It has appeared to us for some time that the present United Democratic Party (UDP) government is getting away with a lot of things because of the fear on the part of many Belizeans that harming the Barrow administration in any way would increase the chances of a Said Musa/Ralph Fonseca return to power.
Until the early 2000s when his Intelco telecommunications gamble failed, the man Glenn Godfrey was a member of a troika – Said/Ralph/Glenn, which initially inherited power in the People’s United Party (PUP) from the iconic Right Honorable George Cadle Price, with his public blessing. After Intelco, followed by the Social Security Board and Development Finance Corporation revelations in late August of 2004, Mr. Godfrey faded in stature and is seldom mentioned today in the same breath as Said and Ralph are. (There was little damage done, however, to his very substantial bank accounts.)
From 1961 until 1979, Mr. Price and his Financial Secretary, Rafael “Falo” Fonseca, had run a famously tight ship where the public finances of Belize were concerned. After Mr. Fonseca’s death in a traffic accident on the Western Highway in late 1979, he was succeeded as FinSec by Edmund Marshalleck. Things did not change much, except that there was an unprecedented spending splurge in September of 1981 when Mr. Price and the PUP welcomed and celebrated Belize’s independence along with many foreign guests.
The unexpectedly long delay in Belize’s independence, following self-government in 1964, had made Mr. Price quite anxious by the time of the 1979 general election, which most people really expected the PUP to lose. Politically, the only world Mr. Price had left to conquer was the attainment of independence, and, even as the present UDP Prime Minister has become very much focused on winning a third consecutive term, something no one of Belize’s four Prime Ministers has achieved since independence, so Mr. Price had made independence a kind of Holy Grail for himself.
Few Belizeans remember today how significant the PUP election victories of the young socialist attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa in Cayo North and Fort George, respectively, seemed at the time in late 1979. 1979 had been a resoundingly revolutionary year on planet earth. Maurice Bishop had overthrown Eric Gairy in Grenada. The Sandinistas had finally toppled Anastacio Somoza in Nicaragua. And in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini had run the Shah of Iran out of town. The dominant Roman Catholic Church in Latin America was being seriously affected by a so-called liberation theology which appeared to be supporting revolutions in Guatemala and Salvador. Shoman and Musa were only two of the thirteen area representatives in Mr. Price’s new government, the government that would lead Belize to independence two years later, but Assad and Said were larger than life and they were personal favorites of Mr. Price. Mr. Price had stuck with them between 1974 and 1979, when they were not elected and were being sometimes derided by established Cabinet Ministers like Louis Sylvestre, Fred Hunter, Joe Briceńo, and C. L. B. Rogers. By 1979, however, Assad Shoman had made serious personal bones for himself with his flamboyant, spectacularly successful internationalization of the Belize struggle for independence.
In addition, by 1979 Assad Shoman and Said Musa had brought the workers unions of Belize to a level of organization, education and militancy which Belize, in our opinion, had never seen before and has not seen since. Our thesis at this newspaper is that it was the workers unions which saved the PUP in 1979 and fought off the flashy, neoliberal capitalism of the UDP.
Now even though it was the human rights United States government of Jimmy Carter which late in 1980 set the regional stage for Belize’s independence, it was actually under the hard-line right-wing U.S. government of Ronald Reagan, who took office in January of 1981, that Belize began independent life in September of 1981. At this newspaper, we have always believed that the militant leadership of Belize’s unions, the same leaders who had saved the PUP in 1979, who were sacrificed to American foreign policy as a conditionality for Belize’s independence.
Belize had entered independence in September under a controversial state of emergency declared by the British Governor in early April of 1981. By December of 1981, when Town Board elections were held in the newly independent nation, the PUP, the party of independence, was defeated by the UDP. These were the only elections the UDP would ever win under the leadership of Dangriga’s Dr. Ted Aranda, who led the UDP from late 1979, after their general election defeat, until late 1982. The UDP which defeated the ruling PUP in the December 1981 Town Boards was hardly a strong UDP, but the corruption inside the PUP became naked after independence. Rats were now in control of the cheese.
An attempt by a reformist Said Musa to replace the shady Louis Sylvestre as PUP Chairman was defeated in mid-1983, and in December of that year the new leadership of Manuel Esquivel led the UDP to a landslide Belize City Council victory over the PUP. In December of 1984, the PUP lost national power in Belize for the first time, three years after glorious independence.
Something went terribly wrong in Belize after independence. Law and order quickly began to collapse. The judiciary became corrupt. Within less than a decade after independence, violent gangsters took over the streets of the old capital. One of the reasons you cannot build a society without discipline is because those citizens with skills other than skills with guns and knives, need protection in order to increase the productivity, wealth, and strength of the nation in an absolutely competitive world. This is real.
The PUP of today is not the PUP of Mr. Price. The UDP today is not the NIP of Mr. Goldson. There is a wild streak in Belizeans in 2015, and that wild streak will be on display over the holiday weekend. The mantra is, we are having fun. Sure, at the same time we have become a manifestly undisciplined people.
There is a contradiction in our public behavior patterns when you listen to the discourse of our religious leaders, who are predominantly Christian. If Belize and its public behavior patterns are what a Christian society is supposed to be, then we have to ask some questions about Christianity. For sure, we have to ask how does the life of the Christ have anything to do with Belize’s public behavior patterns.
When we celebrate independence over the weekend, what exactly are we celebrating? More importantly perhaps, when will we begin to acknowledge that our Belizean society has a deadly problem with discipline, a problem which has led to countless tragedies at the personal level, and a problem which will continue to weaken us as a nation state?
Independent Belize, you have refused to honor the sacrifice of Danny Conorquie. You have ignored a heroism which took place before your very eyes. Cry blood, Belize. Cry blood.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.