This past Saturday at the George Price Center for Peace and Development in Belmopan, representatives of 191 village councils and 3 community councils met for the annual general meeting of the National Association of Village Councils (NAVCO). The meeting comes after village council elections were held earlier this year. Outgoing president of NAVCO Orlando Dawson was not present to read his formal report of the organization’s activity; neither was treasurer Hilario Mes. In opening the event, Mayor of Belmopan Simeon Lopez emphasized partnership between NAVCO and the other major organizations responsible for local government in Belize, the Belize Mayor’s Association (BMA) and the Toledo Alcaldes Association, TAA, which he reported had made strides towards becoming a single entity in charge of all local government initiatives. According to Mayor Lopez, NAVCO’s inactivity is the culprit in not advancing further and taking advantage of programs offered in the Caribbean and Central America but he pledged to keep the new executive in contact. Keynote speaker was Minister responsible for Local Government, Senator Godwin Hulse. A self-proclaimed “village boy,” the Minister made his feelings very clear about developing the roles of the Council. He told us more.
“Press for assistance. Many of you have been a quest through your area representatives or your favorite minister. That is fine, but takes the ministry of walk. And then, the area representative or minister meets in Cabinet and says, could you help village A, B and C? And then, I have to say to my CEO, minister So and So has asked me or your area representative if you could help A, B and C? Then, our staff has to try to contact the village to get one direct request weh you want, and get the paper work, and we have to request it from Finance…and then it get complicated. And weeks go and you say…I no hear nothing and nottin happen. Let me tell you how you do it. You can make your request to your area representative, but please send it direct to the Ministry. And when you send it direct to the Ministry, send it with all your supporting documents. Please no tell me,” Ah wah wa weed waaka”. Tek the time to find the weed waaka you want, get your quotation, find weh you ah buy it from, find the amount weh you ah pay for it and mek the request to the Ministry so we could deal with it”.
In his address to the assembly, the Minister stressed the importance of self-reliance for village councils, warning that councils may find it difficult to receive assistance if they keep depending on their favorite minister or area rep.
Hon. Godwin Hulse
“The thing is, we do have a report that was handed up, a written report was there but there is nobody here to read it. So, it wasn’t presented, not the chairman nor his deputy. As I said in my presentation this has been brought about because of too many personality differences. People can’t get along, they don’t want to and that is why I reiterated the point that this is not a love affair, man. You have to show respect and respect dignity of the people and work with the people that are elected to do the job; it’s not your personal differences. You got to put that aside, and this is how what we hope to start new today, so we have to come works”.
Reporter: “Ideally, how do you expect the NAVCO and the District Associations to function?”
Hon. Godwin Hulse “Well, the District Associations make up the National Association. Each District Association has two representatives on the National Association. So, clearly there are twelve people; The chairman and the District Associations sends their chairman and a representative. The chairman of the NAVCO comes from the six representatives, not from the six chairmen. And so, it should work really, really well!”
The Minister also spoke about the trouble with water boards, many of which are known to be corrupt and unable to account for their funds. The Ministry is taking a hand in changing that reality.
Hon. Godwin Hulse: “So, we have decided on a policy for appointing the water boards in line with the National Policy. That’s the policy I have adopted, which means that you the village representative will tell me who you want in your board, and the area representative will tell you who he wants for his person; and the other two people, by law, will be sworn in and the names will come to me and I’ll sign it into law, caz I don’t know the people in your village, and I don’t want discord in the village. How on earth am I going to tell a village or another who to put? You are the people; you elected the council. You did it in free and fair election. Let the council do their work and I intend to have it with the water boards. But I intend to also have your water boards into accounts…because this business of…money mih lef eenah wa bus, money mih deh andah dih mattress, the dog gawn with the bag…man we we nop wahn that explanation”…
In the afternoon, there was an election for the post of president. Mrs. Staine-Dawson, the vice-chairwoman of the village of Gardenia won most of the votes for that seat. Dr. Arzu was named vice-president, Anita Mesh, secretary and treasurer is Alexander Montero. The remaining members of the board are the presidents of the district village council associations. One of the key concerns of village councils is finance. Five of the six district associations save Toledo presented similar resolutions asking for financial boosts from liquor licensing, mining and logging licenses and other sources as well as ensuring that village councils are respected by businessmen and other potential partners and investors. The newly-elected president told PLUS News that the first task of NAVCO is to liaise with relevant authorities to address the issues.
“In terms of the resolution that we’ve received, if you notice, many of them were overlapping and indeed some of them have financial implications. So, one of the things we’ll have to do is to get our feet wet as it were, to understand what resources are available to us, or which agencies we need to lobby to get support and then we will take it from there. The matter of politics being an issue, I think is unfortunate. Indeed, Belizeans are affiliated with a party or another, and that should not, in my view, per cued us from cooperating where the good of our communities are concerned. So, I would wish that I could lead by example, and I believe our entire NAVCO board will be together on this, that we bring to the table our mutual respect for each other irrespective of where we come from and our commitment to serve and to work cooperatively and collaboratively with each other. We hope that that example will be reflected in our communities, in our dive codes and ultimately, the villages”.
As part of the meeting there was a display by relevant organizations including NEMO, Social Investment Fund and others. Representatives of the villages of Crooked Tree and Gales Point in the Belize District and Xaibe in the Corozal District won prize packages sponsored by SIF in a special raffle.