In corporate America, they use the term “glass ceiling” to refer to limits on how high an executive can reach in certain corporate structures, limits because of that executive’s race or gender or some such characteristic. A glass ceiling is something which is invisible, but which will effectively block your rise upwards.
Looking back after 23 years, we believe that there was a glass ceiling in place where KREM Radio was concerned. The political initiative which the Opposition People’s United Party came up with to support the concept of a radio station controlled by Amandala, which had become Belize’s leading newspaper in 1981, was more radical than it appeared at the time – 1989. The PUP were desperate to return to power, and they believed that Amandala had the ground support which could put them over the hump, so to speak.
There was a problem, though, and that problem was that a private radio station in the hands of the organization which already owned the leading newspaper would increase the power of the Partridge Street group. Partridge Street was a business which had emerged from the ashes of a black-conscious organization, and Partridge had a roots record in the community.
Belize’s power structure is a shadowy one. They run things from behind the scenes; they are the ones who control the large donations for the two major political parties, donations without which the parties could not run the lavish election campaigns which they do. The leaderships of the PUP and the UDP know that their policies and their candidates must be acceptable to the Belizean power structure (or oligarchy).
To be truthful, we can’t say for sure why it was that in 1981, in the aftermath of the Heads of Agreement, this newspaper surged to leadership. Our printing technology was, and still is, inferior to that of our competitor, and our editorial perspective was not as pro-business as our competitor’s was, and is. An obvious conclusion was that Amandala had tapped into heavy readership support, and the newspaper has benefited from powerful readership loyalty through the years.
When Amandala increased its agitation for a radio license in early 1989, which was scheduled to be a general election year, the UDP government refused, and did so somewhat arrogantly. When Amandala then became angry, the UDP made threats, whereupon the PUP stepped in. There was not a formal alliance between the PUP and Amandala in 1989, but the fact that the PUP publicly promised to grant a radio license to Partridge Street if they were elected, clearly made them more acceptable to Partridge Street supporters.
What made the political climate in the old capital in 1989 more hostile to the ruling UDP was the matter of Rufus X. A UDP loyalist from the party’s establishment in 1973, Rufus X had been blocked in his attempt to replace Sam Rhaburn as the UDP’s Belize Rural North candidate. The Manuel Esquivel/Dean Barrow leadership of the UDP knew that Rufus X was unacceptable to the power structure which pulled their strings. They could not explain this to Rufus X, so they used the then UDP chairman, Derek Aikman, to pressure Rufus into withdrawal from the Belize Rural North standard bearer convention. This was 1988. Four years later, Aikman himself would be victimized by the UDP top brass, but in 1988 he was the one doing the victimizing in the case of Rufus X.
Between 1971 and 1973, Rufus X had been an officer of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), which was the parent organization of Amandala. There was a longstanding personal friendship between him and the publisher of the newspaper, Evan X Hyde, and so it was that Amandala felt duty-bound to support Rufus when he decided to run as an independent candidate in Belize Rural North in the September 1989 general elections.
The PUP had a problem after they narrowly won those general elections. That problem was the public promise of a radio license to Partridge Street. This was unacceptable to the oligarchy. So, the PUP decided to have one of their Cabinet Ministers become part of a company which set up a makeshift radio station in the Amandala yard. This radio station was not meant to survive. The PUP Minister in question sold out his 20 percent of KREM Radio within two weeks of KREM’s first broadcast (on a Saturday morning, November 17, 1989), and then informed his “partners” that Cabinet would now privatize Radio Belize. Such a privatization essentially put Radio Belize, previously a government department, in direct competition with KREM, and Radio Belize was a competitor with forty years of infrastructure, equipment and technology. This privatization of Radio Belize was supposed to be KREM Radio’s death knell.
The reason it was not, was the same reason the PUP had won the 1989 general elections: there is a roots support for Partridge Street which has been constant and which has continued growing. The KREM Radio ride has been a bumpy one, but we are proud to celebrate our 23rd anniversary this coming Saturday, and we express our gratitude to our loyal listeners and supporters.
The story of how the oligarchy and their political stooges built the glass ceiling to ensure that KREM did not become Amandala, as it were, is a story which will emerge one day. Garvey said, truth crushed to earth will rise again, and so it will be. One day we will know where the 1990 and 1998 attacks on KREM’s Belize City broadcast tower came from. In the case of our Baldy Beacon tower, the British Forces have said that they ran over it by accident. This was the early 1990s. KREM Radio was never compensated for that “accident.” In the case of the 1990 and 1998 attacks, these were sinister indeed, because they endangered our neighbors on Partridge Street. Even so, our neighbors never complained. This is an example of the community solidarity which has enabled KREM Radio to survive.
Power to the people.