COLA, the well-known fiery advocacy group, has a new leader. He is 21 year old Shawn Saldano. Today former President of the COLA Geovanni Brackett gathered his troops for the last time, to present the new leader and his executive, at a press briefing in Belize City. Brackett explained that while members of the group supported his continuation as leader, he believed it is time to for a new face to rise up.
Geovanni Brackett, Former COLA President
“A lot of people may know him from the “I am Belize” Song he is a known singer but his actual an activist who ahs been very active and promote advocacy for the youth involvement in the socio political aspect of Belize. He was with COLA with the NO ICJ campaign and he supportive of all the COLA initiatives in the past, he is young, 21, he is a young man who is brilliant. Let me say that a little over a year ago after when my mom passed away and I had my nephew shot at the back of his head four years ago I came to COLA and said I think I needed to take a break and I think it is time for us elect a new president but Rufus being Rufus and others he said no, no, no he said Brackett we will elect you for life and I said no man leadership is finite and I believe that we all have an era that we serve and we have t know when that era is the transitional period and so it took us a little while to restructure some stuff because my current vice-president at the time Gilroy Usher Junior went to study law and he is in Barbados so what we did we elected Russell Roberts here to my right whose now our vice-president, we have Alton Humes who remains secretary and so what we did over the last few weeks is that we only elected the post for President and we maintain the executive Edward Young remains the treasurer, Nelson Young and Mrs. Ismy Williams trustees and overseers and elders remain my brother Patrick Rogers and Rufus X for continuity and so within a year Christopher will be able to hold an AGM for all post and so we have a smooth transition there was no friction everyone was here Tuesday night and was a pack room here for us to formally vote him in and we have the transition.”
Shawn Saldano, New COLA President
“With your indulgence, August we are also looking to secure some bag packs to do a bag pack initiative to distribute to children within the urban and the rural areas who are less fortunate also we are talking with the barbering community they are my peers, they are my colleagues, young people like myself to see if we can identify some demographic areas within Belize City for us to give back to the community free of cost, when September come we want to get our young people through our membership and recruitment to give back to two or three primary schools, we are going to identify them and assist them through evening class and mentorship program for young boys and young men, a book club so a lot from campaign and advocacy as well, COLA now has a mandate to come up with some solutions to tackle these challenges that we continue to face as a people and on that note I want to conclude to say that yet again I am grateful for the full support and the endorsement of the executive and the senior eldest to COLA and well me and my vice-president along with the secretary and the treasurer we have already began to build structures and polices that we are going to implement and to put in place.”
Russell Roberts, New COLA Vice President
“Last four years I was a member of COLA and now I am the vice president and I worked side by side with Mr. Brackett for all these years and championing these issues and I plan to work as hard as the ex-president with Mr. Saldano to do the task of the country and to bring the country to some clarity because we have a lot of issues out there that need to be address and with the new president we will work as hard as we worked before with him so that we could bring this country with some stability.”
Brackett also reminisced on his term as COLA President. He has been one of the most active non-political, non-union activists, tackling social and political issues such as the recent ICJ referendum, the controversial visit of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and the private prosecution of Elvin Penner who was involved in Immigration wrong-doing.
Geovanni Brackett, Former COLA President
“Over the years as President I’ve had the privilege when I started COLA I was just a regular member and I had my first interview on the foreshore with Jules Vasquez on the issue of “No offshore drilling” and well that was my first christening into baptism, into the advocacy field and as Jules had know it best as I had known the Offshore Drilling no one was talking about it any at all, for months we tried to lobby even the NGO community, even Oceana when they came they were dealing with bottom trawling and COLA pushed and pushed until the gulf spill, we were happy to manage to recruit and build a coalition which I was the founded chairman and that was one of my highlights as President, COLA I believe it has been one of the most vociferous organization of all issues whether it was arresting and charging Elvin Penner, whether is was supporting the Feinstein Stake Bank project in the area or economics and tourism whether it was with Yony Rosado and the FECTAB crew supported whether is was the Teachers’ Union and many times grass roots organizations failed to a mass crowed but when we joined with Louis Wade and I want my country back we had close to about eighteen hundred people out there but COLA under my leadership with a none budget ran more a campaign based and I think Christopher will have an opportunity to guild on that and improve an I want to say categorically that this young man will be even a better leader than me.”
The new President will be supported by Vice President Russell Roberts, Secretary Alton Humes, and Treasurer Edward Young. In one year’s time, elections will be held to elect a new executive body.