In some ways, I guess in life I’ve been somewhat fortunate at times, but overall I try not to depend on good luck to pull me through predicaments.
The KREM Radio experiment/experience became a personal predicament less than four months after the station began broadcasting on November 17, 1989. I was a still a relatively young man at the time. I had survived years of buffeting during the UBAD excitement, and then a few years in alliance with the ruling People’s United Party (PUP). Finally, in 1981 I had begun to get on my feet. By 1989 I’d finished building a home and was well into construction of the ferro-concrete main building in the Kremandala yard which today houses four different levels of workers – lithography, proofreading, and printing for the newspaper on the ground floor, studio and transmitter for the radio station, studio and transmitter for the television station, and the former rooftop which is used for a joint news center between the radio and television.
It would take a long time to explain to you the intricacies of the ride, but the point I want to make is that at the time KREM Radio came on the scene, we had been doing well with the newspaper. I feel, in retrospect, that radio was an ambitious, daring step for us, and I can say for sure that there were big people in politics and business who had it in mind to cut our throats.
Every now and then people will ask me about certain episodes over the years, and they say well, if you had to do it over again, would you. My answer is always like this: based on what I knew at the time, I made the best decision I could. In November of 1989, KREM Radio gave us a chance to free the radio waves for roots people, and it gave us a chance to create more jobs. We had to do what we did. The problem was not with the what: there was a problem with the how.
In a matter of months, to repeat, the KREM experiment/experience became a predicament. By March of 1990, to tell you the truth, I was outright scared. But, as was the case with several other things in my public life, the energy coming from roots people pulled us through then, as that energy had pulled us through several times before.
I’m not sure how little Amandala became the leading newspaper here when it did in 1981, and sometimes I can’t believe we’ve maintained our position for so long. That disbelief is derived from my certainty that the power structure in Belize does not look on us with any kind of favor, much less love. It is likely that the power structure’s attitude may be substantially more hostile than just unfavorable, but let it be.
To a marginal extent, part of the problem with Partridge is me and my cantankerous (?) personality. In my view, nevertheless, the larger part of the problem has to do with historical philosophy and economic development philosophy. Kremandala is too independent of the big boys, and sometimes Kremandala is outright insubordinate. This is the way it is.
Anyway, I’m trying to introduce you to the topic of Lord Michael Ashcroft’s business dealings with KREM Radio, dealings which he was careful to disguise. If it were up to me, it would have never happened, the dealings the way they were. But, when KREM Radio entered that first major predicament in March of 1990, I had decided that I would continue to focus on the newspaper and let other people run the radio station. Of these other people, the first one was my beloved father. He was running KREM Radio in 1994 when he decided, on being prompted by a third party, to seek a loan with the Ashcroft-owned Belize Bank. Last week, incidentally, my dad chose to tell me, for the first time that I can remember, who it was out of the PUP political directorate who had approached him in 1994. Remember now, Dr. Manuel Esquivel’s United Democratic Party (UDP) had returned to power in June of 1993, and the big boys in the PUP well knew that there was bad blood between Esquivel and myself.
The 1994 condition of a $75,000 loan from Belize Bank for KREM Radio to purchase a needed transmitter was that I, Evan X Hyde, should sell 10 percent of KREM Radio (of which I owned 40 percent at the time) to a certain “Sagis Investments Limited.” At the time, I figured this Sagis was either Ashcroft or Ralph Fonseca. Either way, if it were left up to me, it would have been “no deal.” I’m a small man, and I do business in a small way. One, one cocoa. I don’t fly with the big boys. I can’t breathe when the altitude is too high. But, my dad had negotiated the deal, KREM needed the equipment, and I had my dad’s back. Wouldn’t you?
I pretty much foresaw what would happen: I would have to pay the $75,000 through Amandala. That repayment took 12 years of running advertisements for four different Ashcroft companies. I was paid $25,000 for my shares by Sagis. This money was immediately transferred to KREM Radio, for survival purposes. But, the subsequent paperwork was apparently not completed, for whatever the reason(s).
In March of 2007, just months after the business management section of our newspaper had finished paying off the radio station’s $75,000 loan, the prestigious Barrow & Williams law firm wrote us on behalf of Sagis Investments Limited and Belize Bank, demanding the Sagis 10 percent of KREM and intimating that the $75,000 loan had not been paid, and would now have built up, with interest, to a debt of $262,000. Big boys were talking. Jack. To the best of my knowledge in March of 2007, the big boys were talking bull, but we smalls know that when big boys talk, we have to listen.
There were people in both the then ruling PUP and the then Opposition UDP who spoke and wrote in a disparaging manner about myself and Kremandala. I will discuss the lies and injustice of the 2007 situation soon, hopefully in my next column.
I want to close with the point that the best of our PUP and UDP attorneys and accountants have done heavy mingling with Lord Ashcroft, and now the result is crushing bills for the people of Belize to pay. Well, I myself, who normally pride myself on knowing hold to hold my corner, as we say in the streets, got bushwhacked by the Englishman and his hit men and hit women. But, beloved, I was not in charge of a whole nation. Like the rest of Belizeans, I am very, very angry about this BTL debacle.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.