I felt I had to produce a column for Easter Week, one reason being that, through the years and decades, the Easter column has always been a favorite of mine. That is because writers write in order to be read, and what happens at Easter is that Belizeans take their newspapers along with them when they leave, mostly on Holy Thursday, for their vacation destinations. The Easter newspaper is read more thoroughly than other newspapers because most readers have almost four days of leisure before they begin returning home on Easter Monday. When Belizeans have nothing to do during those four days, they will read. So, you are advised to be good when you write for Easter.
It is ten weeks or so since I have written a column, whereas I have continued to produce most of the Amandala editorials. Early in September last year I had set myself a six month schedule leading up to the March 7 national municipal elections. I believed that those elections represented an opportunity for Belizeans to make a statement. In the last two months and more of my six month schedule, I was becoming more and more focused politically.
Adele Ramos recently wrote that the murder rate in Belize has tripled over the last 25 years. Wow! The elections are one thing, you know: the heartache of our people is something else. As I have aged, I have learned to appreciate the beauty and magnificence of the bond between a mother and her child. Conception, gestation, childbirth and nursing are events and cycles to which young men do not pay as much attention as they should. I can speak for myself. As a young man, I was moving fast, had little time to study the intricacies of what was happening around me, was more focused on being a man than appreciating the wonder of womanhood.
We fathers love our children far more than is generally recognized, but it is in the nature of things that a mother cherishes a child more than the father possibly can. We know that the advocates of women’s rights often argue that there is no real difference between men and women. Personally, I am not in the social media world, one of the reasons for that being that I am not in the business of participating in public debates or engaging in public arguments. I would say that for me the position of the women’s rights advocates sometimes seen contradictory. Men and women were created different physically and biologically. Women create life and give birth. Men participate in the creation of life, but, as far as I know, it is not possible for men to give birth. Women are different from men, and I’ll leave that at that. In this paragraph, I have spoken unilaterally, and I make no apologies.
It is a testament to the remarkable strength of Belize’s women/mothers that they have individually managed to survive the devastating pain of losing young, healthy sons/children over the last three decades. All of us know it’s crazy what’s been going on in Belize City, so that when it appeared last year that we had put together a formula for peace, the ruling political directorate’s decision to discard that formula and restore the paramilitary approach, which had failed repeatedly and dramatically, was an insulting slap in the face of each of us.
It was in an angry mood, then, that I began my six month personal schedule leading up to March 7. The purpose of the six month schedule was to convince those Belizeans who have been the backbone of a process which began in 1969, that there was something important to accomplish by supporting the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) on March 7. Anger does not go well with political persuasion, and as we came closer to March 7, my anger was growing.
On Friday afternoon, March 9, after the election, a domestic worker in our newspaper office suggested to me, cordially, that I must be happy. I heard her, but I preferred not to reply. So she repeated her suggestion. I remember barking at her, and I was so regretful afterwards. She could not have known the true nature of Belize’s socio-politico-economic scenario, because then she would have realized that March 7 was only a temporary respite from overwhelming stress.
For a number of years, Partridge Street has been remarking on the similarities between the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition PUP. During that time, our remarks would have tended, I believe, to encourage the initiatives of third parties personalities and street activists. March 7 represented a distinct challenge for us because it was necessary to convince third party supporters and activists that, in pursuit of a specific, emergency agenda, it was important to vote PUP.
The challenge was made greater for me because of family personalities who were involved in the PUP agenda. It was relatively easy for our opponents to argue, well, Kremandala is on a family ride – plain and simple.
Ten or twelve weeks before March 7, I disrupted a personal schedule which has had me meeting, separately, with Ya Ya Marin Coleman and Nuri Muhammad on a weekly basis. In Ya Ya’s case, I knew she was very close to the aforementioned third party personalities and activists, and I did not want to beat my head against a wall, so to speak. In Nuri’s case, I would not have tried to disrespect him in any way, because he is a longstanding Belizean leader in his own right.
Coming out publicly in support of the PUP slate representing some danger for me. On election night I was stressed out, because I suspected that if the UDP had won, their big men would have sent their muscle to intimidate me at my home. I had stopped writing my column primarily because I was angry, and secondly, because I did not want to prejudice the PUP campaign in any way. In Belize City on March 7, I could not afford to lose.
The rivalry, for lack of a better word, between me and a couple of the UDP big men is such that at moments of their political triumphs in the past, they have felt the need to intimidate me. I will always remember when the UDP diverted their victory march, from Yarborough to Memorial Park through Central American Boulevard, on the afternoon of Friday, July 2, 1993. The UDP cut left down Cemetery Road so that they could march in their raucous numbers past Kremandala on Partridge Street, whereupon they turned right up Vernon Street and returned to Central American Boulevard. Although I had publicly endorsed Joe Coye over Manuel Esquivel for Caribbean Shores in that June 1993 general election campaign, we had not campaigned for the PUP and we had accepted advertisements from both parties. Perhaps I am splitting hairs, but I have to feel UDP big men have a bone in their throat.
If you study history or look around the world, you will see that very few writers involve themselves in public life. Writers tend to have solitary personalities. This public life in which I was thrust 49 years ago was never where I wanted to go. There’s no use voicing any regrets about this or about that. The point I want to make is that my children have now made it so that my exit from public life has been smooth.
What has happened here is that where public affairs are concerned, what Cordel Hyde thinks or says is of substantially more significance than what yours truly thinks and says. I feel, nevertheless, that my body of work is in black and white, and history will have the opportunity to evaluate the process called Kremandala.
An unfortunate reality in Belize’s present governance system is that politicians in office have so much power they can actually finance people who should know better to mangle, misinterpret, and disrespect writers. I remember a very powerful PUP politician actually paid a certain person to break my columns down into their constituent parts – sentences and phrases, even singular words, in an attempt to reduce the impact of the material. That person was doing this on a radio station the politician controlled. The process of good column writing actually involves the bringing together of the constituent parts (words, phrases, and sentences) in order to communicate ideas. If someone takes the expressed ideas and breaks them down into their building blocks, the violation is obscene. Just so you know, this was happening during an administration which Kremandala had helped to get elected.
It is not as if any one party has a monopoly on political heavy handedness. This is because there is an oligarchy here which has been in place, for as long as I can remember, to which all the politicians have to go for financing. Kremandala is not a part of that oligarchy. We support, in principle, farmers, fishermen, mechanics, technicians, workers, artisans, entrepreneurs, teachers, engineers, doctors, and all Belizeans who are productive. Belize, however, is basically run by corrupt politicians, gambling casinos, greedy merchants, financial speculators, connected attorneys, and those members of the clergy who are in bed with them. That is why I barked at our domestic: this is a game bigger than the eyes can see, and it is oh so cruel and oh so deadly. Too many Belizean mothers can tell this tale. There’s something going on in Belize which is brutal.
As Belizeans, we are struggling to survive, and there are no guarantees. Worse than that, there are traitors amongst us. This here is a fight for Belize. This here is a fight for us natives to maintain our dignity and uplift ourselves as a people. The fight is larger than party politics. The fight is existential, as we would say.
Power to the people.