After months of controversy, the re-imagined and restored Battlefield Park was formally reopened. Even the cloudy day could not dent the spirits of the Belize City Council which has valiantly insisted on its interpretation of the role and purpose of the park. Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley gives the highlights.
Mayor Darrell Bradley:
“This was a process that has taken us four months. The construction work was done by IE International Environment; they are the same group that had done memorial park and they are the same group that’s doing BTL Park for us; they do excellent work and we are very happy with the final turn out; this park costs us $375,000, you will see that there is a fountain, we put in a new bust of Antonio Soberanis, a nice large stand, we have a new pavement coloured cement; we have erected two casts that’s going to have businesses in there; we have trees, park benches and different things like that. So, we’re very pleased with the out turn of the park and I am very happy to announce that there is a lot of people who… it has been open roughly enough for about two weeks; a lot of people are using the park during the day and in the evening and the park was really designed in accordance with its historical usage as a mall for the Supreme Court and the Parliament building, which is the other Supreme Court, and also as a gathering place for protests, and that’s why the design is in the way that it is”.
Councilor responsible for Parks and Beautification Kevin Singh recounted the history of this memorable space.
Mr. Kevin Singh, Councilor Responsible for Belize City Parks
“Today we reopen Battlefield Park given to you, our residents and visitors, a clean and spacious environment with a family friendly atmosphere for you to enjoy, free from the past dilapidated environment which existed only months ago. As a people we’re often reluctant to accept change that we had grown to use to. But ladies and gentlemen, we have not lost any of the beautiful history about Battlefield Park. Instead, we have together created a modern appearance to our historic park with the opportunity to write down another track turn of history carrying with it, the beauty in nature and environment which will see people living together in harmony and love. As we prepare to celebrate the 32nd year of independence, there’s no better time to give back to our people, the same place where many historic meetings were held in the development of this same history.
Mayor Bradley spoke of the need to “reclaim” the Old Capital for those who live there.
Mayor Darrell Bradley:
“This park is in the heart of Belize City. It is the soul of our blessed City and for years this park was a symbol of decay being occupied by people who had no other place to go and being a symbol of the loss of our City and our community. Today we have reclaimed this park. This park, which is at the heart our commercial district and has been so important to us historically. And so, it is my hope that from the reclaiming of this park, we could reclaim the entire of Belize City and this park could start a transformation; it could start a movement that will allow us to reclaim all of the spaces in Belize City, every part of our great and beloved city for the benefits of residents and visitors”.
The BTL Northside Park is the last park in stages of restoration and that should be completed by early December
Battlefield Park, to some, should be called the Antonio Soberanis Park, for even though George Price, Philip Goldson and others were active in establishing its reputation, it was Soberanis who first made it a true battlefield for the labour movement in the 1930’s. Today, the faceless bust that previously faced the Supreme Court was taken down and the sparkling bronze replica controversially created by Stephen Okeke was put in its place. Mayor Bradley says it ends a long epic about the importance of the labour leader’s visage at the park.
Mayor of Belize City, Mr. Darrell Bradley:
“It was very important to us to really represent the likeness of Antonio Soberanis in a way that his family wanted and would accord with their wishes and intention, so that when we have conversations with them about participating in the re-opening – they really made it an essential issue that we would upgrade the statue and we would make it be something that is respective of the spirit and persona of Antonio Soberanis who was a great warrior for Belizean rights. We procured the statue from Stephen Okeke, we got donations included from Belize Electricity Limited to be able to acquire the statue. I am very happy. It’s a focal point for the park and it really represents a spirit, a warring spirit really advocating for rights that we are now enjoying for all Belizeans”.
There to take part in the unveiling was Soberanis’s son and namesake, 87 year old Antonio Jr. who shared about his dad’s role in Belizean history.
Antonio Soberanis Jr. – Son of Labour Unionist
“My father made a life sacrifice for this country and I would say with due respect, there is no other politician second to my father Antonio Soberanis G., because what sacrifice he made I have not seen it, for the 87 years that I have lived, done by any other politician, and he was treated like he was actually nobody. But the almighty God and the family, we love him and we cherish his name, and we cherish what we have seen of what he has done in the past and what future the country has come to, but sometimes when it comes political, I think we are dissatisfied”.
The younger Soberanis says the family is reasonably pleased with Okeke’s finished product.
Antonio Soberanis Jr
“It really represents a very thoughtful and a very concern and very satisfied and the family is very happy to see that at least somebody remember to do something in advance for my father that we the family have appreciated. The bust of Antonio Soberanis Sr. is almost a 100% accurate. Almost all of us or several of us of the family who have been with the gentleman that was doing the bust, Okeke, and em….we were quite satisfied, and we give him our hope that he can go ahead and… we were quite satisfied with whatever he did .”