On Friday morning, May 20, the leaders of the major Christian churches in Belize decided to call a press conference to express their views on critical matters in Belize having to do with the Guatemalan claim, Guatemalan aggression, the Belizean response, and so on.
For me, the most important thing you should know about the men who sat at that head table on Friday morning is that they are very powerful. They are very powerful because they control the education system of Belize. They decide what is taught and what is not taught to the children of Belize. The major Christian churches here have held that power for generations and generations and generations, and the reason they hold that power is that, at the end of the day, they represent the Western European power structure. Incidentally, the military expression of the Western European power structure is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The masses of the Belizean people have always wished to educate their children, because the masses of the Belizean people traditionally had to do hard, manual labor in order to make a living, and most parents wished for a less crushing, more comfortable existence for their children. Hence, they sent us to school.
Historically, Belizean children have been taught by missionaries and representatives of the European people who previously enslaved and colonized our ancestors. There was always a contradiction here, because we were seeking liberation through education from the same power structure which had imposed oppression upon us by means of violence. But, it was what it was. My great grandfather on my father’s side, born in 1853, was a humble blacksmith and machinist. His grandson, my dad, graduated from St. John’s College and entered the civil service of British Honduras in 1941. He rose to become a head of department.
By 1950, when the nationalist revolution began in British Honduras, an elite of educated natives had been trained by the education system and they were ranking members of the colonial administration. The majority of these educated natives showed an instinctive and understandable loyalty to the British colonial administration. The core of the anti-colonial People’s United Party (PUP) back then was comprised of hard working Belizeans (General Workers Union) who were not working out of any civil service office.
The nationalist pressure from the PUP probably influenced the British into promoting civil service natives more readily. In the case of my dad, who became the Postmaster General in the early 1960s, he succeeded a Belizean in that position, my dad’s predecessor being the late Percy Ewing.
My dad was an exception to the rule amongst high ranking civil servants, in that my dad was a PUP sympathizer. I suppose a lot of that had to do with my father’s father having been an employee of the late Robert Sydney Turton’s, Mr. Turton being the person who arguably began the whole anti-colonialist, self-rule movement in Belize.
The point I wanted to make was that there was a class of Belizeans who saw benefits from having become educated by the church schools, in that they entered the government service, where their work was less strenuous and they had more job security.
By the time I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, then, the Christian educators were held in high esteem, because they controlled the destiny of so many parents’ children. In influencing the minds of so many children, the Christian educators gained control of the political process. They controlled so many votes that all aspiring politicians had to pay homage to them, and thus it was that the so-called church-state educational system, wasteful and inefficient as it is, became an absolute sacred cow in Belize. It is what it is.
The symbiosis of the warm relationship between the ruling politicians and the Christian churches was on display on Friday morning as the Anglican Bishop read a prepared statement which was like a Cabinet of Belize press release. Among other things, the Christian churches made an attack on the media of Belize which sounded like an echo from the interviews and statements of Belize’s Foreign Minister.
It is in the nature of totalitarian states that they exercise strict control over the flow of information to the masses. Whereas, it is the boast of democracies that they allow the free dissemination of information. The United Democratic Party (UDP) Government of Belize has been making increasingly alarming attempts to prevent the people of Belize from learning the truth about certain critical incidents and situations. At the same time, there has developed an increasingly cohesive group of Belizean journalists who have displayed exemplary bravery in seeking the truth. These journalists have been cooperating at a level which has confounded the ruling politicians.
Belize is a small nation-state, and we owe a lot of money. Technically speaking, we are not competitive. Because of our size, poverty, and technology inadequacies, Belize is weak. We would be much stronger if we became united, but we are a divided people. Being fully apprised of the fact that hostile, aggressive Guatemala is substantially stronger than we are, especially on paper, our political leaders have become timid. They don’t want the Belizean people to know the truth about certain incidents and situations, because they fear that the Belizean people may become angry. The political leaders of Belize are very wealthy men who have a lot to lose from any disturbance of the status quo which would arise from an increase in Belizean militancy, so they have been withholding information from the Belizean people, on a consistent basis. The media have been exposing these disrespectful deceptions on the part of our political leaders, so on Friday morning the politicians sent in the preachers to calm the masses down.
Many years ago, you know, my generation used to feel that Mr. Price was behaving too timidly in dealing with the Guatemalan claim. But, Mr. Price ended up leading us to independence and sovereignty with all our territory intact. Sometimes, leaders need some space in which to operate. We who are out here probably become too impatient at times. Still, do you want to tell me that the Government of Belize could not have done a much better job of keeping us informed over the weekend about the Istanbul talks?
In closing, I wish to discuss a little old people’s business. Many years ago, when we were both very young men, Nuri Muhammad and I began to see differently on some issues, and then as time went along we began to walk on different roads. All through those decades, there were many more things which should have united us than the smaller matters on which we disagreed. Nuri and I have now been working together for several months, and he and I owe Minister Louis Farrakhan and Jeff Scott public appreciation for their counsel. As-salaam-alaikum.
Power to the people.