Tomorrow the Belize National Teacher’s Union will hold a convention at the Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico auditorium in San Roman Village to fill two key seats in their council of management. The first is the National President position currently held by Luke Palacio and the second is the Executive Secretary post currently held by Keisha Young.
Vying for the presidency so far are three candidates including Corozal Rural Branch President Mario Mesh, Stann Creek Executive member Troy Coleman, and Belize City executive member and well-known Trade Union Senator Elena Smith.
All three candidates are very well-known and respected, in particular in their surroundings, so the elections may have surprising results despite that Senator Elena Smith is considered the strong front-runner.
The candidates have been campaigning for several weeks now, following the announcement that Luke Palacio could not seek re-election since the constitution provides a term-limit.
And like most elections there has been some controversy. Text messages purportedly from persons campaigning for Senator Elena Smith have been sent to voting members to apparently do some heavy electioneering by promising them free transportation, free food, and free trips to the Free Zone and Chetumal. Now, those kinds of election sweets are normal practice for political parties, but seeing it in Union election activities is a bit strange and suspicious.
Senator Smith has denied that she is responsible for the text messages and claims that her campaign is clean and not one that offers anything but hard work in return for support.
But while the outspoken Senator has distanced herself from the freebie campaign promises, we noted that UDP Town Councillor Ashton McKenzie has been doing the same as he called out on the 75 teachers of the South to join him to the convention.
In a text message, McKenzie even gives out his cell number for persons to contact if they are interested in going to shop at the free zone after participating in tomorrow’s convention. McKenzie also cites that persons will be given as much shopping time as is convenient to them.
The million dollar question is who is McKenzie campaigning for?
While we can’t say whether free giveaways will give anyone a greater advantage, we do know the ruling UDP is highly interested in the process and there are reports that they will try to influence the outcome of the votes. President Luke Palacio and the BNTU has been like a thorn on the Government’s side. The Union took industrial action last year to force the Government to fast-tracking reform measures that were being delayed and dodged such as the appointment of the Integrity Commission and a 13th Senator.
We will be following the convention closely tomorrow and will be posting the results as it becomes available.