If we are going to reason with each other in this essay, the first thing you have to understand, and we are sure you do, is that 90 million dollars is a lot of money. In the streets, people kill each other for a burger. For $90 mil, people begin to think outside the box, people begin to think drastic, even if they are billionaires, like the British peer Lord Michael Ashcroft, or multimillionaires, like the Prime Minister of Belize, the Right Honorable Dean Oliver Barrow.
Belize’s final court of arbitration, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), ruled last Wednesday that the nation-state of Belize, run by the aforementioned Barrow, owes the Belize Bank, owned by the aforementioned Ashcroft, 90 million dollars, with 17 percent interest (compounded) continuing to accrue until the money is paid. As we understand it, high courts in the United Kingdom and in the United States had also previously ruled in substantially like manner as the CCJ did last Wednesday. In between those pro-Ashcroft rulings, the Supreme Court of Belize and the Belize Court of Appeal, separately, had ruled in favor of the Government of Belize.
Before we proceed, let us be clear. We, the people of Belize, had absolutely nothing to do with creating this debt, except that we elected the People’s United Party (PUP) to national office in 1998 and in 2003, and we elected the United Democratic Party (UDP) to office in 2008, 2012, and 2015. The PUP, then led by Rt. Hon. Said Musa as Prime Minister, basically contracted $40 million of this so-called UHS debt, while the UDP, led by Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, added $50 mil in interest to the original debt by playing hard ball, losing hard ball, in regional and international courts.
We, the people of Belize, do not have any tangible asset to show for this $90 million debt which our two major political parties have incurred. From the standpoint of the streets, then, if all things are equal, the bright boys of the PUP owe the Belize Bank $40 mil, for which the PUP of Queen Street is responsible. And, the bright boys of the UDP owe the Belize Bank $50 mil, for which the UDP of BelChina Bridge is responsible. We, the people of Belize, had nothing to do with this, and we have nothing to show for it, to repeat.
As we pointed out last week, the UDP and the PUP are pointing fingers at each other. This is so that each, for its part, can curry the favor of the independent, non-partisan sectors of the Belizean public. The fact is that the UDP and the PUP share the blame, and they have been able to do what they did, get us Belizeans into $90 mil worth of boiling water, because we have a flawed political system which makes monarchs out of our Prime Ministers.
There is no Prime Minister who has so visibly relished the monarchical aspects of his office as Mr. Barrow has. It is clear to all and sundry that he enjoys his power, and that he revels in the pomp and circumstance accompanying same. Now, as we heard in his press conference on Wednesday morning this week, Mr. Barrow is adopting the transparent ploy of behaving as if his Cabinet Ministers, who represent a majority in the 31-member House of Representatives of Belize, are free to vote their individual consciences on this $90 mil matter when the Hon. Prime Minister, as he constitutionally must, presents a motion (next week?) in the House for a supplementary appropriation bill to pay the debt. Mr. Barrow is saying, in effect, that in this matter he is giving up his Prime Ministerial power and that, with respect to the vote, the Government of Belize is leaderless, rudderless, and perhaps even clueless.
Before we comment on Mr. Barrow’s ploy, you should know that it is precisely where his precious government leadership is concerned that the Ashcroft forces have chosen, in the first instance, to attack the Prime Minister. They have threatened him with imprisonment if he defies the CCJ order to pay the Belize Bank. It is for this reason that Mr. Barrow has, suddenly and completely against the grain, decided to become a follower instead of a leader. The tails will wag the dog so that the Prime Minister can avoid responsibility for the same power he most cherishes in his present life.
On the face of it, Barrow and Ashcroft are playing high stakes bluff poker. But they are playing with the Belizean people’s money, what they call “house money” in Las Vegas. The thing is, theoretically, it is the constitutional Opposition, the PUP, which should be Belizeans’ prime defenders in such a crisis, but not only is the PUP initially and partially to blame for this UHS debt, but it is for sure Lord Ashcroft will be offering the PUP financial blandishments for the Opposition to condemn the apparent UDP intention not to pay the $90 mil. To make the situation more intriguing, the UDP and the PUP go to the polls in three months to contest national municipal elections which should give interested entities a very good idea who will win the next general elections here, which have to be held by 2020, the latest.
At the very beginning of this editorial, we indicated our intention to reason with you. But, it is impossible to explain to the majority of you readers, cold talk, exactly why we are in these financial predicaments. One reason is this: most of you have been and will be looking in the Holy Bible for answers to your questions. Most of you are UDP or PUP, and most of you are Christians. We urge you, beloved, to separate your religion from your politics. Before Jesus, you know, there was a King of the Jews. His name was Herod, but he was king only at the service of, and at the behest of, the accursed, occupying Romans.
Look around you, Belizeans, and you will see that you are supporting a governance system which produces leaders who have made deals with enemies of the Belizean people. Once we Belizeans elect a government, we cannot do anything to them for five years, no matter what they do. This was why the $40 mil for which the PUP is responsible became a national debt: Said Musa acted like King Herod. This was why the $50 mil in interest was added on to the national debt: Dean Barrow’s egomania got out of control. He was self-proclaimed “master of the games,” you see, and he knew better than everybody else. Now indeed, the chickens have come home to roost, and these chickens are painted in both blue and red.
After we elect these governments, what they do is go to the Governor-General for affirmation, and after that they belong to Queen Elizabeth II of Buckingham Palace for five round years. When push comes to shove, it may behoove the Prime Minister to remember the words of Malcolm X. Malcolm once asked an audience like this, “What do they call a black man with a Ph.D. in Mississippi?” Malcolm answered the question himself: “Nigger!”
Belize’s $90 mil Belize Bank debt constitutes a national crisis. We have been returned to financial colonialism by a man the PUDP politicians welcomed and embraced as a Belizean citizen. Ah, beloved, the absurdity of it all! We have been hoodwinked, we’ve been bamboozled. More than that, we’ve been raped. And every time we, the people, discovered that our elected government was messing up big time, our governance system had made it so that there was nothing we could do about it.
In conclusion, let us clarify a point we made obliquely in the second to last paragraph before this one. There is a raging monster called international white supremacy, whether you want to admit it or not. The dogs of war reside in Washington and London. These are very serious times in Belize. Mr. Barrow’s call for a refusal to pay when the bill was $40 mil, appealed viscerally to us Belizeans. Now, the bill is $90 mil. Mr. Barrow’s Ministers appear to have made a call similar to the one their leader made when it was 40. We know, or we should know, on whose side Washington and London are. This is a time for Belizeans to come together and reason for real. This is, as they say, prime time.
Power to the people.