Editorial — 26 August 2017
Leslie vs Willoughby

Indeed, one of the major reasons why that bold, imaginative and transformative episode in Belize’s modern history – UBAD – eventually failed was because a faction of this revolutionary movement simply rejected the lessons of the African experience in Belize. In its ambivalence and ruinous ignorance, it indulged in a particularly subversive form of self-hate common to colonized or enslaved peoples in the pathetic quest to assimilate and “belong.” This naturally resulted in a “sellout” and the end of a dream that, had it succeeded, would have definitely empowered Belize’s Black citizens politically, culturally, educationally and economically. And, they and their Black political leaders would not be the sorry spectacle that they are in 2017.

– Therese Belisle-Nweke in THE LONG VIEW ON CHINESE IMMIGRATION IN BELIZE

As we have seen, the basic weakness of the UNIA in Belize had to do with the fact that its leaders were basically middle class educated Blacks who subscribed to the “shoulder-to-shoulder” myth of the Battle of St. George’s Caye, and who were effectively sold on the idea of the superiority of British colonial values.

The UNIA members in Belize pretended to be radicals fighting for Black advancement, but they wanted to remain loyal British subjects. Of course this couldn’t work, and history clearly shows that it didn’t work.

– Regina Neal in MARCUS GARVEY AND THE UNIA IN BRITISH HONDURAS

Political insiders know that there is a rivalry between the Dean Barrow/Michael Finnegan axis of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Kremandala chairman, Evan X Hyde, which is more than four decades old. Every now and then, that rivalry flares up, such as when Mr. Barrow, as Prime Minister/Minister of Finance and UDP Leader, poured millions into the ill-fated Mark King’s 2015 campaign in an abortive attempt to block Cordel Hyde’s triumphant return to Lake Independence.

As a highly intelligent man, Rt. Hon. Barrow should have known better, but he just couldn’t help himself. He is a prisoner of the rivalry. In Mr. Barrow’s case, it is a family rivalry between the Barrows and the Hydes which began with the respective grandfathers – E. O. B. Barrow, a high ranking civil servant and pro-British National Party (NP) leader, and James Bartlett Hyde, a machinist, mechanic, seaman, and PUP-supporting employee of the late millionaire, Robert Sydney Turton, the man who sponsored the Right. Hon. George Cadle Price’s entry into Belize’s politics in the middle 1940s. E. O. B. Barrow and James Bartlett Hyde lived directly across the canal from each other between Regent Street West and Water Lane.

The family rivalry continued between Artie Barrow, E. O. B.’s son who is Dean Barrow’s father, and Charles Bartlett Hyde, James Bartlett’s eldest son who is the father of Evan X. Artie Barrow was the one who organized a senior football team called All Star, which featured the best players from St. Michael’s College, Wesley College, and St. John’s College. Whereas Artie Barrow was a superb organizer, he was not himself a player. C. B. Hyde, on the other hand, was a star forward on the championship All Star team in the middle 1940s and, as family rivalries go, friction developed between the sideline organizer Barrow and the star striker Hyde.

Dean Barrow and Evan X Hyde, eldest sons of Artie Barrow and C. B. Hyde, were born into that family rivalry, and the rivalry reached a kind of fever pitch in the middle 1970s. Dean Barrow’s maternal uncle, Dean Russell Lindo, became the first Leader of the UDP when it was formed in September of 1973. That UDP formation resulted in the division and death of UBAD, a black power organization led by Evan X Hyde between 1969 and 1974. Dean Barrow returned from law school in the University of the West Indies in mid-1974 and joined uncle Dean’s Church Street law firm. Uncle Dean Russell, presumably supported by nephew Dean Oliver, had embarked on an anti-Evan X campaign, but in the middle of 1977 the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP), most prominently Said Musa, came to X Hyde’s rescue.

In the case of Michael Finnegan, who is the maternal uncle of Dean Oliver’s older son, Shyne, Finnegan, a founding member of the UDP in 1973, was appointed campaign manager for the one Kenneth Tillett in the 1974 general election campaign. Tillett, who had lived for many years in Oklahoma, was the UDP’s Collet constituency candidate. For Finnegan, who had been a UBAD member in 1971 and 1972, this was his first important UDP assignment. When Tillett lost by a single vote to the PUP’s Harry Courtenay in the October 1974 general election, Finnegan blamed Evan X Hyde for running as the UBAD candidate in Collet and receiving 89 votes. Finnegan made Evan X Hyde his personal propaganda target.

The cataclysmic clash in the rivalry between the Barrow/Finnegan axis and Evan X Hyde occurred in the 1979 general election. Since then, there have been periods when the rivalry simmers down, such as in 1983 and 1984, because of common interests, but in 2017 the rivalry has returned to the stage and it will be heating up between now and next March’s municipal elections, because Kremandala is a threat to the UDP in the ruling party’s Southside Belize City stronghold.

Mr. Barrow has been grooming the UDP’s Deputy Mayor in Belize City, Dion Leslie, to challenge Cordel Hyde in Lake I, as Dion’s father, Tony Leslie, did, unsuccessfully, in the 2003 general election. It is clear that Dion Leslie, publicly endorsed by Darrell Bradley, the departing Belize City Mayor, and supported by almost all the incumbent councilors, is the “party candidate” of the UDP, his convention advertisements appearing full-page in the UDP’s official newspaper for weeks.

It would have been relatively easy for the UDP to bring in Dion Leslie in a “party” convention, where only UDP members and supporters would have been allowed to vote. Mr. Barrow, however, cleverly decided on an “open” convention, where all registered Belize City voters will be eligible to vote. The size and enthusiasm of Sunday’s UDP mayoral convention at the ITVET compound on Freetown Road will achieve the political result of impressing Belizean voters countrywide and intimidating campaign financiers. The open convention will make it a little more tricky to bring in Leslie, but we consider the open convention, to repeat, a clever Barrow move.

Phillip Willoughby had been coming on like gangbusters in an attempt to replace the UDP’s Albert constituency area representative, Hon. Herman Longsworth, as the Albert standard bearer in the 2015 general election. Mr. Barrow chose to push both Longsworth and Willoughby aside for the highly professional technocrat, Tracy Taegar–Panton, who won the Albert seat for the UDP and became a Cabinet Minister. Herman Longsworth was sent into comfortable diplomatic exile in New York City, but the UDP has not delivered on the party’s promise to give Phillip Willoughby, for his part, a diplomatic posting in Chicago. That is the backdrop to the Willoughby campaign for the UDP’s Belize City mayoral candidacy.

With the Opposition PUP’s Leader, Hon. John Briceño, being an Orange Walk Town resident, it appears that the PUP’s National Deputy Leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, is in charge of organizing the PUP’s Belize City Council campaign. How intriguing is all this? The UDP is focusing on grooming its 2020 Lake Independence candidate to challenge the one Cordel, while the Lake I incumbent “Star” is in charge of the PUP’s Southside slate.

Way back in the days of the government monopoly Radio Belize, there used to be a song/nursery rhyme about “Big Billy Goat Gruff.” The reference is exclusively for the ears of the Barrow/Finnegan axis. Let’s get it on.

Power to the people.

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