I heard a spokesperson for the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) make an arrogant and asinine comment on Friday morning. The spokesperson said that they (the UDP) did not need anybody (seemingly, pointedly, referring to such as this newspaper) because they had won three consecutive general elections “by themselves.” The electoral reality is that yes, the organization of the ruling party does the legwork to win general elections, but all the votes a winning party receives are not from their party voters. A winning party will receive a sizeable chunk of the independent votes and even some votes, in any given election, from the more analytical supporters of the losing party.
Kremandala is a unique institution, the only one of its kind in Central America and the Caribbean, because Kremandala is a roots media house which has proven over several decades that it can fight the major political parties when it has to do so.
Between July of 1970 and January of 1971, I was tried in the Supreme Court on two different charges. The July 1970 trial was a political trial, while the January 1971 charge was a criminal charge. The criminal trial was related to the political trial: the common denominator was that a certain section of the Belizean people was supporting Kremandala in its 1970/1971 original construction.
I would say, just as a rough estimate, that when one of Belize’s two major political parties is in Opposition, that political party would be eight times as strong as Kremandala. When one of the major parties is in power, then such a party would be ten to twelve times stronger than Kremandala.
When Hon. Cordel Hyde, the four-time area representative for the Lake Independence constituency in Belize City, stood up to speak in the House of
Representatives on Friday morning, he was speaking on behalf of his constituency and on behalf of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP). Some of the ideas which Hon. Cordel expressed on Friday morning are ideas which have been discussed in this newspaper and on the Kremandala radio and television stations. When Cordel Hyde presents any argument which may have been first aired at Kremandala (or somewhere else), then that argument, immediately and automatically, becomes eight times more substantial, in numerical, power terms, than when it was confined to a Kremandala forum.
The leaders of the ruling UDP know that they have succeeded in infiltrating key areas at Kremandala, but their spokespeople have been taking the position, even as they have taken the same position with reference to the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), that Kremandala is a partisan, PUP institution. At the very same time that this is happening, there are PUP leaders who know that Kremandala is an independent institution, and sometimes this fact troubles said PUP leaders.
The Guatemalan claim to Belize is an existential threat to Belize, and it is now especially relevant to those Belizeans who live between the Sibun and the Sarstoon. Three of the four area representatives sent to the House in November of 2015 by those Belizeans resident between the Sibun and the Sarstoon are PUP, and it now appears that a significant quantum of the anti-International Court of Justice (ICJ) feeling in the PUP is coming from these three PUP Southern Caucus area reps.
Hon. Cordel Hyde’s House presentation on Friday morning was a serious presentation. In its perspective and tone, it runs directly counter to everything the ruling UDP, primarily through its Foreign Minister, has been saying and doing with respect to the Guatemalan issue over the last several years. It is one thing for this newspaper to write an editorial making arguments contrary to government policy: it is quite another, and a more substantial matter, for the national deputy leader of the Opposition PUP to address the House of Representatives with such arguments. This is the point I wish to make in this column.
It will appear contradictory to my rough estimates of relative institutional strengths in the third paragraph of this essay, when I projected any ruling party as being ten to twelve times stronger than Kremandala, when I now opine that the power of a Prime Minister in Belize, from day to day, is almost limitless. The key phrase would be “from day to day.”
With all our faults, we Belizeans still consider ourselves a civilized people. But you need to accept that the civilized aspect of us human beings is, ultimately, only a veneer, because we can begin to act like absolute barbarians under duress. Adult human beings are driven by the instinctive, visceral desire for self-preservation and the preservation of their children and loved ones. Concepts of community and society can break down under duress, at which point it is as if cherished institutions which have been established over time and enshrined in law, suddenly disintegrate. If such a duress is occasioned in a specific context, the limitless institutional power of the Prime Minister could evaporate, and the Prime Minister would then have to fall back on the power he derives from his party’s support. Power would lie, as it is said, in the streets. Theoretically, anyone could pick up that power.
Belize is threatened by a military force superior to ours which has a documented history of wanton murder, torture, and rape. Without arrangements for our defence with an ally who is more powerful than our enemy, Belize can not be considered a safe place to live. The ruling UDP has been arguing that, under the circumstances, Belize’s best bet for a safe and secure sovereignty would be arbitration and judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The arguments of the UDP and their Foreign Minister are sensible arguments.
In 1950, it was sensible for Belizeans, as some of our thinkers argued, to continue submitting themselves to Great Britain, our colonial masters, even though the British had devalued our dollar. Who were we to think of self-rule? Whoever we were, we did think of self-rule, we fought for self-rule, and we achieved it. The fight for self-rule was a rebellious fight, it was an insurgent fight, and there were dangers in that fight. Goldson and Richardson went to jail because of that fight. In its core reality, the fight for native self-rule was a fight for national dignity.
In the annals of human existence on planet earth, there has been sense, and there has also been human dignity. More than that, there has been something called honor. And honor has been creeping into Belize’s national discourse. Previously, that discourse has been dominated by the “sensible” thing to do. So yes, there is sense, there is national dignity, and now there is honor. (In some future work, we will consider the hard core, inescapable issue of hunger.)
For now, we can say that Belize is about to begin a sober and momentous national debate (followed by a vote) on a referendum on the ICJ option. We have full confidence in the right and ability of the Belizean people to study the arguments and deliver a judgment binding for the Belizean nation.
Kremandala has a role to play in the upcoming national debate, and we will play that role to the best of our ability. We do understand, nevertheless, that insofar as our functional democracy is concerned, the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP are of more account than we. In light of that, we pay full respect to the authority of the Hon. Cordel Hyde, area representative for Lake Independence and national deputy leader of the Opposition PUP.
Power to the people.