I suppose that when Said Musa offered in early 1977 to invest in a company which would move Amandala from ancient letter press to modern offset technology, it was a decision which was made at the highest levels of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP). While Mr. Musa bought $20,000 worth of shares in a company capitalized at $50,000, five other PUP Ministers and cronies bought $1,000 each, so that from the beginning the PUP controlled exactly 50 percent of Cream, Ltd.
On my family’s side, I believe that, using a loan from Miss Jane’s Holy Redeemer Credit Union, I bought $14,200 worth of shares, my dad bought $3,000, and my aunt, Mrs. Chrystel Hyde Straughan, bought $3,000. So that, my family owned $20,200 worth of shares, while $4,800 worth of shares was unsubscribed.
When the PUP leadership began to discuss candidates for the Belize City Council elections scheduled for December 1977, it was decided that I should be a PUP candidate. I had retired from electoral politics after my unsuccessful run as the UBAD Party candidate for Collet in October 1974, but the pressure came down on me from on high, while two of the PUP candidates, Leroy Taegar and Lois Young, were friends of mine and probably thought they were doing me a favor by agitating for my candidacy. I don’t really know.
The PUP was already experiencing ideological tensions at the leadership level, and Said Musa, a member of the left wing faction at the time, would be leading the team of PUP CitCo candidates. This was the man who had stepped forward to improve the newspaper, so I was feeling appropriately grateful to him.
There were different reasons why the PUP lost to the UDP as badly as we did in those 1977 CitCo elections, but the PUP leadership took a “party line” which consisted of declaring that the UDP had “stolen” the elections. The “party line” meant that all good followers should second the motion. Yes, the UDP had committed massive electoral fraud, but there were other factors involved in the PUP defeat. As editor of Amandala, I believed I had to bring these other factors to the attention of my readers.
The PUP leadership saw this as insubordination on my part, perhaps even disrespect, and early in 1978 Deputy Prime Minister C. L. B. Rogers’ muscle, led by my friend/compadre, Ray Lightburn, began to lean on me. I was intimidated, but although Mr. Musa had topped the 1977 CitCo polls for the blue, he was not an elected area representative and therefore was not in a position to defend me against the very powerful Mr. Rogers.
I was then rudely taken off Radio Belize, where I had been broadcasting football and basketball since 1975, and overall I “got the sense.” The sense I got was that the PUP didn’t have “accommodations” for a truly independent Amandala.
By April of 1978, however, Ray Lightburn came to me to say that Mr. Rogers wanted to purchase the $4,800 worth of unsubscribed shares in Cream, Ltd. I didn’t say anything, but I was stunned at the turn of events. This meant the PUP wanted to lock down control of the company. After the stick intimidation of early 1978, here was carrot money in the spring. A couple weeks later, Lightburn repeated the offer, saying, “Weh happen, you no wahn money?”
Of course I did, but this was control money. I went to see a couple of UDP friends, urging them to buy the $4,800 of unsubscribed shares, so as to balance the company at fifty-fifty. They refused, so in order to defend the newspaper, I took all my savings and bought the $4,800 of shares myself.
The PUP won the 1979 general elections in somewhat of a surprise result, and then around October of 1980 the news came that the United States had decided to support independence for Belize. My experiences in early 1978, when the PUP leaned on me because of my editorial freedom, had convinced me that Amandala and myself would be in danger in an independent PUP Belize.
In what appears now like an extreme move, I sent for Mr. Musa and said to him as follows: “Listen, my family and I have decided to get out of the newspaper business. Tell Mr. Price to buy out my $25,000 worth of shares.”
A week later, Mr. Musa reported that Mr. Price was willing to buy $6,000 worth, no more. I said to him, that’s not the deal.
I would say that it was not long after that that the Heads of Agreement surfaced, a development which threw Belize into turmoil. Apologists for the Heads have said that it was only a “framework for negotiations,” that Belize was not committed to anything, that they were tricking the Guatemalans, and horse dead and cow fat. In times like those, however, you have to follow your gut instincts, and the Heads of Agreement looked scurvy to me.
Belize entered political independence on September 21, 1981, in a state of emergency which had been declared by the British Governor in early April that year. The country was very much divided. So, only one set of people were holding the most extravagant celebrations Belize had ever seen all over the place, and those people were blue, Jack. The rest of us watched from the sidelines. Real.