If the attorney, one-time PUP politician, and online columnist, Godfrey Smith, wished to throw bouquets at Sir Manuel Esquivel, Belize’s two-term Prime Minister, then this was Mr. Smith’s eminent right as a citizen of Belize and a player in our public affairs. And, so he did last week in his online “Flashpoint” column, which was published in the weekend issue of The Belize Times, the official newspaper of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP).
Mr. Smith described Sir Manuel as “the United Democratic Party’s only statesman – living or dead,” “the elder statesman of the UDP,” and referred to his government leadership as “marked by personal integrity, fiscal discipline that restored the financial health of the economy and a clear-headed attempt to drum up foreign investment.” Well, this was definitely not the broadcast political opinion of the PUP during the years when Mr. Smith was the party’s General Secretary, which was before he became the PUP’s Pickstock constituency candidate in 2002. But, such discrepancies in Godfrey’s last two decades constitute an aside.
Of note is his penning the historical opinion that what he describes as “the disrespecting of Manuel Esquivel” last week would never have happened to the Right Honorable George Price at the hands of the PUP during Mr. Price’s retirement. Godfrey provides a contrast of the political cultures inside the PUP and the UDP as an explanation for his historical opinion. What he did not provide was a contrast of the specific personalities – that of the humble Mr. Price, for whom Godfrey Smith was official biographer, and that of Sir Manuel. In this newspaper’s editorial last weekend, we gave our historical opinion that Mr. Esquivel, encouraged by his better half, had always overrated himself. So that, some of the fault for last week lay in Sir Esquivel’s self, not in his stars.
Where Mr. Smith went decidedly off course, and where he would have roused the ire of many Belizeans, was when he changed subjects in mid-stream and began to disparage the significance and accomplishments of the Hon. Philip Goldson. Mr. Smith apparently felt the urge to raise Sir Manuel to a level of prestige above that of Mr. Goldson, and he attempted to do so as follows. “Mr. Esquivel, arguably, has a better claim than Philip Goldson to the title of ‘historical leader’ of the UDP.” “Examined in the illuminating light of research, the mantle of ‘super patriot’ draped around the shoulders of Mr. Goldson is thread-bare, stitched together from the myth that he, for decades, fearlessly and uncompromisingly fought against and exposed Price’s hidden agenda of selling out Belize to Guatemala.” “There was never any bone fide threat or risk that Price or the PUP would have ‘sold out’ Belize to Guatemala.”
Well then, young Mr. Smith, are you accusing Mr. Goldson of concocting such a threatening scenario? Have you ever heard of Ydigoras Fuentes, Mr. Godfrey? What about Francisco Sagastume? Have you studied the Bay of Pigs invasion and do you understand its significance where the 1961 relationship between the United States and Guatemala was concerned? Have you read the Seventeen Proposals, Mr. Godfrey, and do you understand them? Mr. Price did say on the rostrum that he had read these seven times, and yet did not understand them.
The truth of the matter is that a large percentage of Belizeans believed in the 1960s that we needed Philip Goldson in the worst kind of way. This was, in fact, Mr. Goldson’s second episode of national heroism. He had first become a national hero when he helped to found the People’s United Party in 1950 and then served nine months in a British Honduras jail for sedition in 1951.
Godfrey Smith’s mean-spirited attack on Mr. Goldson because of the permanent residency problems in his Ministry of Immigration in the mid-1990s, exposes some kind of agenda. Mr. Goldson was totally blind when he was victimized by those around him. You can argue that he should have already retired, but then whom would we have had to fight the Maritime Areas Act in 1991 when the UDP leadership was swallowing that petroleum package – hook, line and sinker?
At the end of his column, Mr. Smith returns on course when he finally begins to attack Prime Minister Barrow, Godfrey’s one time employer at the Barrow & Williams law firm. Too little, too late.
You are playing games, Mr. Smith. What did Mr. Goldson have to do with this exercise anyway? Why was his photograph prominently featured in the middle of the Belize Times’ version of your column? This was the real disrespect last week, the disrespect for the two-time national hero of Belize.