Editorial — 30 December 2017
Belizean of The Year 2017

There is no doubt in our minds at this newspaper that the Belizean of The Year 2017 is the Auditor General of Belize, Mrs. Dorothy Bradley. She has been the single most powerful weapon in the Belizean arsenal as our young, sovereign society fights against corruption in our highest places.

Mrs. Bradley’s struggle has been a lonely and increasingly dangerous one. The challenge for the rest of us Belizeans in the coming New Year is to see how much support we can give the Auditor General to ensure her success in her various anti-corruption initiatives. The Auditor General has been a tower of strength, but she is only human. Belizeans, we cannot afford to lose her now.

There are times Mrs. Bradley must have felt that it was she against the world. The venomous rhetoric coming out of the highest offices of government recently, indicates that the present administration views her as a threat, and the UDP has made her a target. Yet, all Mrs. Bradley is doing, is doing her job, as constitutionally mandated.

Belizeans, if Mrs. Bradley falls, we Belizeans fall. Ignore the noise in the market, Belizeans. We have not had as important a hero in the streets since the Hon. Philip Goldson. Hasta la victoria siempre, Dorothy Bradley. Big up, great lady.


Big tents

 

The People’s United Party (PUP) has been losing elections consecutively since 2003 because the independent Belizean voters who decide elections have not been fully convinced that the party does not intend to revive the Said/Ralph bogeyman which drove independent voters away from the PUP, beginning with the Social Security Board (SSB) scandal of July 2004.

Belize’s two mass parties, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition PUP, both represent attempts to bring together, under one “big tent,” elements of all the relevant ethnicities, religions, genders, generations, districts, perspectives, and ideologies of the Belize nation-state. The parties are always seeking to portray themselves in images of monolithic unity, but because of how they are constructed and because of their histories, both the UDP and the PUP are always vulnerable to discord and disunity. Neither the UDP nor the PUP is seamlessly organic. The party which can better hold its disparate, component parts together for an election day, is the party that wins that specific election.

In its 1950 beginning, the anti-colonial PUP was probably the closest thing to a unified political force in Belize’s modern political history. The pro-British National Party (NP), established in 1951 to counter the PUP, was of a single–minded focus to stop the PUP, so the NP was also quite unified.

The PUP experienced a public split in 1956, when Leigh Richardson and Philip Goldson left and went on to form the Honduran Independence Party (HIP) in 1957. Philip Goldson soon led the shaky HIP into a coalition with the Herbert Fuller–led NP to form the National Independence Party (NIP). Goldson was a founder of the PUP: he could hardly be described as slavishly pro-British, a charge which could be brought against some people in the NP. So, this 1958 NIP was the first “big tent” mass party, in the sense of bringing disparate elements together. After Mr. Goldson became NIP Leader in late 1961, however, the NIP became dominated by his heroic personality, so that the party appeared unified until 1969, when the attorney Dean Lindo made a failed attempt to replace Mr. Goldson as NIP Leader.

For its part, the PUP appeared totally unified throughout the 1960s, that decade being perhaps the PUP’s and Mr. Price’s real glory days. Seeds of disunity in the PUP were planted in the early 1970s when Mr. Price began to consort with the young socialist attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa. There were established leadership elements in the PUP, such as C. L. B. Rogers, Louis Sylvestre, and Fred Hunter, who had begun to appreciate the financial possibilities of public office, and we mean outside of their government salaries. The pragmatic element in the PUP, if we may describe them so, began to resent what they saw as the self-righteousness of the new socialist faction.

When the UDP was formed in September of 1973, it was the most visibly disjointed mass party ever in Belize. Dean Lindo’s People’s Development Movement (PDM) and Goldson’s NIP were opposed to each other. Mr. Goldson wasn’t even in Belize when the UDP was formed. The flimsy, shadowy Liberal Party, the third entity in the UDP big tent, was closer to the PDM philosophically than either the PDM or the Liberal was to the NIP, which still enjoyed the support of most Opposition voters when the UDP was established. History has shown that both the PDM and the Liberal Party were neoliberal movements, at their respective cores. Incidentally, when we describe the Liberal Party as “flimsy” and “shadowy,” we refer to their lack of popular support in the streets. Clearly, however, big money was behind the Liberals.

Still, somehow the UDP forged enough unity to do well in the October 1974 general election, and then the UDP actually won the December 1974 Belize City Council election. On the surface, there was no sign of any PUP division in 1974, but the seeds must have been there, because the UDP went on to destroy the PUP in the December 1977 Belize City Council election. It was believed by many observers that the aforementioned pragmatic PUP element had not pulled their weight, viewing the PUP’s 1977 BCC slate as too much of a Shoman/Musa production.

The 1979 PUP general election victory, against the grain, occurred because desperation drove the PUP’s leadership into unified effort, around the same time that the overconfident UDP began to fuss amongst themselves. The quarrel appeared to political observers to take place, unbeknownst to the general public, between the PDM (Lindo) and the Liberal faction (Rodriguez and Vasquez). In the 1979 general election, then, the PUP was “big tent” while the UDP was disunified.

By 1984, having achieved independence in 1981, the PUP “big tent” could not hold both the pragmatics, now led by Louis Sylvestre and Fred  Hunter, and the socialists, Shoman and Musa. The UDP had built a functional unity under the new leadership of Manuel Esquivel, and won a landslide victory in the December 1984 general election.

If we fast forward to 2017, we can see that the continued electoral success of the UDP under the leadership of the Right Hon. Dean Barrow has produced real “big tent” vibes. Since 2008, there have been enough goodies to share around, and everybody UDP has been happy. The Barrow UDP does not really have an ideology, except perhaps that of Machiavellian expediency. The party is pragmatic in philosophy, and will do whatever it takes to win. The problem is that UDP administrations have become ragingly corrupt, and the poster boy for the corruption became the former Deputy Prime Minister, Gapi Vega. There are elements in the party who sacrificed Vega because they wanted to preserve a modicum of UDP integrity. But Vega is too entrenched in the UDP to go anywhere. It would appear that there is division inside the UDP big tent.

Another ruling party issue is the party’s attitude to Guatemala, as frequently voiced by Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington. Inside the UDP, the old NIP faction, once the majority when the UDP was formed in 1973, but now very much a minority, is uncomfortable with the UDP’s appeasement rhetoric where Guatemala is concerned. Remember, that NIP faction actually broke away from the Esquivel/Barrow UDP to form the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) in 1991, and it was only when Mr. Goldson agreed to bring NABR into coalition with the UDP in 1993 that the UDP was able to return to power. Guatemala, then, is a source of division in the UDP, as is Gapi.

A unified push by the PUP can bring them victory over the wealthy UDP in the national municipal elections scheduled for March next year. The PUP has not been truly unified from the time of the G-7 in August of 2004. The party had begun to move towards neoliberal policies as early as their 1989 to 1993 term, even though the social justice icon, Rt. Hon. George Price, was still Party Leader and Prime Minister. The problem was that Mr. Price’s energy was fading, and he had three personal favorites around him who began to discard social justice. These favorites were Said Musa, whom Mr. Price regarded like a son-in-law; Ralph Fonseca, the eldest son of  Mr. Price’s treasured, Financial Secretary, the late Rafael Fonseca; and Glenn Godfrey,  Ralph’s classmate and close friend, who had grown up less than a block from Mr. Price’s Pickstock Street home.

All attempts to return the PUP to social justice since 2004 have run into snags precisely because it was the Price favorites who had abandoned that social justice and ruled from 1998 to 2008 in the name of neoliberalism. Said/Ralph have remained a force in the PUP during the party’s losing streak. This has been the PUP’s dilemma during the losing streak. The party was built on social justice, but it was in the name of Mr. Price that the PUP had been turned to a neoliberal course. It was not Mr. Price himself, mind you, but those who ruled in his name.

So here we are today, two months before the national municipals. The UDP is cracking, while the PUP is fighting to create unity. The party which is more unified on March 7, 2018, will win. It is very much a hackneyed saying, but the saying is so eternally and undeniably true: unity is strength.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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