Editorial — 04 August 2018
The bone in our throat

At the point in early 1973 when the leadership of the parent organization of this newspaper divided down the middle, those leaders who opted to go with the group which would become the United Democratic Party (UDP) in September of 1973, were not thinking erratically or making a wild, foolish decision. Based on the data they possessed and the experiences that parent organization had been through from February of 1970, the decision to go with the UDP was an intelligent decision.

It was an intelligent decision because, for all intents and purposes, the UDP appeared an appropriate vehicle through which to defeat the People’s United Party (PUP), an arrogant juggernaut of a political party which had never been defeated in a general election in its then 23 years of existence. In fact, between 1961 and 1969, the PUP won 51 out of 54 seats in the Belize House of Representatives. During the 1960s, the PUP had grown and appeared so powerful,  genuine fear arose in some quarters that British Honduras/Belize, which became a self-governing colony in 1964, was  about to become a one-party state.

In February of 1970, the PUP had made an apparently pre-emptive strike on UBAD leadership by attempting to imprison two of its leaders on a sedition charge. Between October of 1969 and January of 1970, the UBAD had been in a coalition with a group called PAC, whose leaders were two attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa. Within weeks of that coalition’s falling apart, the two UBAD leaders were arrested, whereupon the two PAC attorneys immediately offered to defend them free of charge, which they eventually did, and successfully at that.

It has never been made clear to us at this newspaper when precisely or under what specific conditions, Mr. Shoman and Mr. Musa began to collaborate with Premier George Price’s ruling PUP. It is for sure, nevertheless, that in the October 1974 general election, Mr. Shoman and Mr. Musa were two of the PUP’s eighteen general election candidates. It is reasonable to assume that there had been some arrangement between the PUP and the two attorneys for some period before. The fact of the matter is that after the collapse of the coalition between UBAD and PAC in January of 1970, Mr. Shoman and Mr. Musa, who had led the unprecedented Ad Hoc Committee demonstrations in early January of 1969, to the best of our knowledge did not make any appearances in a public, political capacity until they became PUP candidates more than four years later.

During the period from February 1970 until late 1971, the relations between the PUP and the UBAD had become more and more hostile. Late in 1971, the UBAD, which had become a political party in August of 1970 in the aftermath of the sedition trial, was invited into a Belize City Council election coalition with Hon. Philip Goldson’s National Independence Party (NIP) which, by virtue of Mr. Goldson’s Albert seat in the House of Representatives, was the official Opposition party.

The invitation represented a gesture of honor and respect on the part of the NIP to the youth of the UBAD Party, who had never run in an election before.  Remember, in 1971 the voting age was 21 years and over, which disenfranchised the bulk of the UBAD supporters. The other significant aspect of that election, which the NIP/UBAD coalition lost, was that as the counting began at St. Mary’s Hall and it appeared early that the PUP would win easily, it soon became clear that it was the UBAD, not the NIP, which at least two aggressive Cabinet Ministers saw as the real threat to their power.

As 1972 began, the PUP repeated the pre-emptive offensive they had unleashed on UBAD leaders with the sedition arrests two years before. UBAD leaders were rounded up on all kinds of charges. The harassment by the police and paramilitary eventually sparked a UBAD uprising on Albert and Regent Streets on the night of May 29, 1972. That mass uprising became even more dramatic and dangerous with attacks on the Premier’s office, the offices of the PUP newspaper, and the broadcasting transmitters of Radio Belize, for which a UBAD officer and two UBAD members were tried in Supreme Court in October of 1972. They were acquitted. Perhaps more important, there had been a confrontation between PUP marchers and a UBAD element on National Day, September 10, 1972, which ended with the scattering of the PUP marchers near Swing Bridge. At that point, in late 1972, UBAD ruled the streets and represented the real opposition to the PUP. But, with many of its supporters disenfranchised because of not yet being 21, where was UBAD to go with all its street power?

The decision made by half of the UBAD leaders to enter a mature political coalition to defeat the PUP, to repeat, was a sensible one. So, what about the decision of the half of UBAD which stayed out of the UDP coalition? The immediate propaganda of UDP attack dogs was that Evan X Hyde and his faction were actually PUP sympathizers. Apparently, this was supposed to be the case because X Hyde’s father, Charles B. Hyde, was a senior public officer in 1973 who happened to be a supporter of the PUP. The reality was that C. B. Hyde suffered insults and abuses in then PUP-dominated Belmopan between 1970 and 1973, not only because of his eldest son, Evan X, but because of his third son, the late Michael Charles, one of the three UBAD accused in the October 1972 Supreme Court trial. C. B. Hyde accepted his fate stoically, and never complained.

45 years later, 1973/74 UDP propaganda is not important. What is important, we suggest, is what this newspaper and Kremandala, stand for in 2018. In our two issues of this newspaper last week, we discussed what had been the outcome of the original coalition decisions made by the very first UDP Leader, Dean Russell Lindo. What appeared to be spectacularly successful decisions for five or six years, turned into disappointments for Dean Russell. Again, the 20 years (five terms) of UDP government since 1984 have to be carefully examined with respect to their impact on the constituencies which were represented, to speak in a general and non-electoral sense, by some UBAD leaders in the original 1973 coalition.

We should appreciate the fact that 45 years, in the overall scheme of things, is not that long a time. There were things and people that we saw in early 1973 whom we considered unalterably opposed to what we stood for in UBAD. We did not believe that UBAD’s only purpose for existence was to fight the PUP. For us, the ultimate enemy has always been international white supremacy. We would like to think that our history since 1973 confirms the core ideology with which we entered public life in 1969.

 In 1969, we referred to our ideology as a struggle for freedom, justice and equality. As the decades rolled by, we focused on maintaining our resistance to international white supremacy. In 2018, we see the ruling UDP, based on the evidence around us, as collaborating with international white supremacy. That is the bone in our throat.

Power to the power.

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Deshawn Swasey

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