Editorial — 16 June 2018
Bones to dogs

There is no other newspaper like this one in Central America. All the major newspapers in Central America are owned by rich and powerful families and corporations with titles, honors, and positions, even the great LA PRENSA of Nicaragua, which is owned by the Chamorro family.

AMANDALA began in 1969 with the purchase of a Gestetner stencilling machine. The cost of the machine was $534.00. The money was mostly raised by donations from members, supporters, and friends of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD).

I will never forget a mechanic named Orvin Betson, who was our most energetic fund raiser. He took any donation, even a penny. I saw him a couple weeks ago after a long time. We spoke at Mike’s Club. He said that he had worked to collect the money because he thought the newspaper would be a good thing for Belize.

AMANDALA is no longer an organ of UBAD. That organization was dissolved in 1974. AMANDALA no longer preaches black nationalism. Since independence, our philosophy is Belizean nationalism. From the smallest in 1969, AMANDALA has become the largest in 1989.

But it’s no big thing. We have never abandoned our roots. We still have a special concern for the underdog. Because of this, we never receive any titles, honors, or positions; these, you see, are handed out by the big people. And AMANDALA, because of the way we were conceived and born, we do not grovel, we do not scrape, and we do not cringe.

– excerpted from “From The Publisher,” pg. 14, AMANDALA No. 1037, Friday, August 11, 1989

Through the years, elected officials in Belize have usually felt the need to treat the Kremandala businesses with a kind of disrespect. Constitutionally, Belize’s elected officials are at a higher place than the free press is, because they form the legal, empowered government of sovereign, independent Belize. The independence constitution of 1981 allows for a free press, but that is done in a generalized manner.

Because radio in Belize did not become free until 1989, references to the “free press” in the colonial (1862-1964) and self-governing colony (1964-1981) history of British Honduras/Belize were talking only about the newspaper industry. To the best of our knowledge, the first newspaper in the colony which was not owned and controlled by the colonial oligarchy was The Belize Independent, which was being published by H. H. Cain and the Cain family around the time of the Ex-Servicemen’s uprising in 1919. This was also a time of Garveyism in Belize. Paul Cain, a member of the Cain family who is in his eighties, has told us that Isaiah Morter, Belize’s first native, black millionaire assisted the Cain family to acquire printing equipment back in the early part of the twentieth century.

Isaiah Morter died in the early 1920s in British Honduras, while Marcus Garvey, whom Morter supported financially, was imprisoned a couple years later in Atlanta, Georgia, and then deported to his native Jamaica. Garvey fell on hard times, and was unable to get control of the Morter estate which the millionaire had willed to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the “African redemption” organization which Marcus Garvey had founded in the early twentieth century and which had spread worldwide.

Throughout the early and middle twentieth century in British Honduras, the newspaper of respected, colonial society was The Clarion, owned by P. S. Woods.  With Morter’s death and then Garvey’s decline (he died in London in 1940), The Belize Independent began to decline.

The second newspaper to begin talking for the masses of the people in British Honduras was The Belize Billboard, which began in the 1940s and became the voice of the People’s United Party (PUP) when the PUP was founded in 1950. When Hon. Philip Goldson left the PUP in 1956, he took TheBillboard with him, and in 1958 The Billboard became the voice of the Opposition Independence Party (NIP). The PUP, for its part, had established The Belize Times, which still exists, to spread its message.

In 1967, wealthy, high-ranking members of the Belize Chamber of Commerce began publishing a Chamber Reporter, which soon became The Reporter, a weekly pro-business publication. (The Reporter is now owned by Harry Lawrence.)

When Amandala began publishing in August of 1969, it did so as the organ of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD). When UBAD was organized in February of 1969, the organization had been linked to the remnants of the UNIA, which controlled the Liberty Hall on Barrack Road in Belize City. The UNIA Secretary-General in 1969, the late Robert Livingston, became one of the founding officers of UBAD. Livingston, however, left for New York City for medical treatment in the early summer of 1969, and did not return to Belize.

UBAD, which divided in 1973 and was dissolved in 1974, shared the message of black consciousness and black empowerment with the UNIA, but the UNIA in Belize, for whatever the reasons, had become pro-British, hence pro-colonial, during the 1930s and1940s. What was left of the UNIA in 1969 was hostile to “black power,” as proposed by UBAD.

When UBAD came to an end, the newspaper Amandala survived, and by 1981 became the leading newspaper in Belize. This was an anomaly, and an embarrassment to the power structure in Belize, because the editorial policy of Amandala remained practically the same as it had been during the UBAD years.

The elected politicians of Belize, whether United Democratic Party (UDP) or People’s United Party (PUP), are basically financed by Belize’s power structure.   There was no need for elected politicians to respect Amandala once they were elected, and in fact the power structure of Belize, which had, to repeat, financed those politicians, preferred it that way. Amandala was an anomaly, and Amandala was an embarrassment.

When he became Leader of the Opposition UDP in late 1998, Hon. Dean O. Barrow acquired a radio license (WAVE) from the newly elected PUP. It was fair exchange, so to speak, because in early 1994 Mr. Barrow, as UDP Minister of Broadcasting, had given Gerald Garbutt a license for FM 2000 even though he knew the station (which is now POSITIVE VIBES, the PUP radio station) was financed by former PUP Ministers Ralph Fonseca and Glenn Godfrey.

The UDP newspaper, formerly known as The Beacon under Dean Lindo and The People’s Pulse under Manuel Esquivel, became Guardian under Mr. Barrow, who went on to acquire a television license for WAVE TV to go along with his WAVE Radio. It is not clear to us when Mr. Barrow, who became Prime Minister in February of 2008 and has remained in that office ever since, decided to dedicate himself to the building of a UDP media empire. But, he has used public funds and government political leverage so to do.

The building of the UDP media empire was done at the expense of the Kremandala businesses, but UDP media power, achieved through public funds and government political leverage, did not have people power. In other words, there was no credibility in UDP media power because, by definition, UDP media power was dedicated to political propaganda. Fighting for its very survival, Kremandala decided to put UDP media power to the test on March 7, 2018, and UDP media power failed in Belize City, the nation’s media capital.

Mr. Barrow’s decision some weeks ago to retaliate by using the public telephone company’s advertising budget to boycott Kremandala and discriminate against Amandala has met with widespread disapproval amongst Belizeans at home and abroad.

Late Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018, BTL sent some advertisements to Kremandala. It was not exactly clear what these ads represented. Even as the boycott had been instituted in a disrespectful manner, likewise the offhand delivery of Wednesday morning’s ads was done as if one were throwing bones to dogs. As we write on Thursday morning, June 14, the separate business managements of Amandala, KREM Radio, and KREM TV have been consulting among themselves.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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