On April 20, 1653, Oliver Cromwell, the renowned English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, who actually abolished the British monarchy and ruled Britain at one point in time, dissolved the Rump Parliament in London, England. In dismissing the parliamentarians, this was his address:
“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place that you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would, like Esau, sell your country for a mess of pottage, and, like Judas, betray your God for a few pieces of money.
“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse: gold is your God; which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
“Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defiled this sacred place and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you who were deputed here by the people to get grievances redeemed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.
“Your country therefore calls on you to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which, by God’s help and the strength He has given me, I am now come to do.
“I command you therefore, upon the peril to your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.
“Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves, be gone!
“So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock the doors.
“In the name of God, go!”
The 1960s were a time of great electoral frustration in the ranks of those Belizeans who were opposed to the People’s United Party (PUP). From 1961 to 1969, in three different general elections, the PUP won 51 of the total of 54 seats contested nationwide under the new Ministerial constitution.
Within the ranks of the National Independence Party (NIP), which was Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition during the decade of the 1960s, nevertheless, there was a feeling of moral superiority to PUP supporters. NIP followers thought that their PUP counterparts were vulgar, dishonest, and fanatic. NIP supporters also believed that they were more intelligent than their PUP rivals.
Because NIP people thought they were more intelligent than PUP people, they could not accept that they were being beaten fairly and squarely in these elections. They refused to believe that they were being outmaneuvered and outworked by the PUP: the PUP were winning, in NIP minds, because they were willing to do anything to achieve and consolidate power, and the PUP were lowdown and immoral. This was the NIP view of things political in British Honduras.
The first general election when the PUP was seriously challenged was that of 1974, after the NIP had been integrated into a three-party coalition called the United Democratic Party (UDP). If you question Michael Finnegan closely, he will tell you how different the UDP was from the NIP, and how much optimism he felt because the UDP’s approach and tactics were different from the NIP’s. Finnegan’s experience with the NIP had come in the middle/late 1960s when he was a child campaigning with his mother in the Collet constituency for the NIP, but in 1973 he had become a founding member of the UDP, as an adult in the service of UDP Leader, Dean Russell Lindo.
When the UDP finally came to power in December of 1984, however, it was under the leadership of Manuel Esquivel, but it was Dean Lindo who had restructured the Opposition, changed it from the negative, defeatist days of the NIP into the political juggernaut that the UDP had become by the middle and late 1970s. In fact, my personal opinion is that the Dean Lindo UDP which lost in 1979 was stronger than the Manuel Esquivel UDP which won in 1984. But, of course, one has to insert the adverb “arguably” for such a discourse.
In any case, there are relatively few of the NIP’s from the 1960s who are still alive, and I imagine that most of them are now living in the United States. After the UDP was established in September of 1973, NIP supporters moved over to the new party even though their revered NIP Leader, Philip Goldson, was in London studying law at the time and did not personally participate in the discussions which led to the absorbing of the NIP into the new UDP. It was NIP Deputy Leaders, Senator Simeon Agapito Hassock and Senator Ulric Rollington Fuller, who had represented the NIP in the discussions which gave birth to the UDP.
There were some hard line NIP followers, such as Wilfredo “Shubu” Brown, who insisted on waiting for Mr. Goldson’s return to Belize to see how he would respond to the new UDP, and the fact that it had refused to name Mr. Goldson as its Leader, even though, technically speaking in 1973, because Mr. Goldson held the only Opposition seat in Belize’s House of Representatives, he was the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
When Mr. Goldson returned from England in the summer of 1974, he made no waves, and accepted his reduced leadership role in the new UDP. I cannot say off the top when it was that Mr. Goldson was appointed UDP Party Whip, but I can say for sure that Mr. Lindo was not officially named UDP Leader until after the general election of late 1974. There was no leadership convention called to name Mr. Lindo as Leader, and if there had been such a convention, the personal support that Mr. Goldson enjoyed as a national hero for more than two decades, might have created a disturbance.
The present behavior of the ruling UDP, I submit, would have been distasteful to the masses of NIP supporters in the 1960s. The typical NIP supporter believed in British parliamentary values and probity. The typical NIP supporter believed that he or she had a sense of what was right and what was wrong where the rule of government and the rule of law were concerned. The typical NIP supporter of the 1960s would not have condoned the events of last week in the National Assembly building at the Senate Committee hearing, and the typical NIP supporter would have demanded an explanation/condemnation from party leadership.
But, the typical NIP supporter is no more. The typical UDP supporter is enjoying a third consecutive term of office for the party, and many of the UDP’s supporters have watched their party win five general elections of the eight held since 1984. The UDP supporter of 2017 seemingly has a different political value system by which he operates, than was the case with the NIP supporter of the 1960s. That NIP supporter lost three consecutive general elections by huge margins in the 1960s: this UDP supporter has learned to enjoy the sweets, as we would say.
Few of you readers know British history, and how the British parliamentary system we Belizeans inherited, evolved over a period of a thousand years from the Albion island’s early days of murderous monarchies. It would be good for you to learn something about Oliver Cromwell, who was a man of such iron that he beheaded an English king in the middle of the seventeenth century. Four years after he beheaded King Charles I in 1649, Cromwell threw a body of legislators out of the House of Parliament. On that occasion, Cromwell gave the speech I’ve reproduced at the top of this essay.
Read Cromwell’s speech, Belizeans, and read it well. If what we have been seeing in Belize continues to be the norm in the highest circles of governance, then it may be that a Belizean Cromwell will emerge from the people to cleanse the House of Representatives. There is filth there. Mr. Goldson would have condemned that filth.
Power to the people.