For the second time in Belize’s history a 13th Senator was elected by the non-government organisation community to have a seat and a voice in the Senate. If you’re wondering why we are saying that Salas is the second 13th Senator-elect in Belize’s political history, it is because the 1st elected 13th Senator was outspoken Maya leader Greg Ch’oc.

Ch’oc had been elected by the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations in October 2008, ahead of the Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s promise to put into force amended laws to allow a 13th Senator. The Prime Minister viewed the election as premature however and went on to ignore his promise, denying enforcement of the amended laws.

Now, back to Salas’ election. The President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, and a well-known Orange Walkeno, bested out four other nominees including Oceana’s Janelle Chanona, BCVI’s Donovan Reneau, and Pablo Collado of Adopt a Child with a Disability, to become the NGO community’s Senator-elect.

After holding their elections this morning, Froyla Tzalam, the Acting Chairman of NGO’s steering committee that organised the election process, announced the results.

Froyla Tzalam, Acting Chairman of NGO steering committee

“At the end of the first round these were the first votes that were cast for the five candidates and I will do it in alphabetical order; Janelle Channona 3, Juan Pablo Gallardo 1, Donovan Reneau 1, Edilberto Romero 7, Osmani Salas 11, no rejected ballots all of that came up to 23 total votes cast, that meant we immediately went into the second round and at the end of that second round and the second round had two candidates; Edilberto Romero and Osmani Salas and their names were put on the ballots and at the end of that second round edilberto Romero had 7 votes and Osmani Salas had 16, zero rejected ballots, 23 votes total were cast and at the end of round two Osmani Salas was declared the Senator Elect with just under 70% of the votes cast in his favour.”

Screen_Shot_2017-01-10_at_7.58.04_PMOsmany Salas, NGO Senator-Elect

“I am very honoured, I am deeply humbled at being given the opportunity to represent the Belize NGO community as some good friend have told me the work really just begins and I want to say again and will never be tired of saying a huge thank you to the teachers of our nation to the BNTU to the Business community lead by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau for all the struggles and other members of civil society for really fighting and struggling to ensure that we the NGO community get this opportunity to be represented in the Senate and to be involve in the campaign and in the work to improve governance in our country, I will depend and I will work very closely with our NGO community and the structure that we will put in place and I must say a tremendous thank you to the three members of the steering committee that lead this process right through to today; Mrs. Froyla Salam, the acting chairperson of the committee, Mr. Armando Aban, and Mrs. Amanda Burgos Acosta, they were instrumental in getting us to this point and I think we have really raised the bar  we have set a precedent and I think we can’t go anywhere else but up I am very proud of my colleagues and I am very happy to be a member of this community and I commit to serve the community and to ensure that as I mention before we are part to improving good governance and we can do our part to improve the lives of our people on this country.”

Salas will officially be sworn in on January 17th.

The process of electing the 13th Senator commenced last year October, following the announcement by Prime Minister Dean Barrow that he would finally sign the commencement order allowing the additional seat to operate as stated in our laws. This decision only came after the Belize National Teacher’s Union went on an 11-day strike, demanding governance reform measures.

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