I left you last weekend where I had decided, in a desperation no doubt immature, that I had to go to New York City to see the Freedom Committee after the ruling PUP smashed the NIP/UBAD coalition in the December 1971 Belize City Council elections.
The importance of this period in Belizean history is trying to figure out what happened to Mr. Goldson (Hon. Philip), and when exactly it was decided, and who exactly it was that so decided, to replace him as Leader of the Opposition. In the December 1969 general elections the PUP had demolished the NIPDM coalition, 17-1. Only Mr. Goldson had won his constituency, retaining the Albert seat he had first won in the 1965 generals. Mr. Goldson was Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives – a one-man army. He was a legitimate national hero, going back to his sedition imprisonment in 1951 and coming up to his inspiring 1966 and 1968 battles against the Thirteen Proposals and Seventeen Proposals, respectively.
I knew something was wrong because, from the time I entered St. Mary’s Hall for the December 1971 CitCo counting, approaching 9 p.m., until I left the counting hall around 7 a.m. the following day, I never saw Mr. Goldson. I have been told that he looked in at St. Mary’s briefly before I had arrived.
Looking back, I realize that my decision to go see the Freedom Committee meant that I had taken up the PUP gauntlet, big time. But, that PUP gauntlet had been thrown down in February of 1970 with my sedition arrest, so that it wasn’t as if the Freedom Committee move was a really radical one. Still, the gauntlet had become an overtly political one for UBAD with our December 1971 CitCo run. In politics, you require materia de guerra, and The Big Apple was where it was.
Again, I suppose it was because of his strange non-appearance while I was at St. Mary’s Hall that I did not consult Mr. Goldson about my trip. I was just 24 years old, and the PUP had pricked my youthful pride with their heckling the morning after the counting at St. Mary’s. In fact, the PUP stalwart Darrell Carter, who was a child accompanying his PUP grandmother at the time, has declared to me that he saw me crying that morning. Very, very doubtful, Darrell, and I would say wishful thinking on your part, because we UBAD were surrounded by young sisters, and they were all “fine like wine with a great design.”
Anyway, there was a very big problem for me with the New York trip. I have a bad plane phobia, which is a combination of a fear of heights and a fear of being enclosed. Because of my plane phobia, which became evident to me as I was preparing to fly for the first time, in August of 1965 to the States to study, I knew that I could never have a political career, even had I so desired, and I had not. In government, you have to fly to transact official business. You can’t be taking buses and boats all around the place.
Norman Fairweather, the UBAD secretary-general, was supposed to accompany myself and Ismail Shabazz to New York, but he decided against it at the last minute. I was already committed, so Shabazz and I drove to Corozal, and caught a bus to Mexico City from Chetumal. I never questioned Norman about his last minute change of mind, although this was a great disappointment. Norman had the magic Fairweather name, and would have guaranteed us success in New York.
I appreciated the delicacy of Norman’s position. His sister was married to the conservative PDM Leader, Dean Lindo, and, generally speaking, Norman’s socio-politics was openly roots, whereas his family was highly respectable. It may have been that Norman didn’t want to waste his time travelling by bus from here to Los Angeles to New York, and that would have been quite understandable.
Shabazz and I reached Los Angeles in the early winter of 1972, and tried to make contact with the Freedom Committee’s Compton Fairweather to get financial assistance in making our way from L.A. to New York. We could not make that contact, so the late Edgar X Richardson, a former UBAD officer who had migrated to Los Angeles in September of 1970, loaned us $100 to buy bus tickets to New York.
The token assistance we received in New York was as follows. Compton took us to a Freedom Committee executive meeting, then he held a Freedom Committee public meeting where $250 was raised to finance our bus passage back home. In addition, Compton bought a second hand motor for us to use on our ancient Chandler & Price letter press, which we had been forced to convert to pumping by hand. The motor didn’t work on our press.
So, all in all those five weeks Shabazz and I spent on the road had been a bust. In retrospect, we two did not figure in the Freedom Committee’s plans, despite all the persecution we had suffered at the hands of the ruling PUP.
When Ismail and I arrived back in Belize in early February, Mr. Goldson had already left for London to study law. His wife, Mrs. Hadie Jones Goldson, took the couple’s six children and went to New York to work and live. The couple did not resume their marriage life until after the UDP came to power in 1984.
When the UDP was formally established in September of 1973, Mr. Goldson was still studying in London. It was generally understood that Mr. Lindo was the new Leader, but it could not be announced because Mr. Goldson’s supporters would have raised a fuss.
In our weekend issue, I will speak of how the Unity Congress, the precursor of the UDP, broke the UBAD Party in two in early 1973, and condemned me to being a villain amongst the same young people for whom I had been a hero from 1969 to 1972. Amandala