Letters — 21 January 2017
Towards ending the hocus pocus

Dear Editor,

The sitting of the House of Representatives in Belize invariably attracts certain groups of people. There are those who feel compelled to tune in because of their vested interests in politics, and there are those whose interest remains strictly intellectual. However, there are those quite contrary to the aforementioned groups and who are disinterested completely in what unfolds in the House. While we are tolerant of the former two groups, we are unforgiving of the latter, and understandably so.

We believe that, surely, anyone who has a sense of civic duty would have a level of care about the governance of his or her country. We may push the argument farther and suggest that anyone who lives in Belize during any period of social decay, political corruption, and economic mismanagement would have the impetus to stay attuned to the decisions, policies, and directives coming from those who reputedly lead us. Unlike others, however, I understand completely the group of Belizeans who ostensibly lack due interest in politics. I, myself, have been unimpressed by the presentations made by and the performance of some of the leaders who represent us in The House. If they do not force us to watch them attack and disrespect each other, they force us to watch them throw fits and temper tantrums, which obscure indisputably the seriousness of the issues that they should address.

The Special Sitting of the House on January 13, 2017, was historic and remarkable in more ways than one. We witnessed the swearing in of Honorable Laura Tucker-Longsworth as the new Speaker of the House, which makes her the third woman in the history of Belize to assume this title and role. In her opening speech, she informed her listeners about the local Belizean woman who speculated whether she, Hon. Tucker-Longsworth, would be the one to keep members of the House “in check.” This sentiment introduces a gendered discourse and has many implications that I am sure Hon. Tucker-Longsworth did not overlook. Of equal importance is the unspoken truth that the local woman, with whom she spoke, voiced the desires and hopes of many Belizeans myself included.

Fortunately, the level of decorum encouraged in the House last Friday made us inclined to listen to the House meeting in its entirety and to pay keen attention to the depth of the arguments presented. Notably, the Lake Independence Area Representative, the Honorable Cordel Hyde, outlined many important issues, so important and of such national concern that a repetition of them should not be superfluous. Hyde began by questioning the Government of Belize’s (GOB) decision to prioritize the removal of the threshold for the referendum to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the start of the legislative calendar, instead of concentrating on the soaring crime rate, the steady rise of unemployment, and the critical concerns in our educational system. He condemned the passive relationship GOB shares with the Foreign Minister of Guatemala; questioned whether taking the risk to go to the ICJ would not place Belizeans on the wrong side of a ruling; and called for a comprehensive education on the Guatemalan issue for all Belizeans. He emphasized that “for every dollar that is spent to convince Belizeans to go to the ICJ, a dollar must be spent to show our people the possible dangers in going to the ICJ.” Hyde further implored GOB to desist from “taking instructions” from international sources on issues that are deeply personal to Belizeans, such as taking Guatemala’s territorial claims of Belize to the ICJ, whether Belize should decriminalize marijuana, and whether Belize should reconsider corporeal punishment. He recommended that GOB initiates the process to educate and arouse the Belizean diaspora on the Guatemalan claim, that GOB engages a public relations firm in the USA, and that it engages the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Democratic Progressive Caucus as to the moral imperative that is Belize’s just ends and maintaining Belize’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Mr. Editor, I will end by saying that the decorum encouraged by Hon. Tucker-Longsworth made listening to and watching the House sitting comforting and less offensive. We hope that she will help to ensure that the members of the House remain sober, that the presentations of serious issues are not unique to one or two members, and that there will be no room for the kind of hocus pocus to which these politicians have so often subjected Belizeans.

C. Pitts

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