CLIMATE OF FEAR IN BELIZE RISES IT'S HEAD AGAIN!
My apologies to Norris Hall, government spokesperson, if my brief news item on Development Issues caused any personal distress. Likewise to the Minister of Finance, Ralph Fonseca.
The Minister of Finance, elected or appointed, I forget which, is in essence fair game for people in a free society to engage in debate as to policies. Some of the errors of the propoganda spokesperson when they become of a personal nature also are subject to debate. No intention on my part was intended to level any insults, or allegations at either person.
What was intended though, was a response to a CLIMATE OF FEAR, that a small flood of incoming e-mails from persons in business and living in Belize claim to be feeling and a fear of persecution by misuse of government power, if they spoke their minds, or expressed what can be construed as to a difference of opinion, or FREE SPEECH in open debate. A request for anonymity in incoming e-mails for fear of PUP party persecution and identifying these two PUP members as main persons responsible, denotes in my mind, a perception, if not the fact, of a CLIMATE OF FEAR.
One has to look at the basics of how a Climate of Fear and government persecution starts. Actually, from going through Colonial Days, Self Government years under George Price's formative years, the Indendence era and so forth, the PUP were mostly the ones to create such citizen polarized divisions in our country of Belize. This was done through slogans, outright party victimization that was publicly extolled as virtues and so forth. The litany of causes are many and being a bit of a student of human nature and philosphy, with a trend toward political studies ( self taught ), I feel I understand the mechanics of the creation of a Climate of Fear and government persecution fairly well.
In a one party ruler state like ours, the atmosphere is usually started by some intolerant person in a high position of power. It may be that the high person in the government has no intention of creating a situation of persecution and victimization. Maybe all that is intended is a venting of the spleen and anger at some perceived person in opposition to some cherished sponsored project. The person in power may simply be angered and lack the intelligence to marshall facts and logic in a debating argument to carry the day. When this happens they tend to lash out verbally from a sense of frustration.
The trouble is, when a person at high levels of government power in a one party state, start venting their personal anger and frustration because they lack the facts and ability to articulate themselves properly in a public forum, it effects all the lower echelons of party membership and lower civil service. It is like a license to hunt down the opposition. Like wild dogs forming a pack to harass a weak animal and cut them out of the herd. This phenomena has happened so many times in recent Belizean history, I have lost count. A person in power may have no intention at all, to create persecution and victimization, but less educated, lower echelon people and rank and file party adherents, read and listen and gossip about casual comments done by those in high positions of power and take it as a state of permissiveness to also attack the victim and anyone attached to them. Mobs build on the emotions and it has happened in Belize too many times. There has to be a sense of emotional control and decorum by anyone at the high rungs of power in a one party ruler state, or it will quickly become unmanageable and revert to savagery. Casual public utterances must be carefully guarded as to wording.
Having lived and worked and suffered periodically through the George Price years, when old George made free use of Government Departments to harass people and seemingly took delight in creating persecution and a climate of fear in a polarized society based on slogans and flags of blue and red color. I reserve the right as an old man to fight such creations of CLIMATE OF FEAR being created, apparently according to the e-mails and expressions therein, of a fear of personal victimization and persecution, if individuals acted in an honest manner in open speech.
Amazingly enough, there has not been one single complaint against our Prime Minister Said Musa. But the names of Norris Hall and Ralph Fonseca come up time and time again, for making people afraid of local government victimization. Yet, I myself have not read anything that these people have done or said in the public media, to accuse them with. To my mind they are doing their jobs and innocent. But the incoming e-mails from upright business people requesting anonymity and fear, naming these two when discussing development issues belies that fact. Of course, I am not privy to personal conversations, or many public meetings were these two may be speaking and saying things. Needless to say, it is obvious from incoming e-mails on development issues, that there is a climate of fear. The climate may be unintentional, but lower rank and file don't listen to that argument. They will simply translate casual angered remarks by those in power as a license to go hunting for the targeted victim.
The political system we use has only a thin veneer laid over an apparatus and structure of outright tyranny. The townie organized political party apparatus have been against developing a more democratic model of shared government for the nation through self interest and greed. Police raids, false arrests, false charges for court, job loss are all things underlying the current setup we use in our Constitution. The British Monarchy designed it this way and so it has evolved from the Cromwell Civil War years.
People have every right to be afraid! Glasnost in Belize is only temporary while we use such a structured political setup. In this case, my earlier writing and printing simply identified only two individuals of the PUP party, about which the CLIMATE OF FEAR and persecution are currently blamed. There has been no other individual in the PUP political party so far named in all the incoming e-mails. I thought it was worth a mention. Perhaps, the individuals will change their ways? Perhaps Leopards will change their spots? Perhaps the PUP will restructure their political image? Who knows? But as long as the individuals in this fast age of communication can be identified, I for one will fight persecution, victimization and a GOVERNMENT THAT WILL GOVERN BY A CLIMATE OF FEAR! I had my bellyfull during the George Price self government years. This time I fight back! I want a working democracy for Belize. That is the goal. Not this political party tyranny.
It is interesting to read of the complaints about the slot machine industry invading villages in Belize. It might be interesting to consider what is happening in other places? South Carolina, governor David Beasley has declared war on video gambling. He calls one armed bandit slot machines, the "crack cocaine of gambling". In one place, a business was limited by law to only five machines. So they simply subdivided the premises and created many businesses. There is a big rollback in the USA southern states on slot machines. Nearly 22,000 are going to be put out of business. One interesting thing in studying the pro's and con's about one armed bandit slot machines in Belizean villages, would be the idea that a Village Council could rule that such machines were illegal. Or could they hold a referendum of voters in a village to decide the issue? Do the villagers of a village have a right to petition their council and demand a referendum on the issue? Our national referendum law does not cover this aspect of local government. Perhaps it should?
In Florida, the phenomena of grading schools with a report card, according to their performance on a state wide test is revealing some startling results, as the time passes. Last year there was a lot of crying and hair pulling about failing grades by many school principals and teachers. Finger pointing and excuses were the norm. This year it is a different story! The latest test scores, show that the administration and teachers of failing schools passed. Lot of the schools had problems because of bilingual students. Many children knew little English, they spoke Haitian patois, or Spanish at home. In Belize, many of our children in rural schools speak Carib, or one of two Mayan languages at home and in school. The problems are similar.
The Federal government issued GRANTS to such failing schools under the Title 1 Grant program applied through the State. Something we have been pushing for developing in Belize as a budgetary district system of allocation of funds from a National Government.
The problem of failing grades, in Belize it would be our PSE, was tackled with imagination by different schools. One Principal in Florida offered to eat a handful of live worms if the students would study hard this past year and get the school a passing grade. They did and he did! Parents became involved. After school classes, weekends, holidays were all used to tackle the shortcomings. One school principal offered to work for her holiday behind a McDonald counter flipping burgers, if her school passed. They did and she ( Principal Estela Santiago) did! One school Principal and fellow staff went ballistic and started a conga line, dancing down the hallways and through the classrooms when they were notified their school grade had gone from an F to an A. More than money was on the line, a lot of it was plain old PRIDE. Are there any lessons here for Belize? Many school Principals just broke down and cried in tears of joy. The failing grade of their school of a year back had been a real torment to them and teaching staff, emotionally. The passing grade was an overwhelming relief. If there are lessons here, it is leadership and example from the higher institutions of learning in Belize, the colleges and new University that are going to have to pave the way. Because our rural primary school teachers are forgotten by our centralized government system as always. Ignored and abandoned in favor of the center of political party power in the port town.