It is amazing how far the mighty People’s United Party (PUP) has fallen since 2003, which is the last time the party won any kind of election. Staring certain defeat in the face in next month’s by-election for the Dangriga seat vacated on Sunday, June 7, by the PUP’s Ivan Ramos, sections of the PUP leadership this week were actually talking about “boycotting” the Dangriga by-election, of not running a candidate against the ruling United Democratic Party”s (UDP) candidate – Frank “Pawpa” Mena.
In the last days of his National Independence Party (NIP) in late 1971, the Hon. Philip Goldson always insisted that this was what political parties do: they contest elections. No matter what. In those last and desperate days of his NIP, Mr. Goldson chose to form an alliance with the fledgling UBAD Party to contest the December 1971 Belize City Council election. In a sense, this may be seen as a reckless move on Mr. Goldson’s part, but it shows you how far he was prepared to go just to show up at the “post,” which is how the starting line is referred to in horse racing circles.
A major problem with the PUP has been that they don’t want to spend any money. There is a section of the electorate which believes that PUP leaders and their cronies got away with hundreds of millions of dollars between 1998 and 2008, so the way the PUP has been behaving, as if they are begging people to vote for them instead of investing in campaigning, is rubbing some voters the wrong way.
The issue in electoral politics, at the beginning of the day, during the day, and at the end of the day, is public funds. Politicians are elected to collect, administrate and spend public funds. All the rest is b— s—. The Right Honorable George Price had an absolute reverence for public funds. So did the Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel, despite his being an unmentionable in some respects. It was Said Musa and Ralph Fonseca who broke the mould, as Belizeans had known it, beginning in 1998.
Now there are prominent and vocal members of the PUP who still yearn out loud for a return to what they see as the halcyon days before August of 2004, August of 2004 being the point when the G-7 group of PUP Cabinet Ministers challenged the way public funds were being administrated. In gambling circles, there is a saying that is used when someone discovers a situation where he can’t lose: in Las Vegas, they say such a person is “playing with house money.” The ruling faction of the PUP found themselves in such a situation in 1998, and they couldn’t handle it. The “house money” they were playing with was yours and mine – our tax money. Because it was not their money, the PUP ruling faction could not lose. They went on a frolic. They went wild. Finally, the Belizean people caught up with them. 2003 to 2015 is the result of that catching up. The PUP now have something to prove to us. The voters of Belize no longer have rings in our noses.
The present UDP leadership, well aware of what had happened to the Musa/Fonseca PUP, were proceeding with due caution in the matter of Belize’s public funds until the Petrocaribe windfall. The UDP wanted to make post-independence election history in Belize by winning a third consecutive term of office, and Petrocaribe seemed to UDP leaders like Biblical manna coming down from heaven. The UDP abuse of Petrocaribe loan funds is not as shocking as the PUP’s wild borrowing at commercial rates from Wall Street and regional banking houses, but there will be a day of reckoning for the UDP. Someone, some group of politicians will bell this UDP cat someday. But, there is no longer any guarantee that the cat bellers will be this particular group of PUP aspirants.
Some present PUP spokesmen are always complaining that “the media” is not standing up to the ruling UDP. In the case of this newspaper, their spokesmen say that we talk too much about the 1998-2008 PUP and not critically enough about the 2008-2015 UDP. In fact, one section of the Opposition PUP actually spent a bunch of money between 2009 and 2011 publishing a National Perspective and trying to convince the Belizean people that the Kremandala chairman had been “bought” by the UDP Prime Minister.
Well, the PUP have their own newspaper, their own radio station, and their own television station. They are their own “media.” They have a particular song which they sing, but out here nobody’s listening. What Belizean people are listening to are the serious lyrics of the Chamber of Commerce’s Senator Mark Lizarraga. Senator Lizarraga is talking the bottom line issue, which is public funds, and how these greedy, corrupt, arrogant politicians spend it. The Chamber of Commerce was on the front line back in 2004 when the people of Belize began to rise up against the then PUP administration. And in 2015 the Chamber of Commerce is on the front line now that public funds are being abused again, this time by the UDP. (Strangely enough, and it must be said, the one leading the Chamber of Commerce charge back in 2004 now sits inside the 2015 UDP Cabinet. He sees things differently now.)
In the private sector, you know, we’re not playing with house money. In the private sector, if you can’t afford something, you can’t afford it. In the government, however, they’re playing with house money. If they can’t afford a party constituency picnic in Corozal, then there’s things they can do in the public sector. They can mortgage the people’s future, they can raise taxes, they can divert funds … But that picnic in Corozal they have to have, because their absolute raison d’etre is re-election, another term, more fun and games …
The house money players of the two major political parties don’t like when we refer to them as “PUDP.” They want us to differentiate between them: they want us to differentiate between Bear Stearns and Petrocaribe. One thing for sure isn’t different: it’s we out here who will pay the bills. That’s why from where we sit, you PUP and UDP look just the same. You both play with house money.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.