Editorial — 31 January 2018
The big picture

AMANDALA means “Power to the People.” That’s what we’re working on. We have to be able to decide our own destiny, to do our own thing. And in order to work our own show, we need information about the past and the present, information local and international so that we can control our future.

A man once said: “A race which does not know its history is condemned to repeat it.” AMANDALA will be publishing extracts of African and Indian history so that we can gain greater knowledge of self and kind. Dig.

–    pg. 1, AMANDALA No. 1, Wednesday, 13th August, 1969

When we dared to begin publishing this newspaper in August of 1969 (as a four-page stenciled thing without advertisements), we never imagined that 49 years later, African and Mayan history would still be an issue, in the sense of being absent from Belize’s schools. In fact, next month, February, is Black History Month in the United States and amongst conscious regional populations of African descent. After December of 1977, when this newspaper explicitly changed its guiding philosophy from Black Nationalism to Belizean nationalism, we did not believe that 42 years later, we would be surrounded by this Southside wasteland to such an extent that we have no choice but to feel a sense of continuing worry and renewed responsibility.

We have addressed ourselves in these pages over the last few weeks to some prominent Black leadership personalities in the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), because we would like to have them explain to us why what is happening, is happening. We would like for them to say where it was that they really wanted to take Belize, and specifically the Southside, and exactly how they had proposed to get there, if it was that they had set goals for the roots population of the Southside.

The gun violence and murder statistics say that there has been a civil war raging on the  Southside of Belize, but it is the ruling UDP which controls six of the seven Southside seats in the House of Representatives, and all six of those UDP Southside area reps are Cabinet Ministers or Ministers of State. They sit in the almighty Cabinet.

If you take a drive down Central American Boulevard from St. Jude Street all the way down to Fabers Road and beyond, you will see constructions on both sides of the Boulevard of massive, ferro-concrete, multi-storey buildings prominent along that strategically placed Southside thoroughfare. These buildings are all owned by immigrant Chinese businessmen, who have gobbled up the prime real estate.

More to the eastern part of the Southside and in Belize City’s downtown areas, the constructions are similarly gigantic, but the immigrant Indian businessmen are probably more numerous than the Chinese. The Indians are similar to the Chinese in that they pay no attention to the civil war raging around them and all the casualties being trucked off by the police and the ambulances, mostly after nightfall.

There has been an economic displacement which has taken place since Belize achieved political independence in 1981. When it comes to the visible movement of money during the day, wherein consumers are buying bread, noodles, canned foods, bottled drinks, dried goods, and so on and so forth from morning to dusk, that money is moving in only one direction: from roots citizens to foreign businessmen.

The disturbing, even alarming thing about the Southside situation is that none of the money ever flows back from the immigrant foreign businessmen to assist the roots citizens with any of their community activities, such as sports, culture, youth groups, community work, and the like.

What appears to be the case is that the immigrant foreign businessmen give whatever money they consider they are being “taxed” to give, to the ruling politicians and their cronies, and in return for those tax moneys, the immigrant foreign businessmen receive royal treatment from the ruling UDP where all their various Ministries, statutory boards, and government departments are concerned. Foreign business people are especially interested in controlling immigration, the Police Department, and the Customs Department. It is to be assumed that the individual Southside politicians use a quantum of the payoffs from immigrant foreign businesses to take care of their political supporters from time to time.

The bottom line is that the UDP politicians have been keeping their supporters happy, because the Southside of Belize City has become a powerful UDP stronghold. Overall, the immigrant foreign business people are taking far more money out of the Southside than they have to donate to the ruling politicians. So, what we have here is a depressed roots community, long suffering roots citizens.

Between 1950, when the anti-colonial, now Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) was formed, and 1956, when there was a split in the party’s leadership, the PUP enjoyed overwhelming support amongst the masses of the Belizean people. In 1956, Mr. George Price became the PUP Leader, and Mr. Leigh Richardson and Mr. Philip Goldson were pushed out of the PUP’s leadership.

Between 1956 and 1959, high level Black leadership in the PUP was represented in the capital city only by Albert Cattouse, a man who is almost never discussed in Belize’s political history. But then, C. L. B. Rogers, who had won a Belize City Council seat in 1958 as a candidate for the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP), defected from the NIP and was accepted into the PUP. Rogers quickly became very popular in the PUP, and he played a significant role in neutralizing some of the “Latinization” accusations which had swirled around Mr. Price’s head after 1956.

Even though anti-PUP sentiment may have been a little more evident on the Southside than pro-PUP feeling through the 1960s and 1970s, and even though Mr. Cattouse exited electoral politics after his 1965-1969 term in the Collet constituency, for sure Mr. Rogers was larger than life from 1961 to 1979, elected to the Mesopotamia seat in four consecutive general elections. He was a PUP tower of strength, a roots tower of strength.

If anyone in the Rogers era would have imagined that the PUP would have become as feeble on the Southside as it has been over the last 14 years, such a person would have been considered a real idiot. Today on the Southside, however, there are constituencies where the PUP does not even have a visible, active campaign machinery, and one of those constituencies is the Mesopotamia division Mr. Rogers ruled from 1961 to 1979. What the hell went wrong with the PUP on the Southside? The socio-economic conditions on the Southside are such that there should be political opportunities galore for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The roots citizens are, to repeat, suffering, long suffering.

In retrospect, after Mr. Rogers lost his Mesopotamia seat in 1979, one thing led to another. Without a seat in the House, Mr. Rogers was pushed out of Cabinet in January of 1984, and just a few months later the PUP’s Collet area representative, Harry Courtenay, fell ill and never ran for office again. People like Myrtle Palacio, Carlos Diaz, and Remijio Montejo apparently were no Albert Cattouse, C. L. B. Rogers, and Harry Courtenay. By the middle 1990s, again in retrospect, it is clear that control of the Southside inside the PUP had been taken over by the Northside PUP leaders: this would have never happened under The Godfather. The story of how that Northside usurpation of Southside authority in the PUP occurred, is a sad one. The situation became so outrageous that a high ranking PUP official was supporting the UDP’s Michael Finnegan in Mesop. That is why there is no PUP in Mesop. The situation is unbelievable.

The long and short of the situation is that the Southside UDP has been on cruise control. But, the conditions for native people are deplorable. The PUP transferred Southside authority to their Northside. But the UDP may have done something worse: their leaders became corrupt fat cats. Everybody UDP began living the life.

When this newspaper began in 1969, Southside people were in much better shape than we are today. We had a lot more love for each other, to begin with. This newspaper’s umbrella organization, UBAD, divided in 1973, and half of the UBAD executive supported the coalition which formed the UDP in that year. We have been saying to you that when the UDP was formed, absorbing the NIP, the vision and the authenticity of Philip Goldson were replaced. There was more. Those from the old UBAD leadership who supported and have supported the UDP, have nothing to show for it where Black upliftment is concerned. In the last 34 years in Belize, the UDP has been in power for 20 of those years. So then, who is to blame for the Southside devastation? George Price?

March 7 should be an interesting election day. The one significant difference between this election and all the others over the last two decades is that on the PUP Southside, authority has been returned to the Southside. On March 7, the PUP won’t be the Southside punching bag it has been for the UDP during the UDP winning spree.
Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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