At this newspaper, we remember the two administrations (1984-89, and 1993-1998) of the first United Democratic Party (UDP) Prime Minister, Dr. Manuel Esquivel, for three things. One was the spraying of Belize’s marijuana fields with the deadly herbicide called paraquat; the second was the sale of the southern half of the “common grounds” we once called the Newtown Barracks for the building of the Ramada Hotel, which later became the Princess Hotel and Casino; the third Esquivel memory we have is the vindictive smashing of the largest industry to emerge in the last quarter century on Belize City’s Southside – semi-professional basketball.
When Dr. Esquivel made all these decisions which have impacted so negatively on the roots black community in Belize City, he was surrounded by a large amount of people in Cabinet who looked like roots black. At all material times, Dr. Esquivel’s Cabinet featured the Hon. Dean Barrow, Belize’s now three-time Prime Minister, who is the eight-time area representative for the Southside’s Queen’s Square. Both of Dr. Esquivel’s Cabinets included the Hon. Hubert Elrington, who represented the Southside’s Lake Independence. All of Mr. Barrow’s three Cabinets have included Hubert’s younger brother, Wilfred, who also served time briefly in the second Esquivel Cabinet (1993-1998). The Hon. Michael Finnegan, who is the UDP’s six-time area representative for the Southside’s Mesopotamia constituency, has served in all three Barrow Cabinets. Hon. Patrick Faber is a four-time UDP area rep in the Southside’s Collet division, and Hon. Boots Martinez is the four-time UDP area rep for Port Loyola. Both Mr. Faber and Mr. Martinez have served in all three Barrow Cabinets.
The people who look like us but are British in their hearts must not be angry at this newspaper for expressing our fury at their recent vote to begin the dismemberment of the MCC Grounds. For some of us slave descendants, the Garden is like our church. And, it is not as if we can do the black British anything: we are only a voice crying in the wilderness. The black community here had ample time to fight for the MCC. The proposal to dismember the MCC and make it into a parking lot for the Ramada/Princess must have been on various Cabinet tables for a couple decades. Looking back, we can see now that once Esquivel’s Cabinet began the dismemberment of the Newtown Barracks, the MCC was doomed.
There is a symbolism to the commencement of the Garden’s dismemberment which is not lost on the roots black community. In the first place, our inability to preserve the MCC illustrates how weak we, as a people, have become over the last four decades, and in the second place, it underlines the class difference between the “black British” who have actually sat in the Esquivel and Barrow Cabinets, and the roots black masses who have been depleted by migration to the United States. It may be said by strangers, and it will be said by historians, when they consider the Newtown Barracks and the MCC episodes, that it was our own who did it to us. But these people have, in their deeds, set themselves apart from roots people. Their manifest loyalty is to Buckingham Palace, and that Palace’s “heirs and successors.” It is for that reason we refer to them as “black British.”
The same black British who voted to dismember the MCC are responsible for what happened at the Sarstoon River mouth on Saturday morning. Again, for the last year at least, we Belizeans could see that this is what we were heading into – a violation of our territorial sovereignty and a national humiliation.
Perhaps we from the roots should just lick our wounds and shut our mouths. There was a time when we would have marched. We marched in 1919; we marched in 1934; we marched in 1972. It may even be said that we marched in 2004. But we have been unable to organize ourselves to demonstrate our dissatisfaction in public numbers with any of the various felonies committed by these Barrow administrations. We are not going to spend any time in the present editorial trying to figure out why this has been so. All we will say is that there are black people in the present Cabinet, just as there were black people in the Esquivel Cabinets, who thought and voted otherwise from what the masses of roots people wanted.
And yet, these were representatives of the people elected in free and fair elections. Their power to do what they did was and is legitimate power. What, then, gives us at Partridge the right to fulminate against these infamies? The plain evidence of our eyes and our ears gives us that right. The roots people around us are not happy with these infamies. In fact, roots people are outraged.
In the cases of the Newtown Barracks and the MCC Garden, it was our own elected governments which declared war on us descendants of slaves. In the matter of the Sarstoon River on Saturday morning, it was the Guatemalan government and military which declared war on us. Now, the black British who declared the Barracks and MCC wars against us, have for some time been coming to us and telling us the Maya of the Toledo are our enemies. The opposite is the case: the Maya of the Toledo are the first line of defence for us Afro-descendants against the racist, neo-European oligarchy who sent their armed muscle to our Belizean territory on Saturday morning. The message is plain, beloved: if we want it, we have to fight for it.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Big up, Wil.