On Sunday, Aug. 12, Dangriga Town Mayor Gilbert Swaso from Belize held a town hall meeting at Saint Joseph Anglican Church parish hall in Brooklyn. The meeting was sponsored by the United Garifuna Association Inc., a Garifuna and Belizean non-profit, tax exempt association registered with the state of New York. Master of Ceremonies was the Director of Public Relations Wellington C. Ramos; the welcome address was delivered by the president, Alfonso Cayetano and the introduction was done by the Director of Financial Affairs, Dennis Bonilla, all officers of the association.
Mayor Swaso wasted no time in discussing what he inherited when he took office; how he plans to solve the problems of the town and his vision for a better Dangriga Town. He also addressed the dilapidated state of the streets in the town and the need for immediate repairs. He also spoke about the renovation of the town market and the jetty pier, the recent acquisition of ambulances and sanitation trucks, unemployment, tourism, a cultural center, uncollected tax revenues, limited subvention, limited revenues, neglected dirty lots and the cleaning of the beach.
A plan is to change the name of the pier from Commerce Bight to “Port of Dangriga Town” and have it managed by a board appointed by the mayor of the town. Currently, the pier has remained dormant for about 15 years and is not being used for any shipping. He made efforts with the citrus company to employ residents of Dangriga Town and about 100 young men were employed to reap oranges but only about six are still employed. The citrus and oil companies both have indicated that they would rather ship their products through Commerce Bight Pier.
He said that the newly elected members of the People’s United Party has formed a Southern Caucus and that they have confronted the governing United Democratic Party with a wide range of issues that Belizean southerners are concerned about. When he returns to Belize he will be going to Belmopan the capital city, to get an update on the Southern Caucus’ request. If the party in government does not grant their request, they plan to go to the people in the south to join them in getting the government to do so..
After the meeting, the mayor was taken to Linden Boulevard Football Field to meet with other Belizeans. He was in a happy mood and had the opportunity to meet many of his old friends and relatives. The mayor indicated that all went well with the negotiations to get the three ambulances for Dangriga and Punta Gorda towns.
He left New York City to attend a Black Mayor’s Conference in Houston, Texas and from there he will be returning to Dangriga.
Dangriganans were happy to meet the mayor and many of them raised some concerns from om their recent visit home.
The meeting ended with a question-and-answer session at which some in the audience took the opportunity to ask questions and lodge complaints.