Belizeans at home (and for purposes of this column I will just arbitrarily refer to us as “Base Belizeans”) and Diaspora Belizeans have to stop shouting at each other long distance and organize a forum where the issues can be properly ventilated and some hard resolutions passed.
The first thing that has to be done is to identify those voices which are compulsively committed to a UDP or a PUP agenda, and remove them from the discussion. This is a difficult assignment, and it will take time to complete it. But, it can be done, and it must be done if any serious, documented fusion of Base Belizeans and Diaspora Belizeans is to begin taking place.
All of us Belizeans are influenced by the UDP or the PUP to some extent. To put it another way, let me say that the two major political parties reflect traditional differences in background and outlook among Belizeans, and some of us come out of family structures with a party political preference. The differences between the PUP and the old NIP were more discernible. For instance, it seemed to me when I was growing up that almost all civil servants were NIP, and almost all bicycle cart men, to choose a working class category, were PUP. I’m just saying. Today, the UDP and the PUP are much more similar than the old NIP and the PUP were. In a way, this is probably a good thing.
In the old NIP and PUP days, the Guatemala claim was clearly divisive, today not so much. This reflects, I think, the importance of the very first change of government in 1984, which made Belizeans realize that once a political party was elected to office, there were certain guidelines which a party, whether blue or red, had to follow.
One of those guidelines involves prudence, even caution, with the Guatemalans. In the days before the first change, many of us Belizeans had been faulting Mr. Price for being soft with Guatemala. After the change, most Belizeans began to realize Mr. Price had no choice but to tread softly. Essentially, he had to behave the way he was behaving.
So then, almost all of us have been painted with the UDP or the PUP brush. It is impossible to convene a forum which will not include PUDP voices. All we can do is make sure we emphasize the Diaspora issue from a totally nationalistic standpoint, and reduce the party rhetoric as much as possible. Remember now, all of us, Base Belizeans and Diaspora Belizeans, love Belize: we need to find a way to work together.
Belize’s democracy, I believe, is a special one because of the existence of this newspaper. This newspaper adds a third, independent dimension to the Belizean discourse. Amandala is not owned or controlled by the UDP or the PUP. In 1977, the PUP, looking ahead, made a bid to control Amandala. Amandala had survived from 1969 to 1974 because of the protection of the UBAD organization. In 1973, the UBAD leadership had been divided by the fledgling UDP, and myself and this newspaper then began to experience savage attacks from the UDP. We were pushed in the direction of the PUP.
But, in 1977 I still knew what I was, which is to say, a writer, and I knew therefore that my personal relationship with a political party could not be a smooth one. This was a function of definition: a political party is what it is and a writer is what he is. I had to protect myself at all times, to the best of my ability, in order to ensure the credibility and integrity of the newspaper as an independent institution. This wasn’t so easy sometimes.
My point is that Base and Diaspora Belizeans who are sincere nationalists can build a working organization which operates outside of the jurisdiction of the UDP and the PUP. (I think William Adderley of Los Angeles was moving in that direction, at least theoretically.) This would not be as difficult an assignment as the building and sustaining of Amandala, because Amandala now exists, in stone, and can defend the rights and opinions of those Belizeans who do not consider themselves to be flag waving, card carrying UDP or PUP.
The biggest issue dividing concerned Base and Diaspora Belizeans presently is the issue of whether a Diaspora Belizean has to give up United States citizenship in order to be eligible for political office in Belize. (As it is, the vast majority of Diaspora Belizeans cannot even vote in Belize’s elections.) Base Belizeans and Diaspora Belizeans have to slug it out to reach consensus on these matters.
The one thing I would say today is that a lot of Belizeans, because of religion, proximity, culture, history, and so on, always saw America as a larger version of Belize, likewise Belize as a smaller version of America. They didn’t have a problem feeling love and loyalty for both entities. They did not realize that, where the most serious issue in Belizean reality was concerned – the Guatemala claim, the United States government (not the United States people) was on the side of our enemies. In my lifetime, Belizeans fought and died in wars for America, because we loved America so.
Modern telecommunications is such that a Base Belizean/Diaspora Belizean forum could easily take place in cyber space, almost in the twinkling of an eye. The sooner you guys get such initiatives started, the better. In so doing you will begin the necessary process of sidelining and eliminating fools and charlatans. We’re on a serious mission here, which is the preservation and consolidation of the work of Belize’s Founding Fathers of 1950. Now we know: Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson were on the same mission. Build Belize. Save Belize. Love Belize.
Power to the people.