In Belize, 36 years into political independence, the law remains an aristocratic profession. In Belize, you don’t find maverick attorneys, as in the United States, who take on cases simply because they believe in the justice or societal importance of the specific matter. The attorneys in Belize feel peer pressure, and community pressure no doubt, to focus exclusively on the accumulation of personal bank accounts: it is how it is.
I raise the issue because I believe it is long past time that some attorney should study the matter of discrimination in Belize. We know that political victimization has been accepted as a reality of life here for six decades and more, and I assume that political victimization is legal. I am positive, however, that discrimination is a crime in violation of the constitution of Belize, but I don’t know how one would prove discrimination in a court of law: I am not an attorney.
Personally, I believe that if I had been “Belize white,” I and my enterprises would have been treated differently on multiple occasions by the system/power structure. But, if I had been “Belize white,” I would have been, by definition, in support of international white supremacy, as represented in Belize by the Queen of England, and this would have made all the difference, to paraphrase Robert Frost.
From a layman’s standpoint, I would say discrimination occurs when you experience various problems because of your color, ethnicity, family/class background, religion, political beliefs, gender, sexual preferences, and so on and so forth. All human beings are born with equal, inalienable rights, and the official treatment they receive should be fair and equal.
In a parliamentary democracy such as ours, the choosing of a national government every five years consecrates the decisions of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet with an intimidating blessing – the blessing of a majority of adult, enfranchised Belizean citizens who voted in free and fair general elections. So, if the government of the majority decides that the Belize Brewing Company should continue to enjoy a development concession after 48 years of same, and therefore continue to be exempt from certain taxes, that is legal and fine. If that same government of the majority one day arrives at the opinion that Yhonny Rosado owes them $600,000 in general sales tax (GST), that is also, on the face of it, legal and fine. But, is it discrimination in some way because of Yhonny’s outspoken political activism?
Over the years I have experienced several situations with respect to KREM Radio which I was convinced were discriminating in nature. KREM Radio, which began broadcasting in November of 1989, represented the lifestyle realities of roots Belizeans who were at the base of Belize’s socio-economic pyramid. The history of radio broadcasting in this country had been extremely colonial. The monopoly British Honduras Broadcasting Service (BHBS) tried to be as much like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as they could be. When the anti-colonial People’s United Party (PUP) took over BHBS in the early 1960s, the station became known as Radio Belize. It was a government monopoly. When you entered their broadcast studio, it was just like the BHBS days: you were supposed to behave as if you were in church. I can testify to that. Radio Belize was an institution which was disliked by roots Belizeans.
Conversely, it is safe to say that KREM Radio, as anti-establishment and anti-white supremacy as it has been, was detested by the Belize whites, the Afro Saxons, and the European expatriate community. There were two different attempts to take down the KREM broadcast tower on Partridge Street – in December of 1990 and in February of 1998. In addition, a British Army vehicle ran over the KREM Radio antenna on Baldy Beacon in 1992 or so, I don’t remember the exact date. I know that our station was never compensated for this.
Enough of the KREM saga for now. Every day and every night in the streets of Belize City, police officers are making decisions to stop and search and harass young citizens based on their appearance. Some attorney here needs to prove the discrimination in the streets and make the Government of Belize pay for these violations of human rights.
Now, back to Yhonny. He must be under serious stress. I remember that in March of 2007 the attorney Rodwell Williams of the current Prime Minister’s law firm wrote me to say, in part, that his client, Lord Michael Ashcroft’s bank, was claiming that I owed the bank $262,000. My business manager daughter had assured me that our newspaper had paid that bill through advertizements for four different Ashcroft businesses run over the course of thirteen years. Still, I was traumatized for days. The moral support of my son-in-law, Mark Espat, helped to calm me. I’m saying that I know from experience how Yhonny is feeling, and through this medium I offer, for whatever it is worth, my human solidarity.
It’s rough out there for small Belizeans doing business under the present repressive tax regime. KREM Television got into big trouble two or three years ago with GST because of not wanting to terminate workers. The bills add up fast when you put your heart ahead of your brains. You will tell me that the GST people didn’t manufacture this bill: Yhonny must have been messing up. Okay.
Suppose we say that this is so. I would counter by saying that everyone who is in the know in Belize’s two major political parties is aware that at various points over the last four decades there has been political favoritism involved with the growth of the Bowen empire, which has been considered “too big to fail” by the PUDP. That goes for both political parties which have formed governments in Belize, because whenever they saved tax expenses for Sir Barry, he used the savings to donate to the political party which had done the favor. Hand wash hand, you know how it is. Big fish business.
Was Sir Barry a better businessman than Yhonny? Let’s say that he was. Did Sir Barry understand how to play politics better than Yhonny Rosado does? Let’s answer in the affirmative. But, there was and is a foundation to the Bowen empire called Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola is one of the giant transnational corporations which run the world. The implications of that were that the Bowen businesses always had access to cutting edge technology from the developed world, not to mention financial backing.
James Carville once famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In the streets of the Southside, there is a bloody civil war that has been raging for a quarter century and more. Young human beings are killing and being killed daily while fighting to survive and raise their babies. Life is the most fundamental of human rights. So is food. The Belize economy is skewed. The politicians have sold us out. This problem began with slavery. The problem continued with colonialism. Discrimination was always inherent to the problem. Some of us are treated differently from others. And there are those of us who pretend that we do not see.
Power to the people.