“Dr. Theodore Aranda has been given control of the balance of power in the Dangriga Town Board as the result of this election.
“Of the five Town Board members in Dangriga, two are UDP, two are now PUP, and one (Randolph Enriquez) is CDP. Even if the two Town Board members who are in the United States return, Dr. Aranda can still decide if the PUP or the UDP will run Dangriga Town, since one absentee councillor (Carolyn Jackson) is CDP while the other (A. B. Ogaldez) is UDP.”
– pg. 3, Amandala no. 763, Friday, March 2, 1984
Bye-elections were held for two Dangriga Town Board seats on Wednesday, February 29, 1984. Two Dangriga councilors had died suddenly, within a week of each other – Mrs. Margaret “Din Din” Guerrero (UDP) on December 26, 1983, and Mr. Henry Bowman (PUP) on January 1, 1984.
In December of 1981, Dangriga voters had given the then Dr. Ted Aranda-led Opposition United Democratic Party six seats on the Town Board, the late Bowman winning the only PUP seat.
Amandala no. 760 of Friday, February 10, 1984, reported in its headline story: “Prime Minister George Price earlier this week ordered bye-elections to be held for two seats on the Dangriga Town Board. Preparing for the Dangriga bye-elections, Mr. Price named Dangriga’s Gadsby Ramos the President of the Senate just week before last, and quickly followed that up by appointing Dangriga’s Allan Arthurs to a Senate post.”
In retrospect, the PUP had to move that fast because a landslide Opposition UDP victory in the December 1983 Belize City Council elections had caused shock waves in the ruling party. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Senator C. L. B. Rogers, after 18 years as the powerful no. 2 man to PUP Leader/Prime Minister Price, had seen his vaunted power broken in the middle of January of 1984 after two weeks of PUP leadership infighting. Rogers was replaced as Minister of Home Affairs (Police and BDF) by Collet area representative and Attorney General, Hon. V. H. Courtenay. He lost his Deputy Prime Minister position. Defeated in his Mesopotamia constituency in the 1979 general elections by the UDP’s Curl Thompson, Mr. Rogers had been serving in Cabinet since December of 1979 “at the pleasure “ of Mr. Price.
When I entered Paul Guerrero’s historic Eden Rose Club the weekend before the bye-elections (I had come to Griga to be a guest speaker at a UDP campaign rally), “Pags” was, of course, still mourning Din Din. This had been a marriage made in heaven, as they say, and husband and wife had been inseparable for forty years, complementary to each other in every respect. Din Din was electric and charismatic, Pags calm and dignified. With Din Din gone, Pags would never be the same.
Still, the club was lively, and Simeon Sampson and I quickly found each other. I suppose Simeon was already a qualified and practicing attorney. He would be the PUP Dangriga candidate in the December 1984 general elections. Sampson won one of only seven PUP seats in those elections. Simeon and I always greeted each other warmly, sometimes raucously, because we were a lot alike: we preferred the company of the roots people. One time Simeon told me he had worked on the waterfront while going to high school, or perhaps just afterwards. This made me respect him more.
Anyway, we are sitting at a table enjoying the requisite spirits when Simeon says to me like this, “PUP no have to du nutin fu dis election. Aranda wahn wreck di UDP.” I had figured as much, but here was hard confirmation.
Party politics is cold-blooded business. If you get in the way of the political party, especially when the party is in campaign mode, then, no matter what may have been your contributions in the past, the party will grind you into little pieces. This had happened to me between 1973 and 1974, when the UDP tore me apart. Now, I was supporting a UDP, ten years later, which wanted to, needed to, tear Dr. Aranda apart.
That night on the UDP rostrum in Griga, all the UDP speakers went after Dr. Aranda with everything they had. For myself, however, I explained that I wished to see a change of government, and I gave my reasons why I believed that it was important for the good of the nation that that change should take place in Belmopan. With reference to Dr. Aranda, I said that the people of Dangriga knew who Doc was, and they had to make whatever call for themselves. I couldn’t come from Belize City and tell Dangriga anything they didn’t know about their own situation.
In the bye-elections, it was as Simeon had said in Eden Rose. The PUP won the two seats, easily. One of Doc Aranda’s CDP candidates, his wife Ephelia, received more votes than either of the UDP candidates. Together, the two UDP candidates got more votes than the two CDP candidates, but just barely.
For the 1989 general elections five years and six months later, even as the UDP’s Paul Guerrero had given up his Dangriga House seat to allow Dr. Aranda to become the UDP candidate (a winning one) in 1979, ten years later the PUP’s Simeon Sampson gave up his Dangriga House seat to allow Dr. Aranda to become the PUP candidate (a winning one).
After those February 1984 Town Board bye-elections, I stayed away from Dangriga for many years. I felt Dr. Aranda was placing his own interests ahead of the nation’s, but I suppose this was exactly what UDP members and supporters had thought about me in 1973 and 1974. The thing is, a man has feelings, and the bigger the man, the bigger the feelings.
Dangriga people protect their own, and they protected Dr. Aranda for a long time. When I got to know Dr. Aranda a bit in 2003, I found him to be a natural leader. Other than that, I don’t know much about him. Needless to say, I wish I did. I wish he would write, and let Belizeans know his story and his thoughts, but, as you know, Mr. Price, Belize’s most successful politician, famously made a career out of saying nothing. So. For his part, Luke Palacio has been writing, and much of it is in support of Dr. Aranda, but I can’t vouch for everything Luke is saying. That’s just the real of it.