Features — 01 October 2016 — by Beryl Young
What Now, Belize?

September 28, 2016

It is indeed a dangerous game the present government of Belize is playing with the issue of corruption in its ministerial and public officer ranks. Belize is a nation in the making, a small and young nation in the making. Belize is a poor nation, a poor and largely uneducated nation. Therefore, unlike wealthy developed countries, Belize cannot afford the cost of the rampant corruption in government. It is a cost that will extend well into the future if this opportunity offered by the findings of the recent Immigration and Nationality audit is not fully embraced and allowed to go forward without government interference. It is the duty of every last citizen to see that this happens, to act to root out the corruption once and for all, wherever in government it exists. Belize must bring this decades-old practice to an end. Belizeans must insist on no less; not a single one can afford to be a spectator and just sit back and watch the show.

Belizeans may not realize that corruption comes with a high cost and it is hurting them personally. Some of the tangible costs of corruption that can be measured in dollars is more immediate: the cost of inquiries and investigations, trials, overhauling the way government ministries and departments operate, to name a few. Other tangible costs — past, present and future – although more difficult to be calculated in dollars, are real and visible all the same. In addition to the cost of fighting corruption — money that could be used for your benefit, Belize — there is also money, your money, the taxes you paid, money that was borrowed or earned on your behalf, which ended up in the pockets of thieves. If this money were available to you, parents, expenses like fees associated with educating your children could have been and should be affordable; there could have been and should be better health care for you and your children; so many loved ones didn’t have to and don’t have to continue to bleed to death because of long waits for ambulances that may or may not show up; government should have had money to give you to keep your loved ones alive, not bury them. So many of you could have been and should be living in better and safer housing. The list goes on and on.

In addition, there are those costs which can never be measured. Belizeans, especially the poor and underprivileged, please realize for your own sakes that corruption in government directly contributes not only to the underdevelopment of the country, but also to your personal misery. How does one measure misery? How does one measure the experience of failing your children? How does one measure going out daily to look for a job and coming home empty-handed? Hell, how does one a put a value on the life of Debbie Humes who did not have to die more than a month after Hurricane Earl because a house damaged by the storm fell and crushed her; how does one measure the grief and loss her children are experiencing?

Then there is the lost trust in the country by foreign investors and lenders, a loss which spells jobs that won’t be, human potential that will not be put to use: you, youth, idle and despairing. There is the further degradation of the country’s reputation which serves no other use than attracting more criminal opportunists who want to take the little you have. While we are at it, let’s not forget the reverberations down through the generations as Belizeans themselves continue to mimic this seemingly easy corrupted way of life in their personal affairs, at work and in business, victimizing their own and contributing to holding the country back. If there is any who thinks all of this will not touch your life because you have your education, your job or business, your home and maybe even your connections, you need to think again. What happens at the core will bring down the whole structure and you with it.

Politics, like teaching, should be a vocation. Politicians, like teachers, would then measure their successes by their service. For too long our leaders have entered politics with the goal of possibilities for themselves and not the goal of possibilities for the people. What will it take for the country’s leaders, past and present, to take a good look at themselves and how they have contributed to poverty levels and the lawlessness in the country? What will it take for them to take a good long look at their disregard for the best for human life both in terms of material needs and aspirations? They dodge such introspection, wanting to see neither their failure to bring about the greater good of the people whose votes they courted nor the destructive example they have set. Look at the role models the youth have had since the 1990’s, maybe even the 1980’s: few examples of courage and personal integrity, few persons in public life who put aside selfish motives for the sake of the betterment of the whole.

Failing to pursue an end to corruption at high levels, Belize can look forward to generations more of corrupted souls who seek to acquire power, wealth and material comfort by fraud and theft. Belize seemingly has never moved away from its beginnings as a land of pillage and oppression and the dehumanizing of fellow human beings. Only the skin color of those doing the evil deeds has changed. Not only have Belizeans not learned their history or from their history, they just simply have never left that ‘history’ behind, never brought an end to that era. No one is asking for a perfect nation, only a nation that works for the good of the people. The country is being eroded from the inside.

It is easy to crack an empty shell. Therein lies the greatest danger of the game: the disappearance of Belize as a nation. Guatemala is chipping away from the outside. Guatemala would like nothing better than a failed Belize. Jimmy Morales has said as much; read between the lines of his statement at the opening of the UN General Assembly as quoted in news broadcasts: “I wish to reaffirm the will of the state of Guatemala is to find a definite solution to the dispute while drawing the attention of the international community to the risk to international security……It is no secret that powerful transnational criminal organizations thrive on the differences between states and are capable of occupying pockets within undefined territory that lack effective control.” He is implying that Belize does not have effective control in the border areas, the Adjacency Zone in this instance but certainly also the Sarstoon, and that puts “international security” at risk. That is exactly the kind of language, exactly the kind of conditions that give states who want to gobble up another state an excuse to undermine its leadership and for civilian and or military occupation under the pretext that such conditions pose a danger to their own nation’s security and that of the international community.

As things stand today, the government of Belize and its political agents who want to deny the country justice, who would rather destroy those who are seeking that justice, who are fighting tooth and nail against accountability and reform, are on a trajectory to make a Guatemalan takeover of Belizean territory a reality. When it comes, Belize will not be prepared because in its underdevelopment there will be no properly equipped military, no defense of any substance, due in no small part to government corruption, due in no small part to the actions of those who think that being on top in politics is a ticket to gang-rape Belize. Belize will not be prepared because it would have failed to see it coming. Belize will not be prepared because by that time Belizeans would have lost their will.

Belize must not fail itself. Stand up, Belize!

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