Editorial from Amandala

The Right Hon. George C. Price is referred to by his admirers as the “Father of the (Belizean) Nation,” but as we enter 2009, 27 plus years after political independence, the question must be asked: What kind of a nation is this?

If one reads history, one will see that nationhood is a very serious matter. Establishing and preserving nationhood most often comes with victims and casualties – heroes and martyrs. When nations are artificially established which do not have the cohesive fabric of nationhood, classically the case of the Congo in 1960, such nations experience violent processes. These violent processes may end up forging true nationhood. You can’t fake nationhood. If there are no genuine heroes, then the national symbols will always be just that – symbols.

Belize is entering a time in our existence when we will be tested as a nation. We will be tested to determine whether we have the mettle, whether we have the gumption, whether we truly deserve to be a nation – a nation of respect and national dignity.

There is a question now whether September 21, 1981 really made us a nation. We are not talking about the fact that we are being asked, 27 plus years after the fact, to submit the national borders we acquired on that date, to the scrutiny and judgement of foreigners. No, we are talking about the circumstances of independence in September of 1981.

Those of you who are old enough to remember what happened 27 plus years ago, know the dubious and divisive nature of what was taking place in Belize in September of 1981. The negative opinion of the Belizean people was quickly translated into an electoral statement, less than three months after independence. In December of 1981, the ruling People’s United Party lost national Town Board elections to an Opposition United Democratic Party led by a shaky Leader, Dr. Ted Aranda, who would be replaced less than a year later. In other words, the December 1981 Town Board vote was more a rejection of the PUP than an endorsement of the UDP. How come? How come less than three months after extravagant independence celebrations?

Remember now, that the Town Boards in 1981 did not include Belize City, usually the origin of opposition to PUP policies after 1956. The district towns rejected the PUP in December of 1981. It was a harbinger of worse things to come for the PUP. In December of 1983, the PUP lost the Belize City Council by a landslide. Then in December of 1984, Mr. Price’s PUP lost national power for the first time in the PUP’s history. The verdict was, again, by landslide.

Our thesis at this newspaper was always that there was something bogus about the independence process which established Belizean nationhood in 1981. The PUP participated in that bogus process because they were impatient for independence, and because they had reached the stage of arrogance where the fact that they believed independence in 1981 would benefit the PUP, was more important than the fact that there was national, militant opposition to the Heads of Agreement which the PUP leaders had signed as a basis for independence.

In 1981, the PUP leaders weren’t listening to anybody. They were mobilized nationwide for violence against their opponents. Belize therefore entered national independence in a state of emergency. The reggay jam was bogus. The PUP entered independence, but Belize did not become a nation. The PUP had a bash. They spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars to throw the independence parties, so much so that they had to enter an IMF arrangement shortly thereafter.

No, Virginia, Belize is not yet a nation. Nationhood is what is to be decided in these months and years ahead of us now. It’s not that we have a gun to your head to force you to see this the way we see it. That which will take place, will take place right before your eyes. The events of real nationhood will not unfold in the editorial pages of a newspaper.

In 1981, Belize didn’t pay the price to be independent. The baby was “a shell eye” baby. That is why there is now a gun being placed to our Belizean heads to force us to go to the International Court of Justice. There was a time it could have been said that we spoke with the impetuosity of youth. That time was a long time ago. We speak now as men, Belizean men, in fact as elders.

All power to the people.