Features — 09 June 2018 — by Charles X
Criminalizing our young men

BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 5, 2018– The UDP government and this Prime Minister, a lawyer by profession, whose professional career started out with defending many young men caught up in the system, have a lot to answer for, in regards to what can only be described as an epidemic of “paper” crimes that are being committed by the young men of our country, from north to south, east to west.

Belize City’s Southside has been the heart of the problem, but the evidence now shows that a new paradigm of moral and ethical adventurism has taken over our agile and ambitious young men, who are caught up in a lifestyle outlook focused on “getting there,” “getting what’s mine,” and getting a “piece of the action.”  For sure, they are all convinced, from all the evidence around them, that there is significant “action” going on among select members of society and government. It’s in the news for all to see and hear.

But it seems that “big people” don’t get arrested by the police. Nevertheless, in a shrinking economy, where jobs are scarce, and pay is small, and prices keep rising, and somehow there are some lucky few who spend money “like it is going out of style,” there is the temptation for more and more of our young men to throw caution to the wind, and take their chances on “coming up” by diving into the illegal economy, with hopes of hitting a score and then being able to return to the normal routine of the day-to-day battle to stay afloat in this suffocating financial climate.

What does P.M. Dean Barrow and his UDP government colleagues have to do with what has become of our young men today? What does he have to “answer for”?

Leadership is a serious thing. Whether it is in a family, a business, a sporting organization, or government, the leader sets the tone, and the message filters down the line — about what is expected of others, and what will not be tolerated.

This is a Prime Minister who, in the throes of ethical challenges within his government party ranks, allowed the lawyer inside him to take precedence, and dance around critical issues by descending into distracting arguments of “moral guilt” versus “legal guilt.”

When pressured to fulfill campaign promises of a “recall” law for elected representatives, he turned around, in the face of overwhelming evidence and public mobilization with petitions signed by thousands of citizens, and declared that those signatures were bogus, and thus no recall process was pursued.

More than that, when citizens pressed for police investigations, and even the Chief Justice ordered the Commissioner of Police to proceed with criminal investigations against a sitting Minister, somehow, the P.M. was not moved to intervene and order the said Commissioner to comply or be removed from his post. Condoning inaction is almost as good as endorsing crime.

What this P.M. has just done in regard to the BTL boycott of advertisements with Kremandala is just one in a long list of transgressions that have served to foster a climate of criminality in the minds of young Belizean men. It doesn’t matter how you get it, just go for it. Only a few bad- lucked ones will “fall.”

If you play your cards right in this criminally corrupt system, chances are high that you will get away, paying a bribe here and there as necessary. What this P.M. has attempted to do with BTL is a financial crime, even if it doesn’t exist on our law books presently. And he surely knows that.

The UDP does not own BTL. This is government property; and government is the people – blue, red, green and all colors. This cannot be run according to party political favors. But he has done it before – when he first blatantly, without any tendering or application interviews, appointed his own son as C.E.O. of BTL, with exorbitant salary and perks; and proceeded, when challenged by media personnel, to redefine the meaning of the word “nepotism.”

So? Our young men in the streets see these things.

Former UDP Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Lands, “Hon.” Gaspar Vega, is yet to be prosecuted for the wanton raping of our lands for personal and family gain. Interestingly, his devious machinations could not have been carried out without, at the very least, inaction on the part of the P.M.’s own Ministry of Finance; but the P.M.’s name is never mentioned when questions are raised about financial skullduggery by his other Ministers.

So, what is done about it? A little slap on the wrist; a demotion from Cabinet; but otherwise everything remains “irie” for the Gappy clan.

There have been more Ministerial financial scandals involving members of Barrow’s Cabinet than any other Belize government in history – Penner, Saldivar, Gappy, Boots, Clear the Land, Montero, Contreras. None have been prosecuted for anything. Again, our young men in the streets see these things.

The murder rate in little, once peaceful Belize has been escalating at an alarming rate, and the conviction rate for murder would almost be a joke, if it was not so tragic and frightening. To “get away with murder” is now the norm, not the exception. Our young men in the streets see these things.

Who knows? Maybe P.M. Barrow’s own life is threatened from “within,” and perhaps that’s why he seems impotent in stemming the spiraling disaster that has become the crime situation in Belize, despite the yearly increase in numbers of policemen and BDF soldiers in the streets.  More and more of these lawmen, who are young men with eyes too, have been caught involved in criminal activity in and out of uniform. Crime and criminality is all around them; and some will give in to temptation, and a few of those will get caught.

Make no mistake; it is the tip of the iceberg; crime is rampant in a criminalized society, where the climate filters from the top down. “Good cops… bad cops.” “Good citizens… bad citizens.”  “Honest leaders… thieving politicians.” “Crooks in high places… and in the streets.” Who can point fingers? “Full belly tell hungry belly, ‘keep heart’.” It’s practically a free for all in this land right now. And our young men in the streets see these things.

Can we blame them one hundred percent for falling into the cesspool of crime? What we need to focus on is how to get them out of the hole they have dug themselves into, with the help of criminal neglect and inaction by our “squeaky clean” P.M. and his merry band of crooks in high places.

Far too many of our young men are getting involved and caught in criminal actions in their quest for “the paper,” that they see the “white-collar” big men grabbing for themselves with impunity.

“Time for a change” was the slogan of the first successful UDP general elections campaign in 1984. It is now really “time for a change,” a drastic and all-encompassing change in “how we are governed,” starting with a sweeping out of all the “bad apples,” and a stern re-enacting of government based on the principles of “meritocracy” instead of this slothful culture of crime and “cronyism.”

It will take a new, strong, principled, compassionate, visionary and just leader to accomplish this. Someone once said, “Building is a task for giants,” a scarce commodity for some time on our Belizean political landscape.

In the wake of their first glorious electoral victory in 1984, then newly elected Queen’s Square representative Dean Barrow climbed onto the bonnet of a pickup truck outside the gates of the polling station on Cemetery Road and addressed the euphoric crowd of UDP supporters and onlookers, finishing dramatically with a challenge to voters that still resonates in my mind. He admonished the entranced throng of citizens to never again let any government “do to unu” what the just ousted blue party had done to them.

And then these memorable words: “AND IF WE EVER GET LIKE DEHN, UNU MUST RUN FI WE R_SS TOO!!”

“Tell me why is it that murderation, is everyone’s occupation?

Even the policemen da di station, full up a, full up a corruption…” —   Garif Valentine, a.k.a. Positive Vibes.

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Deshawn Swasey

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