little background, I have lived in Caye caulker in the late 80’s, I’ve worked in Caye Caulker and I have a pretty good idea of some of the issues that they have. One of the biggest ones is that they don’t want to come out like San Pedro, and that’s a very legitimate issue. Now, here, Caye Caulker residents say they feel forgotten, neglected and only remembered around election time. Well my brothers and sisters that’s exactly the way we have it here in San Pedro too, so we’re all in this together, we also don’t receive anything, nobody comes out here or even promises us anything until it’s election time. I know how long it took to get your water system installed over there; I know how many promises, how long all of that took, how long it was promised. Part of the campaign to turn Belize Rural South into a Seventh District will give a lot more power to Caye Caulker. If we can just get a little more population in Caye Caulker I would recommend that we redistrict the seventh district to where we have two voting constituencies and Caye Caulker can have representation. It’s extremely difficult for anyone from San Pedro to represent Caye Caulker correctly, and most of their complaints are legitimate, as are ours. But I don’t want people in Caye Caulker to think that we got it good and they don’t because that’s not the fact, we are all in this together, and that’s what this election in particular is about. We are looking at another way. We have been promised repeatedly by both parties. What little progress there is is not enough and it’s too slow, and they make us feel that we are supposed to be grateful for receiving apportion of what we are actually entitled to, and we must change that, we must change that. I know how much money San Pedro and Caye Caulker contributes to this economy and I’m not willing to listen to these arguments that we don’t have the money and all of that.
Robert “Bobby” Lopez:
I want to agree with Mike, the people of Caye Caulker are the same like San Pedro and basically they feel the back half of the island has been neglected while the front half is given all the attention. That is exactly what the residents of Caye Caulker told me as I was campaigning and I was listening, they said listen, the back of the island, tourists like to come to the back to sit and watch the sun set in that beautiful bay, but what is back there? It is eroding, it’s harboring garbage, the streets are partially under water during the tide and so, just like San Pedro, the back half of the island is neglected, forgotten, and only around election time do the promises come.
Caye Caulker needs the same attention as San Pedro, and it has been done and it will be done again. Whenever any new project was being done here in San Pedro another new project was being done in Caye Caulker. Take for example the fire station. When we built the fire station here in San Pedro a new fire station was built in Caye Caulker. Whenever the beach reclamation was done here in San Pedro a new beach reclamation was done in Caye Caulker, when we were building the polyclinic here in San Pedro, Caye Caulker Health Centre was being built. And all of this was not done not only through the village council but also with the locals of Caye Caulker.
Manuel Heredia Jr.:
Well I definitely believe that partnering together with the village council is the key to Caye Caulker. During our administration, before, before that, the liquor license was allowed to be collected for the village council, then during our administration this time, they’re collecting the fees for all vehicle. So this administration have really given more autonomy to the village council and we are hoping that probably trade license and those things will be able to be collected in Caye Caulker. It’s about autonomy also, even though your representatives try to get as much progress as possible, but make sure that you allow the chairman to be the one to implement these things. It is the representative that should lobby to Central Government, but then have the village council do the projects. They are the ones to supervise it. They are the ones who know the island better than I do or better of us in front over here now. So it is our job to make sure that we lobby for them and for them to be able to do the work themselves.
Thank you very much. All of the village councils have a problem with funds, it happens all over the country. There are some other funding options available for the villages through the various pieces of legislation we have, for example the various hotels that develop in Caye Caulker, should be paying some sort of development fee to the village council, it helps take up some of the slack and I believe that through the various associations Caye Caulker can identify some new sources of funding. Thank you.
What is your opinion on the answers given? Do you agree/disagree with what was said? How do you feel about Caye Caulker being neglected? Give us your opinions and let’s here what you think…
Also we invite everyone to take part in our poll to find out who you think answered each of these questions the best.