In this paper, I will try to interpret the historical events of 1798 from a black man’s standpoint. I would hope that the black, brown, red and yellow people of our society would begin to realize that white racism and exploitation constitute our common enemy and that our independence is yet to be won. It will be won by any means necessary once all of us get together on the basis of Liberty or Death.
– preface, KNOCKING OUR OWN TING, by Evan X Hyde, The Industrial Press Ltd., 1969
It appears that the leadership of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) has privately accepted the fact that there are contradictions between their position on the events which took place in the settlement of Belize in early September of 1798, usually referred to as the Battle of St. George’s Caye, and the posture which this UDP administration has been taking over the last eighteen months or so with respect to increasing Guatemalan aggression in the Chiquibul and on the Sarstoon.
Every September, the ruling party waxes eloquent, even euphoric, about the glorious deeds of the Baymen’s clan, but the present day patriots, led by Wil Maheia and the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV), who have been fighting to preserve the territorial integrity of Belize, have been portrayed by UDP government spokesmen as provocateurs and warmongers. So then, if that is the case, what was Thomas Paslow?
As Belize enters June, preparations for the patriotic September celebrations become more important. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the summer holidays for the schools are beginning, while several thousands of new secondary and tertiary graduates are supposedly entering the job market, or what have you. The energies of these young people, especially in the volatile urban areas of Belize, have been absorbed to a significant extent over the decades since independence with the imported Carnival phenomenon.
Let us suggest to you that the September celebrations actually begin in mid-August nowadays. The September celebrations can no longer be seen in any kind of sociological or historical isolation. The celebrations have become invaluable to Belize’s tourism industry, especially since the massive growth in cruise ship tourism over the last two decades. The promotions and other events which begin in mid-August are part of the overall September package which is a revenue bonanza for the tourism industry, which is now considered The Jewel’s greatest foreign exchange earner.
As we write, Belize’s economy is in bad shape. But, the ruling UDP won a third consecutive term of office just seven months ago, and they did so in a fairly comfortable fashion. Economic downturn in Third World countries normally sparks political unrest in the streets, but no real threat to UDP complacency has yet been forthcoming from the leading, official, Opposition party – the People’s United Party (PUP). Nonetheless, recently a modicum of UDP discomfort has been caused by various groups, including the aforementioned BTV, the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), the electronic media, social media, and so on. The various groups have exposed the glaring contradiction in UDP rhetoric between their eighteenth-century St. George’s Caye nostalgia and the twenty-first century’s Sarstoon/Chiquibul reality.
The establishment propaganda which officially began in 1898 has had it that Belize was won and secured forever by the Baymen in September of 1798. A small band of intrepid adventurers, considered our ancestors, fought off the might of the Spanish Empire, which sent a naval armada from the Yucatan to invade us in September of 1798. But in May of 2016, it is indisputable that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize are being disrespectfully violated in various ways, in the Chiquibul and at the Sarstoon, by a Central American republic which has declared that it inherits its “rights” from the aforementioned Spanish Empire of 1798. The response of Belize’s elected leaders to the third millennium version of 1798 has so far not brought back macho memories of “when history was made” at St. George’s Caye.
As the young people of Belize begin to pour into the sweltering heat of the summer streets and have more idle time to pay attention to the arguments from critics of this UDP administration’s appeasement policies, the contradiction between 1798 and 2016 will be increasingly exposed. The UDP leaders have come up with a plan to co-opt Belizeans’ patriotic energies lately generated as righteous responses to Guatemalan aggression in the Chiquibul and at the Sarstoon, in a massive September patriotic extravaganza. The UDP had to do something besides repeatedly denying what has been in plain evidence in the Chiquibul and at the Sarstoon, and this September plan looks pretty good on political paper.
These have been hard times for Kremandala, because we were declared non grata by this UDP government at least a year ago. Their official hostility was exposed when the UDP Lake Independence incumbent and candidate, the one Mark King, made outrageous threats against us which the UDP Leader refused to condemn.
As it exists and as it may have been designed, the two-party system of parliamentary democracy presents a trap for the independent media. No one is truly and absolutely independent in a small Third World society like Belize’s, but the historic record since 1969 shows that Partridge Street is not controlled by, or beholden to, any of the two major political parties. It has happened to this newspaper on previous occasions, however, that we have become so confrontational with incumbent administrations that we have become, in effect, the tool of the Loyal Opposition. But the modern history of Belize has shown, repeatedly, that there are shadowy forces which oversee our politico-economic system. When there is a change from the UDP to the PUP, or vice versa, it is really not that much of a change. There are power conditionalities, such as those represented by the United States of America and the prominent Christian churches of Belize, which affect the ability of ruling political parties in Belize to do what the masses of the Belizean people elect them to do.
In 1798, the independent Baymen sought assistance from Jamaica. In real terms, such assistance amounted to the intervention of the British Empire, wouldn’t you say? When Centenary celebrations began in 1898, sixty years after slavery was abolished in the settlement of Belize, it was not explained to our ancestors that there was a greater battle than St. George’s Caye awaiting us sometime up ahead. Worse than that, nothing was ever done, even after independence in 1981, to prepare the people of Belize for the fact that if you have something as precious and valuable as The Jewel, then you must be prepared to defend it. Belizean generation after Belizean generation was taught to pray: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, take me safely home.
So then, that time which came in 1798 appears to be coming in 2016. How do you play mas and dance Carnival when the invaders have entered your territory and declared it as their own? This is the magic which the UDP administration is organizing to perform three months from now. As they say, the best is yet to come.
Power to the people.