On Wednesday morning, we heard the host of the Opposition PUP radio station and the chairman of the party attacking Kremandala. The question we asked ourselves was why. What’s the point? What are they hoping to achieve?
The PUP is in such disarray that speculation is rife that the ruling UDP may call early general elections. It is not Kremandala which is responsible for the PUP’s being in disarray. The PUP’s fundamental problem is that ever since 1983, this is a party with two different philosophies – the original social justice as opposed to “growth economics,” or Reaganist rapacious capitalism.
In the early 1970’s, Premier/PUP Leader George C. Price had introduced two young, British-educated attorneys into his leadership. These were Assad Shoman and Said Musa. They both became candidates in the general elections of 1974 – Assad, replacing Hector Silva, for Cayo North; Said, replacing Sandy Hunter, for Fort George. Both lost, but were appointed to the Senate following the overall PUP victory.
In 1979, both Shoman and Musa won their seats, and became powerful Cabinet Ministers in the PUP government which led Belize to political independence in September of 1981.
The chairman of the PUP at the time was Communications Minister Louis Sylvestre, who had been the Belize Rural South area representative from 1961. Sylvestre had been one of the young studs who backed Mr. Price’s successful power grab in 1956, so he had a special place in Mr. Price’s heart. Louie, however, was a man who was always looking to do the best he could for himself. In other words, he had no self-righteous principles or political morals.
Shoman and Musa supposedly were straight arrow socialists opposed to hustling, corruption, and such behavior, so they and Louie were hostile elements. In fact, the rhetoric from Louie’s supporters branded Shoman and Musa as “communists,” in effect extolling Sylvestre as the anti-communist champion.
The epic confrontation between the two sides took place in 1983 when Musa challenged Sylvestre for PUP chairmanship in a national convention. Mr. Musa lost, and, in retrospect, that was the end of the socialist/communist faction in the party. The PUP lost the 1984 general elections; Shoman and Musa lost their seats; Shoman retired from electoral politics; and Musa, the evidence today establishes, began a journey from left to right, from social justice to neoliberal capitalism.
As PUP Leader and Prime Minister, Mr. Musa oversaw ten years of neoliberal capitalism in Belize from 1998 to 2008. After he and the PUP were badly beaten in the February 2008 general elections, Mr. Musa resigned PUP leadership, but he supported Francis Fonseca as his replacement. John Briceño, however, defeated Fonseca in a PUP leadership convention in March of 2008.
Mr. Musa and his sidekick, Ralph Fonseca (Francis’ first cousin), did not really accept the convention result. They did not cooperate with Mr. Briceño, who often appeared more worried about Mark Espat’s ambitions than about Said and Ralph. The upshot of the instability within the PUP was that Briceño ended up having to spend a lot of his own money and signing personal and party guarantees for loans from Lord Ashcroft’s bank. The “big boys” who had previously financed Ralph’s PUP campaign management, because they felt sure of huge returns on their political investments once the Musa/Fonseca PUP came to power, did not help with party expenses during the Briceño era. Eventually, his financial hemorrhaging became so excessive that Johnny resigned leadership a few weeks ago.
After a couple weeks of speculation and uncertainty, the aforementioned Francis Fonseca emerged last week as the PUP’s choice to replace Mr. Briceño. What this means, essentially, is that the PUP are back to February of 2008, which means they are starting all over again from the point where the political collapse had taken place.
Now, why did the PUP’s political collapse occur in 2008? The Musa/Fonseca faction blame the G-7 initiative in August of 2004 for the electoral problems which began in 2006, but it is a fact that regional and international neoliberalism experienced crisis and collapse in 2007 and 2008. Neoliberalism, which Musa/Fonseca referred to as “growth economics,” was unquestionably and unabashedly the philosophy of the Musa/Fonseca era between 1998 and 2008.
Just what exactly was it that the voters of Belize rejected in the February 2008 general elections? This is what PUP thinkers have to consider and confront. The 2011 electorate of Belize is more informed, educated, and sophisticated than any electorate has ever been in this country. In this third millennium, you can’t come to the people of Belize with weak nostalgia and “dibby-dibby” sloganeering. You can’t make Kremandala a scapegoat for your party’s philosophical disagreements. The reason the PUP’s philosophical contradictions were not an issue in the early Musa era, was because Mr. Musa had some social justice credentials left over from the 1970’s. When it became clear in 2004 that he had swung all the way from the left to the right, the PUP’s political problems began.
In the matter of Francis Fonseca, no one knows what he stands for except that he has always been totally loyal to Said Musa and Ralph Fonseca. The implications of this loyalty in electoral political terms will become evident in March next year, when the PUP contest national municipal elections. If the UDP leadership are as certain of those implications as they appear to be, then they may hold the 2013 general elections a year early – the same day as the municipals. This should be the PUP’s real concern, not personality issues and petty vendettas. Get real.