Prime Minister of Belize, the Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow, came out of one of the old civil service families in British Honduras. The post-World War II scions of several of these families went to study law abroad, and they are prominent, not to mention wealthy, in Belize’s legal firmament – Courtenays, Barrows, Youngs, Elringtons, and so on and so forth.
The old civil service families were Creole in ethnicity, and the patriarchs of these families had been trained by British colonial administrators. Exemplary honesty was mandatory in the civil service of British Honduras. If you became dishonest, you would inevitably be caught and indicted. You went to jail, and your family would be dishonored.
When the nationalist, anti-colonial movement began in British Honduras in 1950, the civil service class, almost to a man, went against the anti-British People’s United Party (PUP). So that, the civil servants supported the opposition to the PUP which was organized in 1951 – the National Party. The National Party morphed into the National Independence Party (NIP) in 1958, but the NIP continued to enjoy the support of the civil service class which had supported the National Party.
It is interesting to note that the grandfathers of the two attorney/antagonists in Belize’s politics this week, those attorney/antagonists being the aforementioned United Democratic Party (UDP) P.M. Dean Barrow and PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay, were both prominent in the leadership of the National Party, their deceased grandfathers being Ebenezer Oliver Buntin (E. O. B.) Barrow and Woolrich Harrison (W. H.) Courtenay. (W. H. became linked with the PUP after he defended Hon. George Price, the PUP Leader, in a sedition trial in 1958. The Courtenays have been PUP ever since.)
For the purposes of this essay, it is vital to note that the legal profession is dishonest almost by definition. What we mean is this, that the facts are not what are of the essence to the attorney: what matters to the attorney is how he can organize and present arguments to the judge and jury so as to have that judge and jury produce the verdict which the attorney’s client is paying him to obtain. Facts exist only to be manipulated in the legal world. The legal world does not respect the facts: the legal world reveres, first and foremost, arguments.
In that sense, the sense of being a world where arguments (or appearances) are more important than facts, the legal world and the political world are very, very similar. In the United States, almost every single politician has a law degree. In Belize, the attorneys are drawn to politics like moths to a flame, as it is said.
When we, the Belizean people, go to the electoral polls to choose a government of public officials (area representatives), it is to be assumed that we rate honesty high on the list of qualities we desire in these public officials. This is because the primary responsibility/duty of these elected public officials is to take care of our tax moneys and our national assets, such as lands and immigration documents. Public officials are in charge of the people’s treasures.
Let us cut to the quick. The Prime Minister of Belize admittedly knew from years ago that there was massive dishonesty taking place at his Ministry of Natural Resources (lands) and his Ministry of Immigration (documents). The real and constitutional power of the Prime Minister in Belize’s political system is enormous: the Prime Minister is like a king. As we understand it, the precise reason the Prime Minister is given such enormous power in our system is so that he can deal expeditiously with undesirable developments such as those which were taking place at the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Immigration, in the first instance.
The Prime Minister did not deal with the corruption at Natural Resources and at Immigration swiftly and harshly, he hemmed and hawed, because he was playing politics. Politics, in the world of independent (since 1981) Belize, takes precedence over honesty. Politics no doubt took precedence over honesty in the world of self-governing British Honduras/Belize (1964-1981). But, there was no self-rule politics in the colonial British Honduras: it was all administrative honesty under the rule of Buckingham Palace. In Belize, the children and grandchildren of honest civil servants become attorneys and politicians, and the public affairs of Belize are devastatingly the worse for it.
In the world of politics, power is vastly more important than honesty. Power trumps honesty. It is for this reason that more developed democracies have gone to proportional representation. The arguments for the extraordinarily strong governments which the first-past-the-post system produces cannot stand up to this indisputable truism: in politics, power trumps honesty. In order to increase honesty, power in the hands of our elected rulers simply has to be reduced. In a proportional representation system, such a present government as ours, we suggest, would have been gone by the middle of 2015. It did not matter if they would have been replaced by a PUP government which included Said Musa (and the specter of Ralph), because such a PUP government would, in its turn, have been replaced, whenever. That is proportional representation.
None of the two major political parties in Belize will endorse proportional representation because they are both committed to dishonesty in power. This is their history in post-independence Belize, and not even their most fervent supporters can deny it. The reason some UDP supporters continue to defend the UDP and their manifest dishonesty is because they are so afraid of PUP dishonesty. They have to think like this because once a government is elected, under the present system, there is nothing the people can do for the next five years.
Anyway, proportional representation is a mere dream of ours in 2017 Belize. Today’s brutal reality is that the corruption of the PUP and the corruption of the UDP, in sequence, have brought Belize to its financial knees. The Prime Minister has been delaying where laying the economic facts on the table is concerned. He is delaying because he is, you guessed it, playing politics.
Prime Minister Barrow is out of sync with the mood of Belize’s streets. The Belizean people are fully aware that we are in a big time mess here. No amount of fancy rhetoric at budget time next month will change the reality on the ground. The attorney’s arguments are irrelevant. The facts are these: we drink horrible doses of castor oil now, and we belch its foul fumes for the foreseeable future.