We have been shaken by less than a hurricane, less than a tsunami, less than an earthquake…we have been hit by small-mindedness, pettiness, bitterness and the usual lack of maturity and propriety, but its devastation is more catastrophic, and though it is not seen, it permeates our national psyche and the philosophy of entitlement by our so-called leaders. The banal egos of leaders struck again and this time it was the feature at the height of the National September Celebrations. But while our true lack of leadership, decorum and civility was exposed, it reminded me of how each person, each incident, each event, is a sober reflection of what has become the norm here and how we war with each other, become combative and unable to resolve conflict without the drama. It also highlights the male versus female ongoing battle and the attacks to humiliate and degrade each other, not realizing that in the process we also degrade ourselves, our family, our communities, our organizations and our country. We fail to analyze things and instead act on impulse, emotion, spite, malice, and the seven deadly sins! One of the criteria is being narcissistic!
“Belize, confronting challenges! celebrating triumphs! renewing our resolve!” Theme 2017 National Celebrations, but I am not feeling the celebratory spirit and my already limited September celebration enthusiasm was surely pummelled by the news of six injured in the shooting near Cinderella Plaza; then the killing of Gustavo Hernandez, key murder witness, and then I experienced an all-time low when in the company of my 9-year-old daughter, aspiring to be a queen at some pageant someday. We witnessed how even the most fun thing, like the crowning of the Queen of the Bay, could be killed with one blow. I do regret this most distasteful scene, for the sake of the young ladies and for my daughter and other youths at the Memorial Park who had to witness how “professional, educated” adults fight in public! It was shameful to say the least, yet people are seeking to defend the indefensible, and some are using it to vent their political dislike for either side, or to sit on the highstool of principle, without questioning the facts, thus missing the violation of a fair process with the desire to find a radical champion, though unprincipled in conduct.
When the theme for the celebrations speaks of “confronting our challenges,” it seems some literally took it to mean being confrontational. I saw the face of embarrassment on the members of the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries, and then the uncontained laughter from the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and others who I believed tried to laugh off the moment of embarrassment for all concerned. Yet, as is usual, many Belizeans have made jokes, memes, songs, argued for and against, got into calling each other names and setting Facebook on fire either defending, discrediting or trolling, but few really wanting to get the facts and make decisions on principle, rules, procedures and evidence. I still demand answers to basic questions, so my view is shaped by the evidence… show me the evidence!
What is the evidence?
If we honestly want to know what erupted and burst this bubble known as the coronation of Queen of the Bay, we need to go to the eruption itself. For me, the eruption was publicly known at 8:21 p.m. on Friday, September 8, 2017 when the Queen of the Bay National Committee (herein QOTB-NC) placed on its website the press release announcing the new Queen-designate as Ms. Orange Walk, Esmeralda Cal. But if you read the press release issued in response by the Stann Creek Committee of QOTB, it states that at 7:12 Ms. Dejianira Thompson unceremoniously called Ms. Aliyah Ysaguirre and told her she would not be coroneted and the judges have named Ms OW as Queen-designate… imagine that is when she even knew there was a challenge. Do people not see this is not a principled way to do things for those claiming they want to do what is right?
Now we got to look at several facts here, especially since I just keep seeing this story evolve and the explanations moving away from what was this original announcement and explanation. I see justifications taking various shapes; to me, if for nothing else, it is to distract from what the truth is, because all the versions being given by the National Committee cannot be true, especially when they contradict each other. That press release of September 8th states very clearly the following:
1. Until September 7th, 2017 the OW Committee issues “a formal request for an investigation into the final scores…the letter requested further for the judges to ‘review’ their scoring and assessment”.
2. That letter of complaint was not placed on the QOTB-NC fb page until September 9, 2017 at 12:56 a.m. after the fact and in an attempt to justify their actions.
3. The letter was not sent to the Stann Creek Committee nor all the other Committees although a review and reassessment of only Orange Walk and Stann Creek, is unfair to all contestants.
4. QOTB-NC called emergency meeting with the judges, but gives no details of judges present – but this is critical as the release makes it seem all judges were present and in agreement.
5. The release states: “Because the judges were uncertain as to whether it was a review of the tabulation of the scores or a revisit and reassessment of the scoring the judges requested clarification.” Thus, the Chairperson for the OW Committee, Yvette Lui Torres, “clarified that they were challenging the scores and as such wanted the Judges to revisit and reassess their respective scoring.” [emphasis mine]
6. Per the release, “The Judges decided individually to address the letter and agreed that they would individually and separately reassess their respective scores in accordance with the Queen of the Bay Pageant Rules”, as if the rules empower them to so do after signing off on the winner five days prior. [emphasis mine]
7. The judges then seemed to have done their “review” and “reassessment” by looking at footage of the pageant as the release states that the QOTB-NC “made available to the judges the footage of the pageant and their original score sheet.”
8. Per that same press release, “The judges emerged and submitted their individual reassessed scores…”… hmmmm, put brakes here, but even the Chairlady said, “No judge changed their score,” so how come we have a new total score, who had authority to change it and was every contestant’s score revisited and changed?
9. These reassessed scores were audited by an un-named independent chartered accountant.
10. Then the release states, “The certified assessment determined that Ms. Orange Walk, Ms. Esmeralda Cal, is the 72nd Queen of the Bay.”
I have listened to several of the interviews and heard Coordinator, QOTB-NC, Ms. Zenaida Moya, give explanations and cast aspersions and claim that the QOTB-NC wants to do the right thing and be fair to the winner and all these great ideals, but she is yet to produce the evidence and the rules that allow for the reassessment, review and re-tallying that took place supposedly by taking off points for penalties, after the fact. Then I read the soliloquy of Dr. Candice Pitts and it surely also failed to give evidence of what I wanted to hear and instead only points to the level of incompetency of so many and especially in hindsight their inability to select “good” judges who at their whim and fancy will do as they say and change scores. Then, to make matters worse, the usual race-card is pulled out and the conversation and comments have moved from getting the evidence to the emotions and aspersions, diluting the supposed apology she sought to give. I simply want to see the new score cards, the signature of the judges on it and the minutes of these meetings signed off by ALL those present, especially since so many on the committee and judging panel are quiet and their character is called into question! From a strictly legal point of view, for me this was a disturbing development for many reasons which I will outline.
Fairness: In any competitive event where judges are appointed, the decision of the judges is final and there must be finality when said decision is made. However, the press release says the judges decided to “reassess their respective scores in accordance with the Queen of the Bay Pageant Rules.” However, the document entitled “Queen of the Bay Pageant Rules and Criteria” dated 22nd August, 2017 and presented by Coordinator, Ms. Zenaida Moya, a nine-page document, has absolutely no provision to have the outcome challenged, much less five days later and surely it does not have any rule providing for them to reassess their respective scores.
Judging: Now it’s a rule of law and principle that the judge’s decision is final and an appeal has to be made to a higher body, not the same judge as happened here! But interestingly these new rules by this very same QOTB-NC, instead of providing an appeal mechanism, states at Rule 25 as follows: “SMILE, REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME. If you do not win, do not get mad. Take defeat with grace.” [emphasis not mine] Thus, it is a grave untruth when the release gives the impression that there are rules that allow for the process of re-judging that took place between, September 7-8, 2017. I found none! I have kept asking for all the evidence and believe if it existed the QOTB-NC would have already posted it on its page.
Discrepancies: I have seen copies of the final form filled out and signed off on the night of the event, September, 2017, which has typed out the names of the Queen-designate – Aliyah Ysaguirre; 1st runner up, Esmeralda Cal; 2nd runner-up – Quaydah Arzu; 3rd Runner-up – Ms. Amy Reyes, and it is signed off by four of the seven judges. Where is the new one of these signed by the judges after the “reassessment”? However, if the judges reviewed the footage, what seems even more unfair is that it seems they only looked at rescoring between Aliyah and Esmeralda, but why not all the candidates? They too may have had points taken off unfairly or not awarded per the argument of the QOTB-NC. So then we are no longer sure if Aliyah is 1st runner up as she may have scored less than other candidates and there might be some other candidate who could have been the winner above those two top runners up; thus I need to see the new score sheets, to also see who then changed the scores or deducted points or added points.
To be continued in the next issue of Amandala next week Tuesday, September 26, 2017