From time to time over the years, I’ve told you that this newspaper is an aberration, an anomaly. The fact that Amandala is clearly the leading newspaper in the nation-state of Belize, has been so for more than three decades, is a reality that goes against the grain, so to speak. This extraordinary state of affairs is highlighted by the fact that in Guatemala their leading newspaper, Prensa Libre, is so manifestly the voice of the ruling oligarchy and military. When Prensa Libre speaks, the voice of the rulers of Guatemala is speaking: when Amandala speaks, it is the voice of the masses of the Belizean people which is speaking.
This unusual state of affairs in Belize allows the ruling party here to disown opinions expressed in Amandala, even if those opinions are editorial opinions. The power structure in Guatemala cannot disown editorial opinions expressed in Prensa Libre because those opinions are always the opinions of their power structure.
Before we consider how this state of affairs came to exist in Belize, let me say that it can be an uncomfortable state of affairs, both for the power structure and for our humble selves on Partridge Street. The people who are in positions of power pretend that Amandala does not exist and that they do not read it. For our part, fully conscious that we have no constitutional place or authority, we have to “hold our corner.” Foreigners in the diplomatic corps must not be sure that we actually exist as living, breathing entities. But, we do.
Again, before we proceed, let me say that this newspaper is what we have described as “indigenous” and “authentic.” Of late, the matter of the Belizean diaspora in the United States has arisen. To be sure, it may be said that it is this newspaper which has addressed the Belizean diaspora recently, because it is our considered opinion that Belizeans in the United States can be a powerful group in the fight for Belizean sovereignty and national dignity. Our opinion is based on the historical fact that Belizeans living in the United Kingdom constituted an effective lobby for Belize in the 1960s.
The Belizean diaspora has played almost no role in the rise of Amandala, but the spread of the Internet has made it so that they can read the most important sections of the newspaper the same day that any issue is published. Previously, the Belizean diaspora was almost completely dominated by the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP).
Where the daily lives of Belizeans are concerned, international white supremacy controls us by means of the Christian churches. The Christian churches control our minds because they control Belize’s schools. With their control of Belizean minds, the Christian churches exercise great leverage over the two major political parties. If they denounce a politician to their congregations, such a politician faces a severely uphill battle if he or she wishes to be elected to office.
This newspaper began in August of 1969 as the organ of an organization called the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), which had been founded in February of that year. Of the ten founding officers of UBAD, two were members of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam and one was a follower of Malcolm X. These three men arguably comprised a faction which had the most influence on UBAD during the five years of its existence. And UBAD was the foundation upon which Amandala was built. This is history.
Until 1977, the printing technology of this newspaper was so inferior to that of the power structure industry leader that there was no real competition. In that year of 1977, however, the then ruling PUP was being hard pressed by the surging Opposition UDP. The PUP leaders believed that Amandala had a substantial popularity which could be a factor in elections, so they decided to invest in improved technology for the newspaper. This was a smart political decision on the PUP’s part: they won a surprise general election victory over the UDP by a comfortable margin in 1979.
The partnership between the PUP and this newspaper began to fall apart in late 1980. The problem was that the ruling politicians felt a fundamental discomfort with the concept of a roots, independent newspaper. They had first exposed this discomfort in early 1978. In early 1981, Amandala and the PUP confronted each other over the Heads of Agreement. When Amandala supported the UDP for the 1984 general elections, the UDP won.
The indications have been, since that time, that the two major parties are so evenly matched that this newspaper can make a difference when it chooses sides. The statistics suggest that this newspaper has a very strong influence on at least 5 or 6 per cent of the electorate. That 5 or 6 per cent of the Belizean electorate who are very strongly influenced by this newspaper are Belizeans who reject international white supremacy. Such a rejection was the base position of the UBAD organization.
Power to the people.