The United Democratic Party (UDP) administration’s record in Belize City sports is poor. In fact, we would go so far as to say that it is a very poor record indeed. Under their weird National Sports Council, the MCC Garden has been violated repeatedly for years, and said MCC has now been without lighting for months. The Civic was torn down years ago, and since then the old capital has heard many beautiful promises. Promises, is all. When the UDP came to power in February of 2008, hundreds and hundreds of citizens used to exercise morning and evening at the National Stadium. Soon enough, the UDP closed the gates of the stadium, and when people still tried to get in to exercise, the UDP locked the gates and proceeded to build an exceptional fence around the place. We are talking six, seven years now, and exercising in the National Stadium is still only a memory.
And yet, with all that, Belize City remains the ruling UDP’s political stronghold. The UDP won 8 out of the 10 Belize City seats in the last general election in 2012, and a landslide victory in this March’s Belize City Council election. This indicates to us that there is some political failure on the part of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) with respect to the old capital. If the PUP leadership has ever analyzed this situation in the old capital, we are not in a position to say.
More than four decades ago, the Belizeans involved with this newspaper were identified as sports enthusiasts, some would say fanatics. It was clear to those who wanted to look, from way back in 1969 when this newspaper was established, that the schools in Belize City were not doing an adequate job of educating/training the children. Back then, the old capital had not yet harvested the gang violence which has grown from the seeds of an inferior education system. That gang violence did not emerge until a quarter century ago.
Belize City continued to benefit as late as the 1970s and 1980s from sports programs which had been introduced during colonial days. Track and field was a big deal in colonial days. So was cricket. Football was huge. The Catholic priests had introduced basketball, and they encouraged Golden Gloves boxing. The various sports programs were very healthy in Belize City.
Under the British, there was an overall budget and resources bias in favor of Belize City, where more than one third of the colony’s population used to live. The District towns and villages in Corozal, Orange Walk, Cayo, Stann Creek, and Toledo did not enjoy the amenities which Belize City did.
On Partridge Street, we never thought that sports should replace education. This would have been silly on our part. We believed that sports should complement education, as it does in all progressive societies. Remember, up until the 1960s and 1970s, our high schools used to compete against each other in the various sports. It would be interesting to research what happened in the case of city youth who did not go on to high school, and they were always at least half of each generation. Today, we know that many of such uneducated youth are caught in the net of gang crime and violence.
As the tentacles of youth crime and violence spread wider on the Southside, these tentacles are endangering the schools within their gang territories and the students who have to walk from their homes to their schools. The danger is not only a physical danger: it is a psychological danger. Inside the community, parents, especially single mothers, are embattled on a daily basis because the economic and educational deterioration in the community is making it that much more difficult to raise their children and head them in the right direction.
Ultimately then, we are looking at an intimidated, desperate community which finds itself having to turn to the politicians, this being the case especially at general election time. But, we started out by saying to you that the PUDP have not even been able to preserve the sports programs they inherited from colonialism. The stark symbolism of their disinterest may have been the UDP’s decision, in which the PUP participated, to sell the Barracks green early in their very first term of office. That decision meant that they had been instructed to install tourism as top priority at the expense of community youth and sports programs. And the truth is, no one cares …