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Mass parties and individual conscience

Mr. Goldson walked away from the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1956 and he walked away from the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1991. Belizean history has looked favorably on him because he could not be intimidated and he would not be compromised. During his political career, however, Mr. Goldson went through long periods when he appeared to be an overall political failure, when he appeared to be going nowhere. It seems, however, that Mr. Goldson always ended up following his individual conscience, and that conscience of his led him to positions of which the masses of the Belizean people approved, if not always in the short run, certainly over the long course of history.

A couple weeks ago we remarked on how important our two mass political parties were/are for Belize, because they are national, indigenous, and authentic institutions, as opposed to the churches. The Belizean people built the PUP and the UDP in Belize: our churches were sent here from foreign headquarters. If you can’t see and understand this difference, there must be something wrong with you.

Today we want to look at the area where the mass political parties present a problem for Belize, from time to time. As a general rule, the most successful politicians in Belize are those whose loyalty to their respective parties is consistent, absolute even. This is where dishonesty becomes intrinsic to politics, in the first instance: successful politicians have to endorse other members and candidates of their political party whom they may know to be charlatans, and, by extension, they have to support party decisions and initiatives which they can see will be harmful rather than helpful where the national good of Belize is concerned.

No matter, so far in Belize’s modern political history the mass political party has been the only vehicle through which any Belizean has been able to acquire political power and thereby implement those policies which he believes will benefit Belize. Belize is a democracy, in that if you believe strongly in certain policies, you can seek the power to implement those policies through free and fair elections. But, to repeat, you must be a “party man,” because so far it is only through the PUP or the UDP that you can gain power.

There are Belizeans who have entered the realm of party politics who have a high opinion of themselves and would certainly want for history to look favorably upon them. Mr. Goldson has set the bar extremely high here, because, following his individual conscience, he walked away from both the PUP and the UDP. It may be argued, in the case of his walking away from the PUP, that this was after Mr. Goldson had been one of the losers in a 1956 power struggle, and it may be argued that when he walked away from the UDP, the UDP was not in office. Fair enough, but on walking away from both the PUP, in 1956, and the UDP, in 1991, Mr. Goldson then immediately began a public fight against each of them. Mr. Goldson did not crawl into a hole and hide. He always walked the walk.

So far as the very controversial Petrocaribe Loans Act is concerned, there is only one individual from inside the belly of the UDP beast who has come out and criticized the legislation in public. That is the one Delroy Cuthkelvin. A former journalist at Radio Belize, Delroy does not have spectacular name recognition in Belizean public life. He was a candidate for UDP standard bearer in the Stann Creek West constituency a couple years ago, and was beaten badly. So, Delroy’s coming out and criticizing the Petrocaribe legislation is not earthshaking. Whatever the case, however, Delroy must be given serious respect in this matter for his courage and his honesty.

What Delroy’s coming out does create, moreover, is create a stunning contrast with respect to the behavior of one whose name we will not call, but who did enjoy spectacular national name recognition and afterwards walked into the embrace of the ruling UDP, in 2012. At that time, the Honorable UDP Prime Minister went so far as to claim that our friend had always been a UDP. Most Belizeans had viewed our friend otherwise: we had viewed him as a true Belizean patriot.

The bottom line in the present situation is that if anyone is in an intellectual position to know that there is something wrong with the Petrocaribe Loans Act, it is our friend. One of the reasons for this is that he, more than any other single Belizean, is responsible for the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act of 2005, the legislation which the new Petrocaribe Loans Act throws through the window – baby, bath water, and all.

As a general rule, one cannot have his cake and eat it too. Did our friend think through his decision to accept a Cabinet post carefully and thoroughly? Then, if he understood the nature of our political system, yea our political history, he would have known that such a time as this would come – a time when the mass party and the individual conscience would clash. (The history of the PUP G-7 was only eight years old when our friend chose the blandishments of appointed political office.) His apologists have said to us that our friend really believed that he would do something good for Belize, and that is why he made the 2012 decision. Fair enough.

Today, May 4, 2015, it is time for our friend to walk away. Make the Goldson decision. You do not have to begin a campaign against your party, my friend, if it is your party. Only the great Goldson would have done that. But, in your heart of hearts, you know there is something seriously flawed in this 2015 legislation. You, of all people, know that. This legislation is a threat to our Belizean democracy. We believe that. We sincerely believe that.

The Amandala is published twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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