Editorial — 23 June 2018
The evidence of the gravitas

In 1862 Belize was declared a colony of Britain, and in 1871 it became a Crown Colony, ruled by a Governor and with a Legislative Council made up of officials and nominated members. In 1936 an elective element in the Council was allowed. In 1945 the Council consisted of four official members (British), four nominated members and six members elected on a very narrow franchise (in a population of close to 60,000, the electorate numbered 822).

– pg. 31, GUATEMALA’S CLAIM TO BELIZE: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY, by Assad Shoman, Image Factory Art Foundation

Apart from his personal feelings and issues, the Prime Minister of Belize, Right Hon. Dean O. Barrow, was under immediate and increasing pressure as Leader of the ruling  United Democratic Party (UDP), to do something about Kremandala.  The pressure was coming from his area representatives and standard bearers, especially on the Southside of Belize City, in the wake of the Opposition People’s United Party’s (PUP) stunning victory in the Belize City Council election of March this year.

Belize City’s Southside had been the UDP’s political stronghold at least from when the UDP took back the City Council from the PUP in 2006. Huge margins of UDP victory in the Queen’s Square, Mesopotamia, Port Loyola, and Collet constituencies set a trend for the next three CitCo elections (2009, 2012, and 2015) where PUP victories in Northside constituencies such as Fort George and Freetown came a long way from neutralizing the UDP’s Southside superiority.

The UDP came out of their third consecutive general election victory in November of 2015 with six out of seven Southside seats, with all six UDP area representatives becoming powerful Cabinet Ministers. These were Prime Minister Dean Barrow (Queen’s Square); Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber (Collet); Anthony “Boots” Martinez (Port Loyola); Michael Finnegan (Mesopotamia); Wilfred Elrington (Pickstock); and Tracy Taegar–Panton (Albert).

What happened on March 7 was that the UDP lost Pickstock and Port Loyola to the PUP, and UDP margins of victory in Collet, Mesopotamia and Albert were reduced, to the extent that solid PUP Northside success had the effect of sweeping the PUP into City Hall for the first time in fifteen years. It was, to repeat, a stunning victory for the PUP, but perhaps less obvious was the fact that March 7 was a frightening reversal for the UDP, although Mr. Barrow did his best to downplay it in a post-election press conference.

Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber’s star had dimmed in Collet. Port Loyola’s Boots Martinez was retiring after the present term. So was Michael Finnegan in Mesopotamia. So was the mighty Dean Barrow himself in Queen’s Square. The UDP was in transition, and what March 7 did was raise questions about the successions in Port, Mesop, and Queen’s Square, as well as provide more grist for the mill for UDP power brokers who had been skeptical about Patrick Faber’s maturity.

At the same time, all the evidence indicated that March 7 in Belize City had been a spectacular success for the PUP’s Lake Independence area rep and PUP national deputy leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, who had been tasked by PUP Leader, Hon. John Briceño, with choosing the party’s CitCo slate and running the campaign.

The UDP was concerned about Cordel Hyde even before March 7. That is because he comes out of Kremandala, and he brings Kremandala along most places he goes. After March 7, Cordel became a UDP obsession. The reality of that UDP obsession was not so obvious in the weeks after March 7, because inside the PUP itself there were people, the same people who had been leading losing Southside campaigns for all the years since 2006, who now felt that Cordel was becoming too big. So, that was what Sunday’s vicious campaign for leadership of PUP Albert was all about. Senator Paul Thompson was a Cordel ally, and Senator Valerie Woods was supported by those PUP elements who were worried about Cordel.

Remember, the PUP’s anti-Cordel forces have the same concern of the UDP’s obsessive anti-Cordel element, and that is the fact that Cordel brings Kremandala along with him most places he goes.

So then, what really is this Kremandala, and why is it a danger to political elements in both the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP? A big part of the answer is that Kremandala is an economic factor in a depressed Southside area where jobs are scarce and food is at a premium. Kremandala has been on Partridge Street since 1972. This is a long time, and Kremandala’s longevity and consistency have inspired trust where roots Belizeans are concerned. Starting from scratch in 1969, Kremandala has created more jobs on the Southside than any business group except the Bowen & Bowen group, and there is no need to tell you that the Bowen & Bowen rise came out of their relationship with Coca Cola, one of planet earth’s largest and most successful transnational companies.

The other aspect of the Kremandala story may be of even greater concern to special interests in the UDP and the PUP. Kremandala, against the historical odds, has convinced individual roots Belizeans that they have a role to play, that they have been the foundation of the Kremandala success, and that when they are able to pool their resources and come together, they can be successful. Exhibit A was Kremandala, and it was a pudding they could eat.

The special interests in the UDP and the PUP are seriously opposed to such a self-help roots thinking. For such special interests, the only way Belize can develop is with foreign direct investment, the highly touted FDI. But Exhibit A in that school of economic development thinking in Belize has been Lord Michael Ashcroft, and any fool can see who’s been winning and who’s been losing in such a ball game.

In the Settlement of Belize in June of 1797, there were thousands of human beings living here, but only a total of 116 people voted and decided the fate of Belize. As late as 1945, when 60,000 human beings were living here, only 822 could vote. They do not explain to our children in school what these numbers mean. You and I know what it means: it means white supremacy.

That began to change with universal adult suffrage in 1954 in British Honduras, but the Belizean people began to become complacent and over-confident. At a certain point after independence in 1981, and certainly by 1993, we began to see that Belizeans were often and routinely accepting money to vote in certain ways. Belizeans were selling their vote. Belizeans were violating the very franchise our ancestors had fought so hard to achieve. Elections had become a party, a frivolous exercise where the aim was having fun instead of carefully examining the issues.  The upshot of all that fun was blood running in the Southside streets. White supremacy had become even more sophisticated. They financed leaders who looked like us, but who were owned by them. Belize City’s Southside has been Exhibit A – black honorables in charge of black degradation.

The rise of Cordel Hyde, however, is suggesting to the special interests that the roots people of Belize have learned a lesson where voter bribery is concerned.  The roots people have learned what our ancestors had always tried to teach us: beware of the “one day bellyful.”

And because the special interests have now become so worried about Belize roots people, Dean Barrow had to do something about Kremandala after March 7.

He chose a financial attack through the public telecommunications company, which he controls and which he appears to think he owns. He chose to use his high office to question Kremandala’s gravitas. All the while, the evidence of the gravitas was there for even the blind to see – March 7.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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