When Amandala became the leading newspaper in Belize in 1981, this was a disturbing development where the establishment or power structure in Belize was concerned. If you are a member of Belize’s middle class, you may ask: well, who exactly constitute the establishment or power structure in Belize? The reason you may not be able to see things clearly enough for definition, is likely because you are too close to the power, and you may even have hopes of one day seeing your children graduate to those higher heights, so to speak. If you are a member of the roots class, however, you know exactly who are the establishment or power structure, because these are what roots people consider to be untouchables. They are the ones who walk on top of roots people, as a matter of routine.
A few years after this newspaper became the industry leader, the Jesuits brought an American here by the name of David Runkel to teach journalism to their Sixth Form students. This would have been the middle/late eighties. It seems Runkel started talking about investigative journalism to his students, and I imagine he must have pointed out to them all the different areas where Amandala fell short of international journalism standards.
My personal experiences had led me to believe that Belize was a very corrupt and dangerous place. Eventually, I went out on a limb seeking a change of government between 1983 and 1984. This put my life in jeopardy, and I thought that the new UDP government elected in December of 1984 would have done me the courtesy of investigating the serious developments involving myself in late October of 1984. I guess they were so excited and glad to take power in Belmopan for the first time they didn’t have time to check X stats.
Last Saturday night I took my family on a drive down Albert Street, and we were pleasantly surprised to see a little business activity on what used to be Belize City’s most exciting street back in the days. Nowadays you can find major, deadly gangs just a couple blocks away from the Alberts, so these young, roots criminals must be less aggressive right now than they often are, hence Saturday night’s business activity. It is said that the Barrow government has held discussions with these gangsters and has tried to create employment for them. There are people I have heard speaking and whom I have read writing who are very much in disapproval of such measures, which they consider akin to appeasement of terrorists.
Well, this is really quite intriguing to me, because I believe that there are much bigger gangsters around and about than those in our city streets, but these bigger gangsters are so rich and powerful that they are embedded in that aforementioned Belizean establishment/power structure. They are embedded not because they socialize at cocktail parties or public affairs featuring the diplomatic corps, but because, when it suits them, they can summon the most wealthy and prestigious attorneys in the local Bar Association. It being the case that these attorney are almost all tied in with the two major political parties, at the highest levels, you will begin to get a sense of why roots people think that the real gangsters are untouchables.
So when I hear you speak and see you write about how government is negotiating with gangsters, I am somewhat skeptical about your skepticism. Over these 43 years I have been a lot of places and I know that not all gangsters “sag” or wear tattoos. In this respect, where our ignorance of realities and our outright hypocrisy are concerned, I consider Belize to be a joke. I have to take the situation as a joke, because it is too sad to contemplate on a daily basis. Bad ting, mek joke.
This is Belize. It’s our Belize. It’s what we wanted, and it’s what we’ve got. You can’t investigate anything here, Runkel, because all of us are involved. The only difference between us here is that some of us pretend to be otherwise than we are, while the rest of us talk straight up. Two thousand years ago Christ talked about the Pharisee and the Publican. The Publican confessed openly to being a sinner, but the Pharisee made a big thing out of being a saint, which he surely wasn’t. The roots gangsters, then, are Publicans, plain and simple, but, what’s the difference between a Publican gangster and a Pharisee gangster? You tell me, Jim.