(by “Oldtimer,” originally published in the Friday, May 13, 1983 issue of Amandala.)
The eulogies paid by the People’s United Party to the late William Lloyd Coffin last week, especially the one by Minister Rogers, are a classic example of how the PUP perverts and defaces the history of Belize in general and of the PUP in particular.
The truth is that in 1956 Coffin denounced PUP leader George Price and walked out of the PUP annual convention! Here are the facts.
Coffin was chairman of a “rump” meeting of the PUP held at Liberty Hall on Barrack Road in June, 1956. The PUP leader, Leigh Richardson, Jr., was trying to justify his personal change of policy to favor Belize’s entry into the West Indian Federation. He was supported by PUP assistant secretary Philip Goldson, Chairman Coffin and GWU President Herman Jex, among others.
One of Price’s anti-West Indian Federation supporters, Nicholas Pollard, Sr., tried to censure Richardson, and Coffin broke up the meeting. Subsequently the pro-West Indian bloc isolated Pollard from Price within the GWU Executive Council and by majority vote suspended Pollard on a charge of dishonesty. The real issue was West Indian Federation.
Soon after Pollard formed the Christian Democratic Union, with remote support from Price, the PUP held its 6th Annual Convention at Riverside Hall on September 29, 1956. On that historic occasion PUP Chairman Coffin opened the meeting by reading a lengthy denunciation of both Price and Pollard. The main issue was made to appear as Pollard’s alleged dishonesty, but the true issue was a struggle between Price’s anti-and Richardson’s pro-West Indian policy.
Pollard jumped to his feet on a point of order. Coffin refused to yield the floor, and virtually all the convention delegates arose and drowned out Coffin with a continuous cry of “Point of order!”
When Coffin apparently finished reading his statement, he, Richardson, Goldson, Jex, and others stormed out of the meeting. Richardson jumped on his bicycle hotly pursued by Price secretaries Tony Meighan and Jose Cleland and a mob. He only escaped injury by firing his gun at the crowd. The convention then proceeded to expel Coffin and the others in their absence.
Immediately the Richardson bloc formed the rival Honduran Independence Party (HIP) supported by the GWU now nominally led by Leopold Grinage (deceased) and George Frazer (deceased). After the PUP under Price’s leadership and supported by Pollard’s CDU won all seats in the March 1957 general elections, Coffin became disenchanted with politics and his (first) family and took to the sea.
Coffin returned to Belize around 1962. He wore a Castro-style cap and sported a Communist trade union book. One of his new buddies was Ray Lightburn, and soon his reentry into the PUP was sponsored by PUP Johnny-come-lately Lindy Rogers.
Coffin became the only PUP “rebel” (a favorite Price epithet) ever accepted into PUP favor. This became possible through Rogers, a man who possesses a strange hold over Prime Minister George Price.