Publisher — 20 January 2018
From The Publisher

One thing leads to another thing leads to another thing leads to the other thing ….

For most of the 1970s, except for the school year 1971/72, when I taught at Wesley College, I ran the streets of Belize City. People in the old capital used to explain what was happening with me as a case of “throwing away his education.”  Within less than two years after graduating magna cum laude with an Ivy League first degree, I was being tried twice in Her Majesty’s Supreme Court on separate charges, one political and the other criminal. What was happening, I submit, was probably a case of political activism becoming intertwined with writer’s research.

No Belizean had ever attempted it at the time, but I wanted to be a professional writer and do serious stuff. (I don’t think you know, but one of my maternal uncles, Bee-Lisle, had become Belize’s first professional painter in the 1950s.) I had lived a fairly sheltered life in Belize, but I had an idea what real roots life was about, because it had been happening right across the canal and Bolton Bridge from my family home.

In my column and editorial in our Tuesday issue earlier this week, I considered some phenomena which led up to the formation of the United Democratic Party (UDP) in September of 1973.  There were two people the UDP power brokers had to neutralize, and these were Hon. Philip Goldson and Evan X Hyde. As it turned out, it was easier for them to neutralize Mr. Goldson, even though he was Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and a national hero, because they broke up his home, and he was a family man. In my case, they had to spend years attacking me, and their primary weapon was Michael Myvett, who later changed his surname legally to “Finnegan.”

In 1973, there was a certain place, socio-economically speaking, where Finnegan wanted to go with his life.  While he had certain gifts, he had not been fortunate enough to go to high school, and his family background was a struggling one economically. Finnegan wanted to uplift himself.  He had been involved with Opposition politics as a young boy and as a teenager, through his mom, and he had experienced all the defeats his mom’s party, Philip Goldson’s National Independence Party (NIP), suffered during the 1960s at the hands of the ruling People’s United Party (PUP). Finnegan was tired of losing. The evidence indicates that he came to the conclusion that Mr. Goldson was a loser.

At a certain point, sometime in 1972 as far as I can figure out, Finnegan became convinced that political victory for the Opposition and his personal upliftment were possible if he threw his support behind the attorney Dean Lindo, who had formed his own political party and began publishing his own newspaper in 1969 after failing to overthrow Mr. Goldson as Leader of the NIP earlier in 1969.

History has shown that Finnegan’s analysis was correct, because the UDP was almost immediately successful electorally under Dean Lindo. The thing is that people like Finnegan and Sir Colville Young gave up something when they moved from the NIP to the UDP. History will ask this question: what was the difference between the NIP and the UDP? For me, the difference was simple: I trusted Mr. Goldson more than I trusted Mr. Lindo.

Around the same time the UDP sprang up in Belize, a Belizean by the name of Roy Craig began to live out the fantasies of every street youth in the old capital. Craig’s Belizean organization on 123rd Street in Manhattan began to make crazy money selling drugs. When Craig returned to Belize and took over the Melting Pot disco on Regent Street West in the middle 1970s, it became so that you thought you were entering the New York City club scene at night when you visited Melting Pot. Outside the club during the day, rats ran in the drains, but at night Melting Pot was Da Bomb. Inside Melting Pot, the young attorney Dean Barrow, nephew of the UDP Leader, held court, and Michael Finnegan became his loud sideman.

Belize is a small place. One of Craig’s younger brothers, the late, great Hilly Ratch, was in a relationship with one of Michael Finnegan’s younger sisters, the late Alida. Melting Pot had a distinct UDP vibe, but the PUP was still in national power, and the ruler of Belize City was The Godfather – Deputy Premier/Minister of Home Affairs, C. L. B. Rogers, area representative of Mesopotamia. Roy Craig had to pay respect to Mr. Rogers in order to do his kind of entertainment business in Belize City.

Hounded mercilessly by the UDP, I had been driven into an alliance with the PUP in early 1975. I ran with Ray Lightburn, whose loyalty to Mr. Rogers was absolute. As Chef Ramon’s sideman, I became an associate of Mr. Rogers. In that capacity, I ran into a man called Jack Palance at Mr. Rogers’ office one day, and Palance gave me his Buick Electra 225 to drive while he stayed at the Fort George Hotel. Palance was a Belize City street hustler who had made it big in Los Angeles, after some years in Chicago. Palance was the West Coast version of Roy Craig’s New York City dream, and, unbeknownst to me, there was a rivalry between the two gangsters, shades of Tupac and Notorious.

The reason Palance gave me his car to drive was because he wanted a story in Amandala. He wanted to tell Belizeans that he had bought the Craig family home, across the Yarborough Bridge, from Roy Craig’s father, Oliver “Racku,” who had run into financial problems. Palance wanted to shame Bullet in the streets, and I was to be the instrument. The problem for me was that I frequented the same membership club, Mike’s, as Oliver Racku did. We were not friends, but we were club acquaintances, and the old man begged me not to put the story in the newspaper.

This might have been 1978, but perhaps it was 1977. I had gotten too close to the underworld. I knew too much. I made a big mistake which could have cost me physical pain, or even my life, because I thought that these Belizean gangsters in America knew how to clean up their money. You can’t do their kind of business in America without top notch attorneys and accountants around you. Someday I will give you more details on that adventure.

Anyway, one day Roy Craig and 123rd crashed in New York City.  The feds had been inside his organization for a year and more before deciding to strike. But, after his fall from riches and return to Belize, Bullet still enjoyed a standing in the streets.  After all, he had made it and he had lived the life. He had run with Muhammad Ali. He could talk, when no one else around him in Belize City’s streets, could.

Now then, back to the one Finnegan. If anyone had told me or you fifty years ago that one day Michael would be a Minister in a government which violated the MCC Garden and consistently ignored Belize City youth, we would never have believed that possible. In those days, Finnegan was a football fanatic, just like the I.

Yes, human beings change. But, we’re talking electoral politics here. You ask people for their vote because you want them to support an agenda you explain to them. The UDP has enjoyed five terms of power in its life, three consecutive terms since 2008 in fact. I would say to Finnegan, in the words of Brook Benton, you got what you wanted, but you lost what you had.

This what’s going on here ain’t real. This is not Mr. Goldson’s way. And for sure it ain’t the UBAD way. There was a deal made in September of 1973, and that UDP deal sacrificed roots youth on the Southside. I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.

Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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