Stop, and think this over

“The colonel was assigned to assure ‘air superiority’ – but there was a string attached. He was to do the job with the least possible number of planes. At the same time, he received the similarly contradictory order – which also came to apply to the expedition’s ships, its arms, and its command and control – to make the CIA’s best professional efforts look sufficiently amateurish and shabby so they could be passed off as Cuban. The American sponsorship was supposed to be deniable. ‘Plausible denial’ was the intelligence jargon for the applicable doctrine of clandestinity.”

- pg. 70, BAY OF PIGS The Untold Story, by Peter Wyden, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1979

Our various experiences with the legal system here suggest that there is an unwritten assumption that litigants do not possess unlimited amounts of money. Lawyers are expensive, and overall court costs are expensive, so the average person does not enter into litigation frivolously, or continually. It is costly to initiate and pursue court action, and it is even more expensive, much more expensive, if you lose.

In Belize, It has been hitherto thought, especially outside the realm of possibility, or reality, that a single citizen should own more financial resources than the Government of Belize itself, allowing that citizen to continue appealing every decision, whether a government decision or a legal one, to a higher court and a higher court, ad nauseam. This has never happened before in Belize, until now, so that the present politico-judicial reality in Belize, insofar as matters involving the Ashcroft group, is an unprecedented reality, and it is somewhat disturbing from a sovereign, constitutional perspective. We are looking at a new ball game in independent Belize.

When we, the Belizean people, elect a government according to the rules of the so-called first-past-the-post system we have adopted from the British, what we get is governments which have far more authority/power than you would assume from the actual percentage of the overall votes the particular political party received. In 1979, for instance, the incumbent People’s United Party (PUP) won 13 out of the then 18 seats in the House of Representatives, but they received only 51.8% of the votes cast in the general elections. This was the election which laid the final section of the foundation for a controversial political independence. What our system does is give virtually all the power to whichever of the parties wins the most seats. In fact, in 1993 the United Democratic Party (UDP) won 16 of the 29 House seats, but actually received 2,000 fewer votes than the PUP. The UDP, in a sense a minority government, went on to rule for five years and three months …

In most nation-states of the world, no matter how independent and sovereign, there is usually a substantial portion of the adult population who do not consider themselves government supporters, so to speak. What this means is that if a powerful outside force, whether national or mercenary or investor or otherwise, makes a determined decision to interfere in the administration of that nation-state, the equilibrium of that specific state can be seriously disturbed. Extreme recent cases of this are Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. And remember, all former colonial territories, including Belize, have unresolved tribal issues which divide the population.

Iraq and Libya are not parliamentary democracies, of course. They are former colonial territories which have experienced hereditary monarchies and ended up, in our time, being ruled by strong arm dictators. Hence, when powerful outside forces decided to interfere in the affairs of Iraq and Libya, which are big time oil-producing states, they did so in a violent military manner, but there were dissident elements in both nation-states with whom the powerful outside forces made common cause.

In the case of Belize, which is a parliamentary democracy with a functional judiciary within the British Commonwealth tradition and orbit, if you are a powerful outside force which has a quarrel with the elected government, you always have a strong, established Opposition party with which to ally yourself, and you can also create all kinds of expensive mischief for the government with repeated law suits and higher court appeals.

In the aftermath of World War II, imperialism and colonialism were being condemned all over the colonized world, where the vast majority of the citizens were so-called “people of color.” The colonial powers, dominated by the Europeans, under duress, began to grant political independence to those of their colonies who were agitating for it. But because the former colonies were poor in technology, science, manufacturing, and overall economic productivity, and were also afflicted by the aforementioned tendencies to tribalism and other divisive behavior, political independence became a terrible, bloody experience for many of them, the classic case being that of the Belgian Congo (now Zaire).

Although Belize became independent under a state of emergency, it soon became the norm for us Belizeans to congratulate ourselves on the success of our constitutional change. In recent years, however, the quality of our daily lives in Belize has eroded to the point where more and more of our citizens, older ones especially, can be heard, from time to time, questioning the benefits of our independent status. Specifically, we Belizean citizens do not feel safe in our communities; the forces of lawlessness appear to be more powerful than the forces of law and order.

Now then, at a less violent level, we are engaged in continuing confrontations in the courts, where, if you stop and think it over, the question is whether the billionaire investor Chichester or the elected Prime Minister of Belize is more powerful in critical areas of Belize’s economy and politics. Chichester is a powerful outside force whose Belizean allies are significant. The contest between himself and Mr. Barrow has reached a point where we wonder whether Lord Ashcroft really recognizes, respects, or remembers Belizean sovereignty.

The implications of all the Ashcroft-initiated litigations are substantial for the party politics of Belize. If you stop and think it over, the PUP is becoming like the original National Party (NP), and the UDP is becoming like the original PUP. Stop, and think it over.

Power to the people.