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Compton, Assad, and the diaspora

When it comes to the various dramas which have been played out with Guatemala and Belize as the principals, this newspaper has been using the Clinton Canul Luna analytical model for some years now. That model views all matters of Guatemalan/Belizean interaction as being orchestrated, produced and directed, from Washington, the political capital of the United States of America – self-appointed ruler of the Western Hemisphere of planet earth.

Consider, for example, the strange developments over the last two weeks having to do with the Sarstoon River and a recent history of Guatemalan military aggression there. Last week, National Security Minister John Saldivar suddenly posted on his social media site that his military Ministry would be organizing and escorting excursions to the volatile Sarstoon River for the next few months. Saldivar sent his Ministry’s chief executive officer, Col. (Retired) George Lovell, to elaborate on the proposition to the media.

When Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow, re-entered the public arena (after almost two months of medical hiatus) with a Monday morning press conference this week, however, he said that such an initiative had not been processed in Cabinet, the supreme decision-making body of the Government of Belize, and the understanding the media derived was that the Saldivar brain child would be examined the following day, Tuesday, in Cabinet. Lo and behold, Cabinet proceeded to reject the idea of Sarstoon River excursions, and there is now egg all over the Minister of National Security’s face. So, what happened here?

Well, it is possible for a local authority to misinterpret signals from such as a United States official or handler. Perhaps the most extraordinary such case in recent memory occurred in Baghdad when the then ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was considering an invasion of Kuwait. It is said that Saddam felt that the United States ambassador in Iraq was expressing a lack of negative concern, so to speak, over his plans for Kuwait. That American ambassador was not putting up a stop sign. When he proceeded to invade Kuwait in August of 1990, however, it was the United States which immediately organized and led a massive military coalition to drive him out of Kuwait. We’re just saying.

On Monday morning in his press conference, Prime Minister Barrow confirmed that his government is negotiating with Dr. Assad Shoman to have him play a leading role in the “yes to the ICJ” referendum campaign, which has appeared to be faltering despite its large budget. Assad Shoman is an attorney and world-class academic who was a revolutionary activist and politician in Belize between 1969 and 1984. Shoman was considered at least socialist, if not downright communist, so much so that his entry into Hon. George Price’s ruling People’s United Party (PUP) in the early 1970s triggered a revolt against Mr. Price’s PUP by a very powerful, Roman Catholic section of the Belize business community, which formed the Liberal Party in 1972, a political party which then played a prominent role in the organization of the anti-communist United Democratic Party (UDP), established in September of 1973.

On Wednesday morning this week, two days after the PM’s Shoman announcement, Compton Fairweather, who is now in his eighties,brought his venerable presence to the LOVE FM talk show, which was hosted on this occasion by the LOVE owner, Dr. Rene Villanueva, and the one Troy Gabb. Mr. Fairweather was on the national radio monopoly’s talk show to push his “yes to the ICJ” agenda.

Compton Fairweather is the diametric opposite of Assad Shoman where their political philosophies and histories are concerned. A member of a classically Anglican, pro-British family structure in British Honduras, Compton migrated to the United States in the early years of PUP anti-colonial agitation in the 1950s, served in the American military (where he became an electronics expert), and then worked for the leading telecommunications company in the United States.

His stature in New York City’s community of Belizeans in exile was such that he became the most powerful force in the British Honduras Freedom Committee, a group which was raising between $50,000 and $80,000 a month to support Philip Goldson’s Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) during the latter part of the 1960s. In pursuance of the diaspora’s anti-PUP crusade in the U.S., Compton built a radio-telephone network which he operated out of his father’s home on Rutland Road in Brooklyn, New York. Belizeans who called a specific telephone number would receive a recorded version of the news from British Honduras, as prepared and edited by Compton Fairweather.

The role played by Compton Fairweather and the Freedom Committee in replacing Mr. Goldson as Opposition Leader, beginning with the attempt to replace him as NIP Leader with Dean Lindo in June of 1969, is shrouded in mystery. All we know is that Compton Fairweather and Dean Lindo lived on the same Brooklyn street (Rutland Road) when Lindo was studying at New York University in the latter part of the 1950s, and that the two men were good friends.

It was Compton Fairweather’s father, Rev. Gerald Fairweather, an Anglican priest living in Brooklyn, who came to Belize in early 1973 to organize the UDP while Mr. Goldson was studying law in London. We know more about what happened in 1973 with the formation of the UDP than we do about the Lindo challenge to Goldson in 1969, but we know nothing about the real role of the one Compton in Belize’s Opposition politics between 1969 and 1973.

Given the significant financial successes of the Freedom Committee a half century ago in supporting Mr. Goldson’s “No Guatemala” push, in the first instance, it has been disappointing to watch how feeble attempts of the present Belizean diaspora to organize have been over the last two or three years. Diaspora energies had first begun to surface because of the Sarstoon River incidents which became headline news in early 2015, but these energies have not been sustained following the Guatemalan vote in April of 2017 to go to the ICJ, and the subsequent controversies involving the disenfranchisement of diaspora Belizeans for Belize’s referendum vote next April, not to mention the Government of Belize’s decision to allow unconstitutionally registered Guatemalans to vote in Belize’s ICJ referendum.

It is true that Compton Fairweather was an exceptional diaspora leader fifty years ago, and no such has emerged in the 2018 diaspora. It is also true that it is much more difficult, since the horrors of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Towers and the introduction of Homeland Security, for citizens of foreign origin to organize and raise funds in the U.S. for foreign causes than it was in the 1960s. In addition, we have to assume that organizational difficulties for the Belizean diaspora would be exacerbated because of how important it seems  to be for Washington that Belizeans vote “yes to the ICJ” next April. All indications are that the “yes” vote is a part of Washington’s foreign policy, almost etched in stone. This may mean that we can count out the Belizean diaspora as a role player for April 10, 2019.

At the same time, a re-examination of the later 1960s is in order. The State Department of the United States could not have been hostile to the Freedom Committee, or hostile to Mr. Goldson as the beneficiary of the Committee’s support, but we have to assume that things changed after Mr. Goldson exposed the Thirteen Proposals in 1966. What is more, American intelligence documents which were declassified last year said that American officials were convinced that Mr. Goldson had established links with Fidel Castro’s Cuba between 1967 and 1968. The only UDP or UDP-connected personality to respond to this newspaper’s publication of these documents was Compton Fairweather.

So now, we simply have to ask the question: how did it come to pass that Compton and Assad are riding the same horse? And is that any more surprising than the Leaders of the PUDP being joined in holy matrimony on the “yes to the ICJ” altar?

As the Maritime Areas Act was, so is the ICJ referendum. These are transnational corporate initiatives which are Wall Street in origin. A few Belizeans will make a lot of money selling the ICJ dream. And if you ask, what’s wrong with that, it’s the American dream, we would say to you, ask Mr. Goldson what’s wrong with it. He never, ever sold us out, and for that we, the Belizean people, will be eternally grateful.

Power to the people.

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