The indications are that two of my esteemed, ranking contemporaries, Ornel Brooks and Bert Tucker, died within some hours of each other last Thursday, April 11. Brooksie died in Belize City on Thursday morning, while Adalbert passed in Kingston, Jamaica on Thursday night.
Before I discuss my departed brothers, let me say that the Easter Week publication of Amandala has always been one of my favorite issues, because most readers will take it along with them to their Easter vacation spot, which means that readers will have more leisure time to examine the various articles than would be the case with the usual weekend issue.
This Easter Week column is by way of paying personal respect to the achievements of these two outstanding brothers, and I also hope to honor the families from which they came while sharing memories with their friends.
As far as I can figure out, Deputy Premier C. L. B. Rogers decided to train a new kind of specialist policeman following the Belize City uprisings occasioned by the release of the Seventeen Proposals in the spring of 1968. The traditional policemen had experienced a lot of problems dealing with the Thirteen Proposals’ disturbances in 1966, so the 1968 uprisings convinced Mr. Rogers, who was Minister of Home Affairs and therefore responsible for domestic security, that he needed a more militarized unit for special assignments. Cabinet agreed, and what became known in the streets as the “paramilitary” was born.
The paramilitary’s first high profile action took place in the latter part of 1968 when Belize’s most notorious criminal, Edward Rodney, escaped from the Central Prison on Gaol Lane. It was the paramilitary, under Superintendent Fred Gill, who claimed credit for capturing Rodney in Belize City.
The paramilitary’s most famous leader would become Charlie Good, but I don’t believe Good was in the original paramilitary group. I’m not sure of my stats here, but it appears that Brooksie joined the Police Force in 1969, so that he would also have been in a later recruitment of the paramilitary. I’m not even positive Brooksie was in the paramilitary per se, because when the paramilitary joined with the Belize Volunteer Guard in 1978 to become the Belize Defence Force (BDF), Ornel Brooks did not enter the BDF, as Charlie Good and the other paramilitary did.
In any case, the paramilitary was dashing and flamboyant, and Charlie Good was their poster boy. In 1972, the UBAD organization became the paramilitary’s nemesis and antithesis. The reason I’ve always linked Brooksie with the paramilitary in my mind is because he and Charlie Good were close friends, and Brooksie was always dashing and flamboyant. He was a macho man.
There was one sensational case in the early 1990s when there was serious criminal activity in the Orange Walk District. It may have been a bank robbery or something like that. Brooksie was put in charge of the police detachment sent to deal with the problem. He told me afterwards, with a big laugh on his face, that when he marched into Orange Walk they began to refer to refer to him as “el negro peligroso,” which in English would come out as “the dangerous black man.” (There’s nothing like the original Spanish, of course.) His friends will remember that Brooksie had a great sense of humor.
I hope that you were able to enjoy the work Jules Vasquez did in researching his archives and re-producing some of Brooksie’s most colorful and articulate comments while he was Commissioner of Police in the later 1990s. Belize has never had a ComPol who was as brilliant and expressive as Brooksie. And conversation and rhetoric were only icing on the cake: the reality was that Ornel Brooks was an absolutely fearless man who was a superb strategist and tactician. Brooksie was special, a special Belizean. May he rest peacefully after his good and faithful service.
Bert Tucker was a world class technocrat and scholar. After acquiring a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of the West Indies, he later did post-graduate work in law and international relations at Harvard, the United States’ most prestigious university. Bert worked in international development as a consultant/adviser for three decades in fourteen countries, including Jamaica, Grenada, and Namibia.
It is because of his involvement in the rebuilding of Jamaica during the Michael Manley era, the rebuilding of Grenada during the Maurice Bishop era, and the rebuilding of Namibia during the era of SWAPO (the Southwest Africa People’s Organization) that Bert Tucker became iconic in anti-imperialist circles in Belize and the region. During the periods when he worked in those three countries, they were virtual war zones, so it is for sure that Brother Bert was a brave warrior.
It is a disappointment to me that, to the best of my knowledge, he never published written material about his experiences in those important revolutionary situations. Over the years there were several occasions on which we spent time together in lengthy conversations. This was a brilliant and extremely witty man. He had been many places and seen many different things. It was always a pleasure to sit with him.
Bert was very much a Caribbean man. It seems to me that he was working in the public service here when he got an opportunity in the later 1960s to travel to Jamaica for higher studies. He fell in love with Jamaica, I think, and Jamaica became his door to the world.
Bert was three plus years older than I. When I got a break as a teenager to travel to the United States in 1965 for higher studies, Bert and his young wife were living in an alley on West Canal practically next door to my family home on #1 West Canal. On several occasions, Bert and I shared our separate happy memories of “Empty Chair,” the Keith Lyn hit that ruled the canalside the night of my farewell party.
I got a break in life. Bert Tucker made his break, and became world class in his areas of specialization. I give him great respect, and mourn his untimely passing. There was so much more he had yet to give Belize. I extend my deepest condolences to my brother’s family and friends.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.