REPORT #437 October 2001

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Belizean democracy deformed ! - Espat says

A dramatic speech by the Minister of National Security, Area Representative for Freetown, the Hon. Jorge Espat, has been receiving critical acclaim from all parts of the country.

Mr. Espat was speaking at the passing out of 35 new police recruits from the Police Academy in Belmopan last Friday. Sitting in the audience among the many invited dignitaries was the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, Mr. Priestly and the United States Ambassador to Belize, Mr. Russel Freeman.

After a comprehensive report on the work of the Police Department and what has been done to strengthen and improve it.

Mr. Espat spoke passionately about his concerns for the future of the nation of Belize.

Deep Concern

He said: "I speak this evening with very deep concern about this nation. Some things are getting better and better, and others, worse and worse. Let me say right off... (that) even though I remain hopeful with our accomplishments, I am disappointed that we have not achieved more "Contradictions stare us at every corner; unprecedented investments in crime prevention, yet violence persists; impressive rates of economic growth, but increasing poverty and human misery; spectacular political victories but an uninspired democracy; larger government spending, yet more waste and inefficiency; bigger houses, yet so many broken homes; unprecedented levels of borrowing, yet so many needs remain unfulfilled.

Volcano of Anger

"Exclusion and helplessness have done their work on the faces of Belizeans. A volcano of anger swells in the blood of many of our people. " Why these contradictions?

"For too long there has been a brutal force (at work) in politics, and an absence of clearly articulated, coherent development strategy. We have strayed from the inspiration, vision and ideals of the Father of the Nation and the nation's founding.

"For a nation founded on human rights, freedom and social cohesion and dedicated to economic prosperity, social justice and individual inclusion, we are messed up." Mr. Espat then proceeded to list his reasons for saying that Belize as a nation is messed up.

"The mystery is how anyone ever imagined that a marginalized society with its current labour force will achieve prosperity, freedom and peace.


"No sensible democracy supports an economic system where 48 percent of the working population makes $600 or less monthly while 6 percent earn $2,000 or more; where 59 percent of families with 4.8 members live in households with fewer than two bedrooms; where 26 percent of the employed population have no formal education; where 44 percent of teenage females are unemployed; where 33 percent of the population live in poverty and 24 percent are illiterate; where the trade deficit has grown by 27 percent to $369 million; and where 50 percent of primary school teachers are untrained....


"These trends from the Central Statistics Office, are dangerously antidemocratic", Minister Espat declared.

"They offend my deepest democratic values. My interest is not to disparage, but to offer a few words of caution. I speak for an agenda, not for re-election! I am not concerned about the politics of winning. It is the politics of governing that haunts me." He went on to say:

Deformed Democracy

"Today's uninspired political culture, with its stale discourse, its myopic perspective and predictable partisanship, lacks purpose. We have created a deformed democracy and a mean economy. Too few control too much and too many have too little - a condition made worse by the conversion of public assets into unregulated private monopolies.

"How can we celebrate prosperity for the few. Trickle-down economics is a dammed failure and globalization as we have experienced it so far will make us greater servants. " There comes a time in every nation when it must revisit its purpose and restate its principles. Twenty years after independence is a good time to craft anew the values and aspirations of a different Belize.

Magic is Gone

"The limits to our development are our own. They rest in the sphere of choice. I know there is magic in democracy. I felt it leading to the 1998 elections, but the magic is not automatic; nor is it guaranteed to last. It evaporated with betrayal and failure. Democracy cannot survive in captivity.

"Living democracies look kindly on independence, invention and change. They expand the boundaries of communication and discourse, the scope of policy option and design larger roles for citizens. They depend on citizens being informed on issues, attending meetings and hearings. In living democracies there is no single center of enlightenment. Political parties represent the interest of ordinary folks and not the interests of a few. Little time left

A 21st Century education needs to educate for ownership and participation and requires perspective, especially if people are to be the engine of development.

"There is much to be done and little time to do it. Few countries have such overwhelming beauty - beauty that is intoxicating. Let the music of the Caribbean Sea swell the Belizean landscape and conscience instead of the sounds of violence and captivity.

"Let equality, integrity loyalty symbolize Belize's democratic renewal. Let these be the watchwords of a new frontier with a glorious future, where freedom endures and democracy lives.

In a veiled reference to other politicians who have money and homes abroad, Espat said: "For most of us Belize is home. It's all we've got. We have nowhere else to go, nowhere else to hide. Either we make it a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell." He ended by saying:

"May the wisdom of Solomon guide us when he says: Love Justice, you that are the rulers of the earth."

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