Belizeans have much to be proud of as we all celebrate and give thanks for our 34 years as an independent nation.
It seems like only yesterday that George Price, the father of our nation and the leader with vision was urging us on to independence. He dedicated his whole life for this major goal that we should be in charge of our country, our destiny and our future.
The struggle for independence was not an easy road. Our country emerged against a back-ground of years of slavery followed by colonialism and then colonial neglect and national poverty.
Out of many ethnic groups our population has successfully blended into an entity we all proudly proclaim as Belizean. It was not always this way. It was George Price who repeatedly urged us to strive to be “one people, one nation, one destiny”.
So too with our geographic situation. Under colonialism our country was divided into districts. Each district kept poor and neglected and separate from the others. It is we Belizeans who have built roads and communications and urged closer relationships with each other that today it is one country, easily accessible.
The freedoms the young generations take for granted was another of the achievements of those who led the struggle against British domination and control. Only a limited group of persons with wealth and property could vote in elections back then. It was one of the early goals of Mr. Price that all adults were entitled to vote in any elections throughout the country. This paved the ground-work in replacing appointed officials with elected locals, and brought about the strong democratic traditions of villages, towns and general elections in Belize.
Log-wood and mahogany trees, the only resource of worth to the early settlers and their British motherland have given way to a variety of Belizeans driven economic activities. Agriculture, fishing, tourism and light manufacture are the new kids on the block. Some petroleum has been discovered and we know that in time more will come from under our earth to help us in our drive for development.
Our institution borrowed and tattered as they have served us well enough. These include our parliamentary system, our courts, our law enforcement and our public service machinery. Much work is required to upgrade and reform these important institutions.
Our media has become an integral part of our information network and they are, for the most part, free and unfettered. Local television or what little exists of it must make a more concerted effort to promote more local shows and coverage of national creativity. We are people under threat from foreign values and less than wholesome morals from North American movies, “reality” shows, music videos and such which glamorize a lifestyle which is not healthy for us. Violence, nakedness, mild pornography, materialism and idiocy have no place in the Garden of Eden we wish to live in and pass from one generation of Belizeans to the next.
Our culture is rich, diverse and unique. No comparable nation of our size can boast of the Maya, Garinagu, Creole, Mestizo, Mennonite, East Indian, African, European and Asian contributions and living manifestations as we do.
Of natural wonders we have more than our fair share. Crowned by the largest barrier reef this side of the planet, with its awesome wonders of pristine waters and breath-taking Blue Hole. Our many maiden rivers, hills and valleys and virgin forests. We have protected our environment and wish to keep it that way.
Our religions freedoms are second to none.
But it is our people; our glorious, wonderful rainbow of people that make Belize the blessed nation that it is.
And yes, in the immortal words of our visionary Father of Independence-“Much Has Been Done, But Much More Remains to Be Done”. Let us unite to make our country a tranquil haven of democracy. A place where peace and prosperity falls on one and falls on all. Let us eradicate poverty. Let us be a more just and equitable society.
Let us give thanks and praises to the Almighty for all the good things we have.
Happy Birthday Belize!
A Tribute to our Belizean Patriots
Address by Yasmin Shoman to St. Catherine’s Academy School students
It is with great honour that I address you during this festive season on a topic that demands so much personal sacrifice, discipline and selfless love for country, that only few are ever acknowledged as outstanding enough to be regarded as patriots. Yet, by its definition, no one is barred from being a patriot.
Patriotism is defined as displaying great love or devotion for one’s country. There are many ways one can demonstrate patriotism – from waving a flag to actively promoting or celebrating one’s national borders. It is when a country is engaged in conflict with another, however, whether over border differences or political independence, that persons embroiled in the struggle for cultural and social identity emerge as true patriots.
I’ll focus my presentation on the lives of two of Belize’s greatest patriots who helped to mold our country’s identity and paved the way for us to build on the fruits of their struggles for an independent nation, free from colonial rule. Their efforts, among those of a few others, are the reason we have a flag and celebrate September 10th and 21st, two very important dates in our history.
Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson was born on July 25th, 1923. He attended St. Mary’s Primary School and although he never had the opportunity to go to high school, he studied at night and successfully obtained the Cambridge University Overseas Junior Certificate in 1939 and the Senior School Certificate in 1941.
From 1941 to 1947, Mr. Goldson worked in the British Honduras Civil Service, where he started his career in journalism, editing the “Civil Service Chronicle,” “OUTLOOK,” a cultural quarterly of the St. John’s College Literary Society and writing short stories and sketches for the BBC in London. With the advent of the Nationalist Movement, he wrote news items for the Belize Billboard. The plight of the workers in Belize led him into trade unionism. He became the National Organizer of the General Workers Union in 1949 and later became its General Secretary.
On September 29th, 1950 the People’s Committee (formed on December 31st, 1949 to protest devaluation) dissolved and the People’s United Party was formed. Its leaders were John Smith, Leader; Leigh Richardson, Chairman; George Price, Secretary; and Philip Goldson, Assistant Secretary. From 1950 to 1956, Philip Goldson continued as a member of the People’s United Party. During that year he became the editor of the Belize Billboard and later that year the managing editor.
Entrenched colonialism was hard to reform. Even many members of the working class failed to realize the depth of the problems facing the colony and the difference between their way of life and other people in the outside world.
Mr. Goldson visited Guatemala for a week in 1951 and wrote a piece for the Billboard entitled Seven Days of Freedom. Both Goldson and Leigh Richardson were convicted of “Seditious Intention” in 1951 based on an extract from the Belize Billboard, which stated, “There are two roads to self-government (Independence) – Evolution and Revolution. We are now trying evolution.” The Colonial Government held that the words imputed an intention to try revolution if evolution did not succeed. They were sentenced to one year hard labour.
Their ordeal in prison became a further rallying cry for the People’s United Party.
While in prison Mr. Goldson spent much of his time teaching some of his fellow inmates to read and write.
Prior to going to jail for his ideals, Mr. Goldson won a seat on the Belize City Council and was serving as Vice-President (Deputy Mayor) until his conviction.
Once free, he returned to public life and in 1954 won a seat in the British Honduras Legislative Council where he was appointed member (quasi-Minister) for Social Services, a post he served until 1957. During this period he coordinated the building of Corozal Town after its destruction in 1955 by Hurricane Janet. He pioneered the Village Council system, enacted a new Education Ordinance making Primary Education free, granting government assistance to Secondary Schools for the first time and initiated special allowance for retired teachers who up to then did not enjoy pension benefits, confirmed Belize as contributing member of the U.W.I., also established Department of Housing and Planning with Henry C. Fairweather as its first Director and Town Planner, and revised Government Workers Rules establishing the check-off system for trade unions.
Because of disagreements and conflict of principle Mr. Goldson, Leigh Richardson and others resigned from the People’s United Party in 1956 and formed the Honduras Independence Party. He lost his bid for a seat in the Government in the 1957 elections.
On July 1, 1958 the new party joined with the National Party to form the National Independence Party, and Mr. Goldson became the Party Secretary and was the NIP leader and leader of the Opposition up to 1979.
In 1973, the National Independence Party merged with two other Opposition groups, the People’s Development Movement and the Liberal Party to form the United Democratic Party.
At age 51, Mr. Goldson announced he was going to become a lawyer. After completing his studies, he was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London, and to the Belize City Bar in the following year. While doing all this, he was elected to the Belize City Council and the House of Representatives (1974-80).
Then tragedy struck. Glaucoma left Philip Goldson blind in 1978.
In the 1984 elections, Mr. Goldson won his seat and the respect of his opponents who oftentimes commented that he, despite his vision impediments, could ‘see’ that which many with 20/20 eyesight could not.
When a new terminal building was to be built at the International Airport, the Prime Minister and Cabinet decided to rename the facility the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport. It was a fitting tribute to an outstanding Belizean citizen.
Mr. Goldson accepted the honor with humility and announced he would retire at the end of his term to devote his time to writing, the law, and his work for the disabled.
One month before his death on October 3rd, 2001, this Belizean hero and patriot was presented with The Order of Belize.
The other great Belizean patriot is the Right Honourable George Cadle Price. Mr. Price was born in Belize City on January 15th, 1919. He came from humble beginnings and is considered to be the principal architect of the country’s independence. A very spiritual gentleman, Mr. Price believed that it was his destiny to achieve Independence for Belize. Early childhood experiences helped to mold this intelligent and visionary leader.
George Price received his early education at Holy Redeemer Primary School and St. Johns College High School (SJC). Having escaped death three times as a boy caught in the 1931 Hurricane, George Price’s fate was sealed as the Father of the Nation, a title that suited him well, for his determination in securing Belize’s political independence. In an interview in 2011, he related that after the storm first hit, he managed to flee the collapsed building where he boarded as a student and sought refuge behind a sea wall. During the lull as the eye of the hurricane passed, he and a few fellow students fled to the central area of Belize City and sought refuge in a wooden house. He managed to get out just before the Methodist Church collapsed on top of this house and, clad only in his underclothes, swam through Albert Street where family friends took him into a house and eventually returned him to his family.
Under the Jesuits, George Price was exposed to the teachings of Catholic Social Justice, in particular the encyclical Rerum Novarum. Upon graduation, young George felt the call for priesthood and he went to study abroad, first attending the Saint Augustine’s Minor Seminary in Mississippi, USA, and later the Mayor Seminario Conciliar in Guatemala City. Throughout his life, Mr. Price remained a devout Roman Catholic and attended Mass on a daily basis.
The war in Europe prevented him from completing his studies in Rome and, instead, George Price returned to Belize. He was hired by local businessman Robert Sidney Turton as his private secretary.
Mr. Price entered politics in 1947 with his election to the Belize City Council, and would serve as Mayor of Belize City from 1956 to 1962. In protest against the devaluation of the British Honduran dollar in 1949, a few citizens, George Price included, formed the People’s Committee. Here was the start of the Peaceful, Constructive, Belizean Revolution. It was the forerunner of the People’s United Party, officially established on September 29th, 1950. Six Years later, George Price was elected Party Leader. He was the first Prime Minister of Belize and one of the founders of the People’s United Party. Mr. Price led the country from its colonial state, British Honduras, into the independent country, Belize. Because of him, Belize is what it is today.
In 1958, the British attempted to erode Mr. Price’s popularity with charges of sedition. But like the biblical David, the young politician fought back. The charges only contributed further to his surging image and influence.
In the early 1960s, George Price advocated for moving the capital from Belize to Belmopan, where it is now the seat of government.
Mr. Price led the charge for Adult Suffrage in 1954 followed by internal Self Government in 1964. He travelled the length and breadth of the country in his legendary blue and white Land Rover educating and preparing Belizeans to realize their own destiny in an independent sovereign state.
The Guatemala territorial claim was at the forefront of Mr. Price’s career. It severely tested his diplomatic options. But he always kept our nation intact, holding firm to the credo of “Not one square centimeter!” In 1976, Mr. Price embarked on an intensive diplomatic campaign to gain the support of the international community. He secured the support of CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Non Aligned Movement, and many Latin American countries which led the way to Belize obtaining its independence in 1981.
George Price’s service to our nation was long standing and distinguished. Mr. Price served as a Member of the Legislative Council from 1954-1961, the Legislative Assembly from 1961 to 1964, the House of Representatives from 1964-1984, First Minister from 1961 to 1964, Premier from 1964 to 1981 and Prime Minister of Belize from 1981 to 1984, and then again from 1989 to 1993. He was awarded the status of National Hero by the Government of Belize, the Jose Marti Award, Cuba’s Highest Award by President Fidel Castro, and the Order of the Caribbean Community.
After leading the PUP to securing an unprecedented 9 out of 11 electoral victories, George Price stepped aside as party leader in 1996.
In September 2000, he became the first person to receive Belize’s highest honour, the Order of National Hero, for the prominent role he played in leading the country to independence. He has received similar honours in other Caribbean and Central American countries.
Mr. Price died on the 19th of September 2011, at the age of 92. And like Mr. Goldson, Mr. Price gained the respect and admiration of his opponents. In his speech on the occasion of Mr. Price’s death, even Prime Minister Dean Barrow, had to concede to Price’s greatness, referring to him as ‘an avatar among men.’ Almost 30 years to the day, after he united the people of Belize in the struggle for independence, Mr. Price united all people of Belize in mourning his death.
Mr. Price was an astute and humble man. He forewent the western style suit in favour of the guayabera. For the duration of his long career, he owned only one suit which he used for international meetings and never abandoned the guayabera. Price lived his entire adult life in utter defiance of materialism, owning just a few items of clothing, the barest wooden furniture, and no appliances or stereo equipment; all he owned was a radio. Price is described as “Father of the Nation,” “Father of Independence,” “National Hero,” and “Man of the People.” He moved easily and confidently among the people without any bodyguards and could be seen walking to church every morning at 5:30 a.m. and picking up paper and bits of trash as he moved along the streets.
My reflection on the lives of these two statesmen was to offer more than a bit of history; it was to highlight the struggles they endured and their great determination and perseverance in achieving what was best for country first. Even when at one point they had very different views, both gentlemen always worked toward one common goal – self identity and freedom from oppressors.
Our Belizean National Anthem, written by Samuel Haynes, compels us to be patriots and defend our jewel called Belize. Its chorus we so ably recite states, “Drive back the tyrants; let despots flee!”
The flag of Belize serves as a constant reminder to our people that unity among them is fulfilled. The colors blue, red and white represent the two major political parties of the country – the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party. It means that our people are unified regardless of their political affiliation.
Symbols in the coat of arms include 50 olive leaves, a mahogany tree, two woodcutters with different complexions and implements, a shield depicting the tools used for the mahogany trade and a merchant ship with the British insignia, and a flowing scroll inscribed with the country’s motto.
The 50 olive leaves represent the year 1950, when the country of Belize, which was then known as British Honduras, started its quest for independence from Britain. The mahogany tree on the other hand depicts the country’s economic backbone. The two woodcutters have different complexions and carry different tools. The mulatto man is carrying an axe, which symbolizes the mahogany trade, and the black man is carrying an oar paddle that depicts the history of the woodcutters, of how they traveled by river to find the best logs. All the tools depicted on the shield and merchant ship indicate the importance of the mahogany trade to the country and its people.
The most interesting symbol in all of the ones represented in the flag of Belize is the motto inscribed in the blue scroll – “Sub Umbra Floreo.” This motto translates to “Under the shadow we flourish.” It means that though people lived under the shadow of a conquering giant, the country still managed to flourish and progress. Today we can proudly say, we ARE Belizeans. We are a resilient people. One flag. One nation under God!
As I look around among you today, I see a large gathering full of promise. You are the future leaders of Belize that great men like George Price and Philip Goldson and outstanding women like Gwendolyn Lizarraga and Jane Usher helped to shape. My message to you to is to pick up the mantle, use your God-given judgment to strive for the good of not only self, but for country as well. If we collectively and unselfishly do what is right, starting with practices as simple as exercising civic pride in keeping our surroundings clean, or joining a movement that stands up for the rights of Belizeans, then we are in our own right patriots in the making.
In a few days’ time, we will celebrate the 34th anniversary of our country’s independence. Many or all of you will take part in the student parade on that day, perhaps much to your dismay, considering the healthy Belizean heat. That in its own right, places you in the position of patriots. It is a small sacrifice that you will make for your country.
The 1981 song entitled “A New Beginning” by musician, King Short Shirt which he wrote as a symbolic gesture of good will for Belize, challenges each Belizean to continue on the course our patriots charted for us. And in that same vein, I challenge each of us to follow suit: “We’ve reached maturity. We are a people with love, justice and dignity. So with our leaders, let’s keep moving, and make independence a new beginning.”
The looming border dispute with Guatemala leaves open another chapter in the history of our young Belize for youths like you who are the movers and shakers of the next 30 or 40 years, to etch your mark in the annals of Belizean history, to make even bigger sacrifices and to take patriotism to the next level. Who is to say that our first future woman Prime Minister is not in this room right now? Becoming any type of leader is not an easy task; walking a road less traveled is never an easy one, but they are vocations that only a chosen few are called to do. And when you are called, you must, as did Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson, answer because the struggle to keep our identity, our Belizeaness, never ends. I encourage you, young Patriots, to learn our great Belizean history and to embrace our Belizean identity. God bless St. Catherine Academy. God bless each of you. And God bless our beautiful Belize! Happy Independence!
Remembering Prime Minister, George Cadle Price, and his quest and accomplishment for Belize's independence that was achieved in 1981. Here in Los Angeles his party the Peoples United Party (PUP) who were removed from power in 1984 by the Belizean people, had campaigned most passionately in the Belizean Diaspora, in the Los Angeles Belizean Community. The radio show, Belize Caribbean Pulse in 1989, hosted PM Price and his opposition party who later returned to power in 1989. Here on the show with him is Said Musa, Dr. Theodore Aranda, and Tom Greenwood. They were interviewed by host Nuri Muhammad . A legendary moment in history indeed.