Features — 21 April 2018
Correction appreciation

The editor of the Amandala forwarded me a note from eminent Belizean historian/librarian, Mr. Lawrence Vernon, in which he pointed out an error in my story titled “Her Moment to Shine”, which was published last Friday. In that piece I had said that a disgruntled Philip Goldson declared “seven days of freedom” in Guatemala AFTER he was jailed in Belize, for sedition. Mr. Lawrence says his research shows that Goldson was in Guatemala a month or so BEFORE he went to jail.

I am sure Mr. Vernon knows that the paragraph in which the error was made wasn’t deadly serious, but the correction is very important. The paragraph in question was much smile humor, in color, not black and white, but the substance needed to be corrected. I said that to make sure that what follows here is not confused with “excuse.”

I seldom jab at Philip Goldson because he took way too much flak, unfair flak, and he and his family got so little recompense from Belize for all he sacrificed for us. All the NIP had to give was love.

I took a little liberty with the Father of the Nation in that story too, when I declared that he was in a one-nation Central American Isthmus dream. No, Miss Haylock didn’t cry enough to drown a cat, but she did weep until her eyes were the colour of that building near the BelChina. As for Minister Elrington, he’s got about two months, at most, to right his ship. We really have to pray he comes to his senses, or he is going to do what ships do when they run into a reef: wreck.

Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (no capitalist document!) was in the hearts and on the lips of the leaders of Belize in the 1950’s. The first sense I have from Belizean history is that Philip Goldson’s “seven days of freedom” in Guatemala was all about Jacobo Arbenz and Guatemalan land reform. What a pity it didn’t last!

Mr. Vernon’s note says, “In reading Colin Hyde’s piece in the Friday, April 15, 2018 Amandala on page 11, I noticed that he stated: “After Belize jailed him, Goldson went over the Western border and found seven days of freedom.” I am in the process of writing a biography of Philip Goldson, and from my research Goldson reported on his sojourn to Guatemala in October 1951; while he was sentenced to serve one year in prison in November 1951 for seditious intention.”

I expect Mr. Vernon will give the full details of the jailing of Goldson in his biography. Until then, after the lesson he just taught us, the novelist in me will wonder if Goldson knew he was going to jail, why he used the word— “freedom.”

In my paternal grandfather’s unpublished story about his brother Valan’s short life, there is this scene where Valan is a roaming prisoner of a jail in Omoa, Honduras. It was an extremely dangerous situation, and Valan’s friend advises him as he is boarding the SS Zambrano, the gunboat he worked on as the engineer, to make a run for it. “I see signs of a Norther,” the friend told him. “Pray for it to come soon. Go to Hunting Cay and get off there. Make a run for Belize Town.”

I have no doubt about Philip Goldson’s support for the land reform government of Jacobo Arbenz. For those who had any, the recently revealed classified documents from the US, about Goldson receiving assistance from Fidel in Cuba, sealed the deal on that. But I will wonder about his choice to use the word, “freedom.”

Finally, thanks, thanks, thanks to Mr. Vernon for working on Mr. Goldson’s story. I knew Yasser Musa briefly, when he was the head of NICH, and he told me, in a brief discussion, that the Goldsonites had asked him when he would produce something about Goldson’s life. The NICH had just produced a story about the life of George Price. Yasser said he told them, absolutely yes, but we need you to write it.

Mr. Vernon’s effort might end up as expensive as Godfrey Smith’s biography of George Price, out of the reach of most Belizean pockets, but nothing is wrong with borrowing a book if you can’t afford it. The Ministry of Education really must throw tons of money his way for this essential effort.

Oh heck, I was never going to say it, but I watch the education budget each year. I really am interested in knowing how much money is squeezed out of that fund each year and thrown at Belizean writers.

One friend; one NO friend

The Mexican people and the Mexican government are our friends. Mexico had the same “Spain’s rights” to claim a section of Belize, their “claim” being from the Hondo to the Sibun. And when Mexico belonged to Spain, she did just that. But after Mexicans unshackled themselves from Spain’s rule, they embraced Belize as a friend, a cherished neighbour.

The Guatemalan people are our friends, but the Guatemalan government is not. The Guatemalan government is no friend of Belize because, in the name of Spain, she claims Belize from the Sibun to the Sarstoon, and all her cayes except for St. George’s Caye. The real of Guatemala is that she is an aberration, an archaic country. We are living in the Americas, not Spain, and it is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth.

The “Eurocentrics” who rule in Guatemala looked over at Belize and they couldn’t stomach the sight of black faces and brown faces actually owning and running a country. The British were in charge in Belize but there were a lot of people of colour working in the government. It hurt their racist core.

The fact is that it is only the “Eurocentrics” in Guatemala who are pressing this claim. This is what their referendum proved. The majority of the Guatemalan people are our friends. The Guatemalan government is not.

After spending so much money, after all their mis-education, only a quarter of their voters turned out. The message is very clear: the Guatemalan people want Belize to be Belize. The Guatemalan people want the kind of friendship we share with Mexico. The Guatemalan government should do the right thing. They should drop this claim.

Guatemala’s feeble “yes”

We cannot calculate how many millions of dollars, and how many millions of hours, Guatemalan leaders have spent on their “Belice es nuestro” propaganda, since declaring so in their constitution in 1945. It’s a lot, a heck of a lot.

Guatemala has been told, so many times, that land is not in this story. No proposal, not Webster’s, not the Heads, not Ramphal/Reichler, was about land cession. When the United Nations supported Belize’s independence, it was made clear to anyone who was interested, that Belize’s land belonged to Belize.

Sure, there was a “use and enjoyment” of a few cayes in the Heads, and the Webster’s did make us out like a satellite state. But the Hondo to the Sarstoon was always set in stone.

There have been some trade proposals, some of which Belize doesn’t agree with. For example, one trade proposal gave Guatemala “rights” to run a pipeline through Belize. Belize can’t accept anyone having “rights” to run a pipeline through it. If Belize accepted such a proposal, environmentalists both in Guatemala and Belize would march on their governments.

This story is almost exclusively about a road. If you look at Article Seven of the 1859 treaty, it speaks about road and waterways. The cost of the road would have been shared by both countries. We are told that this road would run from Guatemala City to Lake Izabal. We are not told which waterways were in consideration. The Belize Old River was a trade route (mostly to float logs down to the harbor in Belize City). There are threads to this story, one of which is that the Guatemalan government at the time most likely would have been looking to the Belize River to float mahogany from the east section of Peten down to Belize City.

It was the Guatemalan government, not the Guatemalan people, who decided that their president, President Serrano, was off tack when he agreed to recognize Belize after we offered to delimit our territorial seas in the south, and that we would form an EEZ with some of those same delimited seas, and jointly exploit the area with Guatemala and Honduras.

It was the Guatemalan government, not the Guatemalan people, who turned down the Ramphal/Reichler proposals.
But it was the Guatemalan people who on Sunday said to their leaders, loud and clear, that they want no part of the Guatemalan claim to Belize. After all the millions of dollars that the Guatemalan government spent, and all the enticements (remember the guy who was going around with his video camera, making beautiful movies of Belize to “entice” the Guatemalan people), the response was lukewarm on Sunday.

This poor showing in Guatemala, it does make Belize wonder why it is going to court against such a minute segment of the Guatemalan population. The fact is that this minute segment is made up of the ones who run the Guatemalan military. It is kind of difficult to reason with those kinds of minds.

Sedi Elrington is the first Foreign Minister who has projected Belize as a cowardly country. Shockingly, he has made a YES vote into a frightened vote. The voices in the marketplace at this time seem to be saying NO. But there are internal reasons why Belize will want to resolve this external problem. Our independence has been a dud for so many Belizeans.

As the UDPeez like to point out, it is the PUP that led us into independence, and it is the PUP that led us into the compromis. The UDP failed to scare the PUP away from independence, but if Sedi the Educator keeps saying all the wrong things, his party might yet scare the PUP into a second think about the ICJ. A “yes” vote to the ICJ becomes a reality only if the two main parties are on page.

Much love and respect to Officer Gillett, but…

Tour guide to tourist: Maybe this man lives on the south side of Belize City. If he does, he’ll be able to tell us where the historic Anglican Church is.

Tour Guide to man on the street; Sir, you’re from the south side?

Man on the street: No sir, I da fram Area Number Two.

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Deshawn Swasey

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