BELIZE CITY, Fri. Jan. 20 (1984)
Even though Prime Minister George Price mixed his usual ingredients – a little Ephesians, some Isaiah, and two tablespoons of the “world economic crisis” – into a unity speech Tuesday night on the radio, and pressured the Ministers who had been quarrelling for over a month on to the rostrum for an uncertain “rally” at the Courthouse the following night, it was clear to anybody who looked to see that the cracks in the wall of the PUP had become fissures this week and the wall was only waiting for some Joshua with a loud trumpet to blow it down.
After the dust of two weeks struggle had settled on Tuesday, deposed centrist Deputy Prime Minister Lindy Rogers, like Humpty Dumpty, still had had a great fall …
- from Amandala No. 757, Friday, January 20, 1984
In a couple post-general election editorials, we have commented analytically on the fact that the People’s United Party (PUP) defeated the United Democratic Party (UDP) by some 3,000 votes in the so-called Out-Districts of Belize. We have not examined the reasons why the UDP smashed the PUP by more than 5,000 votes in Belize City. This is what we propose to do now.
Belize City is like New York City in that it is a population, media, and financial center. In the United States, the rest of the country largely does not like New York City. New York City is too “biggity.” In British Honduras during the colonial era, Belize was the only city, and it was the administrative center for the British. If you lived in the Out-Districts, you had to come to the capital, Belize, when you wanted to attend secondary school, if you needed any kind of real medical treatment, if you wanted to do serious money business, if you believed you could play football or other sports, and so on and so forth. Belize (City) dominated the Out-Districts in everything during the British colonial era. To make people who lived in the Districts and had to come to Belize (City) even more resentful, the roads linking the country in the colonial era were totally terrible.
New Yorkers are the most sophisticated citizens in America, the big reason being because they are the most wealthy. New York City is where the money is. New Yorkers are also cynical, impatient, and arrogant, descriptions which probably also apply to today’s Belize City population.
Let us consider two things which indicate that Belize City voters, earlier this month, were able to do a great deal of compartmentalization where their socio-political thinking was concerned. Firstly, almost five months before the general elections, the Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price passed at the age of 92 in Belize City. The outpouring of respect and grief was enormous, almost incredible, and the two days of funeral services and ceremonies gripped the old capital and the nation. Secondly, just a week before the March 7 general elections, thousands and thousands of Belize City voters made it their business to vote “No” to offshore oil drilling in a so-called “People’s Referendum” organized by the Belize branch of the Oceana group and other committed environmentalists. The PUP and specific PUP personalities did a good job of “piggybacking” on the initiative against offshore oil drilling, which had major negative political implications for the UDP. The UDP had taken a hard line position against Oceana and the People’s Referendum.
Yet, most of the same Belize City people who grieved privately and publicly for Mr. Price late last year, and who voted, in effect, against the UDP government in the People’s Referendum one week before the general elections, then went to the polls and voted for the UDP and against the PUP on Wednesday, March 7. How come?
The PUP began in the old capital of Belize, British Honduras, in September of 1950 as a black, urban, trade-union based movement/organization. When Hon. George Price ousted Hon. Leigh Richardson and Hon. Philip Goldson from PUP leadership in 1956, the PUP began to become more Latin, more rural, and slowly the PUP sidelined the trade union which had been its original foundation – the General Workers Union (GWU).
Belize City, however, remained loyal to Mr. Price’s PUP for various reasons, and the most important reason in the 1960’s and 1970’s was a remarkably gifted politician and personality named Carl Lindbergh Bernard Rogers, who entered politics in 1958 as a successful Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) candidate for the Belize City Council, but then defected from the NIP and joined Mr. Price’s PUP in time to win the Mesopotamia seat for the PUP in the March 1961 general elections.
Physical ailments weakened Mr. Rogers in the late 1970’s, and contributed to his losing his Mesopotamia seat in the 1979 general elections, which the PUP, however, won comfortably overall. Such was Mr. Rogers’ importance to the PUP, and his prestige, that he remained Deputy Premier and a Cabinet powerhouse, through a Senate appointment.
In January of 1984, however, after the UDP won a landslide victory over the PUP in December 1983 Belize City Council elections, C. L. B. Rogers lost his Cabinet seat. It appeared that the Collet area representative, the attorney V. H. Courtenay, would then emerge as some kind of replacement PUP Southside leader, but there were two reasons this did not happen. Not only was Harry Courtenay too aristocratic to run the brawling Southside, he became ill on an Asia trip in early 1984, and never ran for office again. (As a historical footnote, Harry Courtenay first won Collet when he defeated the NIPDM’s Edward Flowers by only 62 votes in 1969. When he barely beat the UDP’s Kenneth Tillett, by just a single vote in 1974, the PUP created the St. Martin’s Housing Development in the old Collet, into which they transferred more than 200 voters from Mr. Rogers’ Mesopotamia constituency in time for the 1979 generals. Courtenay then beat Tillett by 224 votes in 1979.)
After losing all 6 Southside seats in the June 1993 general elections, the PUP approached Kremandala for an alliance. This alliance began to collapse in 2004. The fact of the matter is that the PUP has not won an election in Belize City since then, except for the Northside Fort George and Freetown seats of Said Musa and Francis Fonseca.
The PUP attacks on Kremandala which have taken place since 2004 basically come from those two, Musa and Fonseca, who decide the PUP’s policies. These policies have worked for the two gentlemen in Fort George and Freetown, but they have not fooled the masses of Belize City voters. There is something wrong here, and if the PUP as an organization believes that Kremandala is their problem, then the PUP, in the words of Dickens’ “The Beadle”, is an ass. The PUP problem is the Musa/Fonseca policies, which are rejected by the vast majority of Belize City voters. Stats don’t lie.
Power to the people.