Editorial — 07 October 2017
God bless the teachers

TRUMP REJECTS DIALOGUE WITH KIM (by Felicia Schwartz in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL of Monday, October 2, 2017)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said he didn’t think it was worth pursuing negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a day after his secretary of state revealed the U.S. was in direct contact with Pyongyang.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Sunday, using a disparaging reference to Mr. Kim.

This Tuesday the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) marked the first anniversary of their epic 11-day strike which brought Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s United Democratic Party (UDP) government to its knees last year.

The BNTU leadership had made a visionary decision some months ago to commission the making of a video documentary of the strike, and they introduced that documentary to their general body of teachers, the media, and invited guests at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel on Tuesday.

Because of the BNTU’s October 2016 strike, Belize is in a better place politically than we are financially. After 36 years of independence, many Belizeans now understand our system of governance to be merely cosmetic insofar as our pretensions to democracy are concerned. The political party which wins general elections, and whose Party Leader becomes Prime Minister, proceeds to enjoy five years of virtual monarchy. Under Belize’s first-past-the-post system, it has been proven that the people cannot peacefully change an elected government, no matter how corrupt that government becomes. This newspaper had been proposing a change of system to proportional representation. Instead, Belize got something we will happily make do with until proportional representation: Belize got a militant, courageous, and determined BNTU which achieved critical concessions from the Government of Belize in the area of good governance.

It should be noted that in February of 2005, it was the BNTU which led the trade unions of Belize in forcing the People’s United Party (PUP) government of then Prime Minister Said Musa to hold a Senate inquiry into the Social Security Board (SSB) and a commission of inquiry into the Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The SSB and the DFC are two very important financial institutions in Belize.

In 2017 Belize, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) has also become a very important financial institution, and, like the SSB and the DFC in 2005, BTL has become a source of hemorrhaging where the financial health of the Belizean taxpayer is concerned. At the BTL general meeting last week, the leadership of BTL, no doubt in collusion with Belize’s Ministry of Finance, announced that a $48 million debt which BTL owed the Government of Belize is being converted into preferential shares in BTL for GOB. In other words, BTL, a company whose acquisition has us owing hundreds of millions of dollars to Lord Michael Ashcroft, sold Belizeans $48 million worth of their shares without anybody asking us if we wanted to buy.

In 2004, we saw the then Prime Minister Said Musa’s ego was being bent out of shape by his inordinate power, and remember, Musa had no reputation for arrogance and vanity prior to this. The same cannot be said for the Right Hon. Dean Barrow where his personal reputation is concerned. His decision to put his younger, unqualified son, Anwar, in charge of BTL some years ago, looked very much like nepotism at the time, for which reason there is a pressing need to examine the Anwar years carefully, because Anwar would not have been replaced if things were hunky-dory at BTL.

We can’t ask BNTU to go on strike to demand an inquiry into BTL. That would be so unfair to BNTU. But, in the first place, we can say to the other unions which left BNTU high and dry in October of last year: get your frigging act together. In the second place, we can ask BNTU to begin making some discreet inquiries into BTL, because Mr. Barrow’s ego is involved, and where Mr. Barrow’s ego is involved, he reacts with “fire and fury,” as The Donald would cry.

And speaking of The Donald, we hope you understand that all his bombast and threats against North Korea are empty and meaningless. If the United States attacks North Korea, 250 million people in South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines die, and those three countries are all American allies. Not only that, North Korea is on China’s southern border. If Trump shoots nuclear missiles at North Korea, the computerized Chinese defence system will interpret such as an attack on China itself, and the repercussions will be unthinkable. The United States, therefore, has no military solution to the North Korean challenge: they have to talk with the North Koreans. North Koreans are people too.

Mr. Barrow’s attack dogs on his radio station and television station, and in his newspaper, continue to malign the teachers and their leaders, but the attack dogs are ill-advised. They are fighting a fight which was decided last year. As long as Belize’s parents support the teachers, the BNTU is untouchable.

So then, the question would be, why do Belize’s parents support the teachers, and the answer is that the teachers have done the people of Belize’s work in the streets. Belize’s parents, the people of Belize, have seen for themselves the corruption and greed within the UDP government. The people of Belize know what is going on, because Belize has a brave media which has informed the people.

Mr. Barrow can pour as many taxpayers’ millions as he wants into The Guardian, and WAVE Radio and Television. When it comes to the media systems, the true test is credibility. Credibility does not live in the media organs of the UDP. These have been proven to be scurvy and filthy in their personal attacks.

As we study the condition of the Opposition PUP at the present time, it is relevant to remember the pathetic state of the then Opposition UDP in early 2004. The over-leveraged PUP imploded in August of 2004 because of the SSB scandal, the BNTU led the Belizean people into the streets, and the UDP was handed power on a platter in February of 2008. Between February of 2005 and February of 2008, Belize had a lame duck PUP government. The people of Belize wanted the PUP out, but we were the prisoners of a constitution which makes the Prime Minister a king in the service of a queen – Queen Elizabeth II.

The UDP came to power in 2008 because they were the only political option for the people of Belize. As it is today, whether Mr. Barrow knows it or not, the jig is up: the Barrow spin and the Barrow arguments have become just breeze. Belize’s debt is 100 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We are being taxed mercilessly at the pump. Now Mr. PM, you take our money to finance BTL? What the hell is up with that?

More and more Belizeans are moving past mindless PUDP politics. The solution to what appears to be the constant of congenitally arrogant and corrupt politicians is proportional representation. But the money crowd who are controlling the discourse do not want to hear of proportional representation. Under proportional representation, the teachers (or unions) would have their own political party and decide between the UDP and the PUP whenever and wherever.

In the meantime, let us Belizeans give thanks for the teachers. We are blessed. The teachers have given us so much. God bless the teachers. God bless Belize.

Power to the people.

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