Features — 17 January 2018 — by Colin Hyde
3rd parties on the wrong path to glory

More than fifty years have passed since “Jack T” Campbell, one of Belize’s most colorful public servants ever, told his good friend who had contested the general elections as an independent, damned right yes, I didn’t waste my vote on you. The real is that in our kind of democracy, there can be only one Opposition party.

Belizean hero, Hon. Philip Goldson, warned Belize that the time to save our country is “before we lose it.” It takes generations to “save” a country that has fallen into a state of tyranny. Third parties in Belize seem not to have gotten that message. They seem to think that we have forever to get the job done.  Well, we don’t.

The BNTU is not a third party. Ineffective opposition to a runaway government led them, forced them to step forward. They saw where Belize was heading. The real is that before the BNTU stepped outside of its role and cracked the back of the Barrow government (figurative), Belize was being configured into a police state. If you are not in agreement with that observation, then explain why so many strong man types, people designed to serve in dictatorships, featured in so many sensitive positions in the UDP government and its party organs.

The BNTU effort helped create the environment for the Auditor General to do her job, the job the people of this country pay her to do. It’s hard to get an old leopard to turn from its regressive old ways. When the UDP saw that the Auditor General had done her job, they let loose their vicious dogs on her.

Ordinarily, a municipal election is not that criticaI. On the surface the issues are about streets and drains. In the undercurrents, politicians who want to serve at a higher level get to test their popularity with the electorate in their area, and third parties get a chance to flex, to showcase their ideas on matters that extend beyond the local elections they are contesting.

It is not completely impossible that an extremely popular, well-financed third party, might win a seat, or even gain control of a city or town, in a municipal election. After 70 years, it has never happened.

The CUF (Corozal United Front) did win in a municipal election in Corozal (early 1970’s), but in fact there were ony two parties that contested in that election, the NIP (or was it the UDP?) having stepped aside in that District that year.

Sometimes a municipal election has mammoth national implications. Then, third parties have to step aside. This year, 2018, is such a year.

What a terrible message it would send if a diffused Opposition allows a government to walk free after it has been shown to be rotten – there is the FACT of what happened at Immigration, the FACT that it ran wild at Natural Resorces, the FACT that it practiced shameless cronyism with our resources, the FACT that it twiddled its thumbs while Mr. Ashcroft racked up obscene amounts in interest payments, and the FACT that it resisted ALL political reform.

It is no easy thing to stop a government in a parliamentary democracy that operates with no respect for the honor codes that are essential to the system. That kind of government places party hacks in areas where they can stymie opposition, and suffocate truth.

It is also no easy thing to stop a government that gives out contracts almost exclusively to people who will pump funds “back” into the party at election time. The PUP 1998 set about funneling all the resources of the country into their war chest. The 2008 UDP set about doing the same daam thing. What they criticized, they have adopted, and magnified. The only way such a party can be defeated at the polls is with a galvanized Opposition.

Without major political reform, supporting a third party in general elections is a wasted vote. Third party leaders have seen the impossibility of their candidacies in our present system. A Paco Smith, who sounds like someone who has lived abroad for a long, long time, might not be familiar with the reality of our system, but everyone else should know by now that a third party candidacy is an exercise in frustration, or obfuscation.

The UBAD Party ran one time and got the sense. By allying itself over different elections, it has been able to realize much of its 1974 platform. In 1978 Belize accepted the vote for 18-year-olds, in 1989 Belize accepted free radio, and in 1998 Belize “introduced” African/Mayan history in one of our schools.

It is significant that the UDP has shown itself to be the un-progressive party in Belize. It took the BNTU’s stepping outside of its normal role to force the necessary medicine of political reform down its narrow, retrograde throat. The UDP actually threatened UBAD with lock-up, over free radio, and it has done ZERO in respect to African/Maya history in our education system. The UDP can point to NO political reform after 20 years in government. All the UDP can point to is taking advantage of every loophole and crack for the benefit of their party.

Opposition parties have expressed serious reservations about the voters’ list not being revised since 1998, the year the UDP went over their mandated 5 years. This is clearly a major issue. The UDP, desperate to make a good showing in the municipal elections 2018, refused to address this urgent business.

The task for Belize is to reform the major parties, not cynicism. If you give in to cynicism your only option is bloody revolution.

What Jack T Campbell saw over 50 years ago, is fact. Third parties contesting elections for political gain are wasting time in our First Past The Post (FPTP) system. Third parties must seek the reforms they propose through alliance with the two parties of our parliamentary democracy. It is most unfortunate that only one of the two political parties has shown any inclination to respect people who seek change for the purpose of advancing our democracy and increasing the knowledge of our people.

The UDP is real narrow gauge. Originally, the UDP is made up of four parties – the NIP, the PDM, the Liberal, and a faction of UBAD. The UDP reportedly also absorbed the CUF, later. Immediately the UDP came to power they set about destroying the vision of two of the factions, the NIP and the UBAD. It’s an interesting discussion, how the PDM and the Liberal factions have led at different times in our history. One of the things they have in common is their insistence in maintaining the status quo, when it is obvious to all that the nation needs change, desperately.

Patrick Rogers is a disciple of the elected senate. I listened to him recently and he says his goal is to be an elected senator in Belize. He has shown himself to be sincere, and he has my “ink” to support him when he makes another serious push for the elected senate. He must use his political collateral to get one of these big parties to include the elected senate in their manifesto. Simidimi running only serves to confuse the electorate.

Wi fren, the great Ernesto Torres, has some good ideas about municipal government. But I don’t have any ink to support him this time around because Philip Goldson wouldn’t approve. This is not the year for third party candidates to flex.

Louis Wade stretching the math

I heard Louis Wade running some stories from Colorado which show some real negative numbers after that US state loosened control of marijuana. On the Belize side of his story, Wade, talking about the spate of accidents over recent holidays, said that he had never seen so many in all his life. Wade suggested that marijuana, coupled with the traditional alcohol use, might be the deadly combo to explain the tragedies on the highways. To put wind in his arguments, Wade, a man of science and religion, used some of the numbers from the Colorado experience.
Unfortunately, the article he referenced had way too much stretch in it. It is possible that marijuana users have to be watched more closely. But stretching the numbers is not the way to do that.

Wade, I believe, was referencing a story,” Rocky Mountain Low: The Downside of Legalized Marijuana”, by an overzealous lady named Sabrina Arena Ferrisi. The trouble with Miss Ferrisi is that instead of using hard numbers, she uses a lot of “percentage increase” to push her points. It is fact that sometimes a 1% increase impacts more than a 100% increase. It is fact that sometimes a “percent” increase means next to nada.

Statistics like these, garnered from “National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” published in December 2017, example, Pot use among Colorado teens, ages 12 to 17, is 34% higher than the national teen average. Colorado teens are second in pot first-time use, only to Alaska teens, where marijuana is also legal; and, Colorado teens’ current use is 11.13% of all those in that age group. This is significantly higher than the 7.6% use a decade ago, don’t mean much.

Statistics like these, from the desk of Dr. Jeff Berger…a medical director for Guest House, a rehabilitation center for priests who suffer from alcoholism and other addictions, are such a reach. Berger says, “We know that, generally, if you give medical marijuana to anyone, 9% will become addicted to it.” Really, really, really, we know that, generally … Let me tell you what we know from that statement. We know that somebody is reaching, stretching the numbers.

But we don’t write Dr. Berger off as a quack, because he makes a brilliant save later, when he notes that the marijuana that is grown now is far different from that produced in the 1960s. Dr. Berger says, “THC is the chemical in marijuana which causes addiction,”…”In the 1960s, pot had a 4% THC content. Today it is grown at 11%. It has been grown to 31%.”

Bah, while people like Wade, Scott Stirm, and Lance Lewis were endorsing the criminal marijuana law, people who classified as criminals had full control of the marijuana industry. Today, these guys still don’t understand that their stance is still in the service of people who don’t mind breaking laws. When marijuana is legalized, near fully under the control of a sober government, regulations can be put in place to protect honest citizens from adulterated/exaggerated products. Pastors, in the regulated world of rum and beer there is a label, with the “percentage” alcohol inscribed on it.

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