Editorial — 09 June 2018
Disrespect, and discrimination

AMANDALA Radio:
Our position at AMANDALA presently is that we are in search of a small radio transmitter. As soon as we locate and acquire same, we are going to equip a small studio on Partridge Street and begin broadcasting.

It is ridiculous that the occupying forces of a foreign superpower can have their own radio station broadcasting to us, and we can’t be broadcasting to ourselves.

We do not consider Belize Radio One a community radio station, and neither did we so consider the previous Radio Belize.

We are therefore willing to test the constitutionality of the present monopoly radio situation in court. We are willing, as law-abiding citizens of Belize, to abide by fair and necessary regulations where band wave and technical considerations are concerned, but where our human right to own and operate a radio station is concerned, that human right we consider inviolate.

The factors which will determine if such a station survives will be (1) how well we manage it and (2) how much the people of Belize support it.

– AMANDALA Editorial, pg. 2, AMANDALA No. 1033, Friday, July 14, 1989

After 49 years, we know how these things work. Such a decision as the one made last month by the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) to initiate a boycott of Kremandala with respect to BTL’s advertising promotions, such a decision would have to cross the desk of the Maximum Leader, the Right Hon. Prime Minister, Dean O. Barrow.

This is not to say that such a decision was his idea, and it is not to say that Cabinet Ministers around him may not have been pushing the boycott idea. But the Prime Minister had to give the seal of approval. In so doing, Mr. Barrow disrespected an authentic, indigenous process which began before he went to law school at the University of the West Indies. When he was studying his law books in Jamaica, the founders of this newspaper were standing trial in the Supreme Court for seditious conspiracy.

It is this newspaper, you see, which is the ultimate issue with the BTL boycott, because there is not only disrespect here, there is also discrimination, the former being a capital offence in the streets, while the latter is an international crime, a violation of human rights. If you refuse to advertise in Amandala, then you cannot advertise in any newspaper in Belize, because Amandala is the best there is, the cream of the crop.

The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, please understand, can argue that his BTL will direct all its radio advertising to LOVE FM and its subsidiaries, it being the case that LOVE is a national radio monopoly. The PM can say that BTL does not have enough money to advertise on both LOVE and KREM, and he prefers the national radio monopoly.

When it comes to KREM TV, he can point out that Channel 7 and Channel 5 are longer and better established, and he can suggest that BTL only has money to advertise on two out of the three, hence to hell with KREM.

None of us on Partridge could have remonstrated in the face of such arguments, except to wonder how come the famously liquid and high profit/big dividend BTL is experiencing a cash flow crisis?

When the PM boycotts this newspaper to advertise in our competitor, this is where he is standing in filth. The decision so to do, and it was manifest in last weekend’s issues of the two newspapers, constitutes a willful act of discrimination which has no basis in business considerations. In the newspaper world, advertising is based on circulation. We are talking about wherever in the world such animals exist as newspapers: you attract advertizers based on the size of your readership. Not so in Belize, beloved.

Well now, the Prime Minister of Belize has used his executive privilege, as it may be said, to point the finger of boycott at Kremandala. It’s a strange Belize in which we live. Three and a half decades ago, the same Prime Minister, while still a humble attorney, and his younger brother, Denys, who is now an exalted judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), defended this same Amandala in huge libel cases brought against us by the then Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. George Price, in the first instance, and by one of Mr. Price’s Cabinet Ministers, Hon. Louis Sylvestre, in the second instance. The Barrow brothers did the cases, which they both lost, free of cost. They donated their time and legal learning.

A few months after the two cases, Dean Barrow entered electoral politics as an Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate in the December 1983 Belize City Council elections. He topped the polls. A year later, he ran for the Queen’s Square seat in the House with Ralph Fonseca of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) as his opponent. Mr. Barrow defeated Mr. Fonseca by a large margin.

We would argue that there was something Dean Barrow gained by defending Amandala pro bono in the Price and Sylvestre libel cases of 1982 and 1983. He gained political mileage. In May of 2018, as Prime Minister of Belize, the same Mr. Barrow, we submit, has committed the crime of discrimination against Amandala.

The two political parties, the UDP and the PUP, they come and they go where terms of office are concerned, but since1969 this newspaper has remained, and it is a symbol of the freedom of the press in Belize’s parliamentary democracy. Amongst the masses of the Belizean people, Amandala stands for something. Amandala stands for the power of the Belizean people. In his act of discrimination, Mr. Barrow arguably exposes the fact that he is where he is by the will and permission of the oligarchy of Belize. It is not as if Mr. Barrow has lost his soul: he never had one. It was always “the world” which he sought to gain.

The circumstances which have surrounded the BTL boycott of our businesses began with an e-mail on May 12 from one of our marketing executives. The Kremandala businesses were not formally notified of the BTL boycott. Sometime last week, Breaking Belize News, an online news service, broke the news, after which we checked the pages of the issues of Belize’s two major newspapers which were published last weekend. The disrespect was there to be seen. Part owner of KREM Television, Evan”Mose” Hyde, then decided to break the BTL boycott story on his WUB talk show on the morning of Monday, June 4, 2018.

Months before the March7, 2018 Belize City Council election, we explained to you in this newspaper that we were of the opinion that the Barrow government had been targeting our businesses for destruction since late 2016, at least. For that reason, we chose to campaign for the PUP in the Belize City Council election. We wanted to send a message to Mr. Barrow. We declared our intent.

Mr. Barrow apparently got the message, and decided to retaliate. The problem for him is that this newspaper has a human right to campaign for any political party we choose. But he, Mr. Barrow, as the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Belize, does not have the right to discriminate with the budgets of a company owned by the people of Belize. Discrimination is an international crime. Disrespect? That’s a street thing.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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