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KREM Radio and ICJ public education

Within a month, on March 7 and April 7, 2018, two public events occurred recently which indicated that the media landscape in Belize City is not what it appears to be at first glance. On Wednesday, March 7, the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) won a stunning, upset municipal election victory in the said Belize City, which has been the political stronghold of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) for many, many years. Then on Saturday, April 7, members of the powerful Christian Workers Union (CWU), which is more than five and a half decades old, chose Evan “Mose” Hyde as their new President in a three-way race. Hyde, a regular personality on KREM Radio since the station’s first week of existence in November of 1989, won by a very large margin.

One of the few competitive advantages which the PUP had over the UDP in the recent Belize City Council campaign was that the PUP were able to promote their slate and market their positions on KREM Radio, whereas the UDP had been boycotting KREM Radio for almost two years. And what the CWU membership knew of Mose Hyde when they cast their votes last Saturday was largely what they had come to know of him during his 28-plus years on KREM Radio and his 15 years on KREM Television.

Before we proceed, we should point out that a series of extraordinary circumstances have surrounded KREM Radio from the time of its birth in 1989 as Belize’s first private, commercial radio station. There was actually a private radio station being operated in Belize before KREM, but it was not a commercial station: it was a military radio station operated primarily, presumably, for the British military personnel stationed in Belize by British Forces Belize. That British military station was being run out of their garrison at Ladyville.

A little over a year after KREM Radio began broadcasting, an attempt was made to take down the station’s main broadcast tower on Partridge Street. This was in late December of 1990. A year or so later, the KREM broadcast antenna in the Baldy Beacon hills (Mountain Pine Ridge) was run over by an  armored vehicle operated by British Forces Belize. Then, in late February of 1998, another attempt to take down KREM’s main broadcast tower on Partridge Street, this time a highly sophisticated and sinister attempt, was made.

In May of 1994, the then general manager and a minority shareholder of KREM Radio, Charles B. Hyde, negotiated a loan with the Belize Bank for $75,000 in order to purchase a broadcast transmitter for KREM. Executives for Belize Bank told Mr. Hyde that, as a condition of the loan, his eldest son, Evan X Hyde, would have to  sell 10 percent of the radio station (in 1994, Evan X Hyde owned 40 percent of KREM) to a mysterious business entity called Sagis Investments, Ltd. As the years went by, it became clear that Sagis Investments was a front company for Lord Michael Ashcroft, and then in 2007 it became clear that, for some reason, the 10 percent investment in KREM Radio was a strategically important investment for the British billionaire.

Sagis had duly paid $25,000 for the 10 percent stake in KREM, but the paper transaction had never been formally completed, for whatever the reason(s). So then, 13 years later when someone in the Ashcroft empire realized Sagis did not have the share certificate in its possession for the KREM 10 percent, it became a critical matter of great urgency. This was during a time of turmoil at the then Ashcroft-owned BTL, wherein BTL workers’ leaders, Paul and Christine Perriott, were being targeted by Ashcroft’s management. And Mose Hyde was the leading voice on KREM Radio fighting for Paul and Christine. Ashcroft needed the Sagis 10 percent in order to threaten KREM.

The matter went to the Supreme Court. KREM Radio, understanding that the Sagis 10 percent was a booby trap and a time bomb, decided to give the British billionaire back his $25,000, with his 13 years of interest – a total of $45,000. Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled in favor of KREM Radio. Lord Ashcroft’s attorneys appealed. Ashcroft did not want his money back: he wanted 10 percent of KREM. Why? What is so important about KREM Radio? (Incidentally, because of how KREM Radio was originally “booby trapped” by PUP attorney/politicians, for most of its 28-plus years of existence the station has had to be subsidized by Amandala.)

The answer, we believe, is that KREM Radio enjoys credibility and loyalty in Belize City, which is the population, education, media, and financial center of the nation-state of Belize. If you go anywhere else in Belize, you will find the radio landscape is dominated, sometimes monopolized, by LOVE FM. In Belize City itself, the LOVE signal is so powerful it will knock your ears off. LOVE came four years after KREM, but LOVE is so much louder than KREM nationwide. How did that happen? There are stories that go with this.

Remember, the same PUP government administration which supported and enabled the birth of KREM Radio in November of 1989 for election campaign reasons, licensed LOVE in February of 1993. The PUP did not intend for KREM Radio to survive, because that would have made the roots Partridge Street too powerful in the eyes of Belize’s oligarchy. It is because of all the PUP did between 1989 and 1993 to hamstring KREM Radio that Kremandala could not support the PUP in the June 1993 general election, dispute what the UDP thinks.

The brief history offered in the previous paragraphs is by way of setting the stage for the upcoming public education campaign having to do with the national referendum on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) matter. The millions of dollars, subscribed by the Friends of Belize, to fund the public education campaign are being controlled, as far as we can figure out, by the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The “public education” so far has been one-sided: it has been almost exclusively pro-ICJ, hence the “education” has been more propaganda than education. The ICJ “public education” has been politicized by the UDP.

At Kremandala, we have been the victims of various forms of discrimination and persecution through the years and decades. Discrimination and persecution go with who we are: black, in the first instance, and roots Belizean in the second. Throughout our journey, the Belizean people have stood with us during times of stress and crisis. Under severe, continuing pressure from the UDP government, Kremandala had outright supported the Opposition PUP for March 7. We were politicized. To be sure, we simply felt that we had no choice other than to go against the UDP if we wished to survive. The results of March 7 clearly suggest that a significant segment of the Belize City population, as usual, stood with us. We sincerely appreciate that support.

With that in mind, and moving forward, we now feel constrained to say to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant authorities, that in any legitimate process of public education you would be quite disrespectful of the Belizean people if you chose to pretend that Kremandala does not exist. Yes, our constituency is roots and generally poor.  But, as we understand it, the ICJ referendum is about a democratic majority. And, in the immortal words of the late Polo Briceño, “Los pobres son más:” the poor are more.

Power to the people.

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