Editorial — 16 August 2007
Seemingly in full campaign mode, the ruling People’s United Party has announced, through Minister of Education, Hon. Francis Fonseca, that they will introduce a history department to the University of Belize. This is a campaign gimmick on the PUP’s part, designed specifically to disarm the Kremandala element. But, campaign gimmick or not, this newspaper has no choice but to support their initiative.
Electoral politics is an art and a science. Electoral politics is not trigonometry or nuclear physics. But there are certain fundamental rules which you must obey in Belizean electoral politics. If you don’t wish to abide by those rules, then you have to withdraw from electoral politics.
All of us rational adults have ideas and opinions. But only the elected politicians, those who get to form Cabinet, get to implement their ideas and opinions. There are political systems other than democracy, wherein one can obtain the power necessary to enforce one’s beliefs and opinions by force of arms, for instance. But in Belize, we have had a parliamentary democracy for all our lives. You must get elected in order to do what you believe is correct.
The individual process of becoming elected begins with being accepted by the ruling PUP or the Opposition UDP as a candidate. Historically, nobody has been elected to the House of Representatives who is not sponsored by one of the two traditional major parties. The two parties screen candidates in order to ensure that the large financiers of the respective party approve such candidates.
The classic example of a major party screening a candidate took place in 1988. Rufus X had been part of the foundation of the UDP in 1973, and his record had been one of loyal UDP militancy for 15 years. But then, he decided he wanted to be a UDP candidate in the 1989 general election. As loyal militant, he was fine. But the UDP leadership believed their large financiers would not tolerate Rufus X’s views. So they conspired to prevent his becoming one of the UDP’s general election candidates.
Rufus X entered Belize’s public life in 1969 when he became a member of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), a cultural organization.
The ruling PUP soon attacked the UBAD leadership with a sedition charge in early 1970. Following the trial, the president of UBAD felt that, as a matter of better self-defense, the organization should become a political party. The UBAD Party was formally established on August 8, 1970.
Rufus X became an officer of the UBAD Party in 1971, and was elected chairman of the party in 1972. The major demands of the UBAD Party were (i) the 18-year-old vote; (ii) radio time; and (iii) the teaching of African and Indian (Mayan) history in the schools of Belize.
A desperate Philip Goldson, Leader of the Opposition NIP, solicited an alliance with the UBAD Party for the December 1971 Belize City Council election. Following that unsuccessful CitCo campaign, Mr. Goldson left to study law in London early in 1972. Effectively, his career as Leader of the Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was over.
The UBAD Party split down the middle early in 1973 over the issue of whether to become the shock troops of the proposed new UDP (established in September of 1973), or to travel an independent road. At that time, Rufus X chose to go with the UDP. (The UBAD Party was dissolved in November of 1974.)
In 1978, the ruling PUP instituted the first of the UBAD Party’s demands – the 18-year-old vote. In 1989, the PUP, then in Opposition, supported the establishment of the first private Belize radio station – KREM Radio. The PUP won, and KREM began broadcasting ten weeks later. And finally, in 2003, the ruling PUP embarked on the final UBAD demand – the teaching of African and Mayan history in the schools.
When the University of Belize was established in August of the year 2000, UB’s first board chairman was the publisher of this newspaper and the chairman of Kremandala – Evan X Hyde. In four years as UB chairman (2000-2004), Hyde was unable to establish a history department. The reason for that was political. The PUP Cabinet did not consider a UB history department to be a priority of any kind.
In August of 2007, they do so consider such a history department to be a priority. They have now adopted a different perspective because they wish to be re-elected to office. The PUP wish to make it clear to Kremandala that they are more progressive than the UDP. The evidence of history confirms this.
The matter of corruption is something else, of course. This is another conversation, and a more important one than a university department. But today, Thursday, August 16, 2007, we who do not possess political power, have no choice but to pay respect and express appreciation, as nationalist and revolutionary Belizeans, to the ruling politicians who have decided that our people should now be taught about our true past. It was a long time coming, but we are grateful for small mercies.
Power to the people.