“If you or I wish to change something fundamental in Belize’s status quo, then we would have to seek political power. In order to achieve that political power, we would have to become as corrupt as the UDP and the PUP are. That is the dilemma of so-called activists in Belize.”
– pg. 13, FROM THE PUBLISHER, Amandala No. 2700, Sunday, April 28, 2013
You will seldom hear any of the ideas proposed or discussed in this column and our newspaper’s editorials come up for analysis and discussion on any of Belize’s mainstream media. I am referring to the electronic media – radio and television. From time to time, The Reporter, our newspaper competitors in the field of print media, will publish material challenging our theses. This amounts to fair comment, which is acceptable and, in fact, welcome.
Our various political opponents over our 44 years in public life, and sometimes these opponents have been UDP and sometimes they have been PUP, have mostly resorted to ad hominem attacks, which is to say, they attack me personally, which allows them to avoid a discussion of the ideas which Amandala presents.
All the radio stations, except for KREM, are 20 years or younger. In television, and I stand to be corrected, Channel 7 is about 30 years old, but for many years they did not feature domestic news and editorials. Channel 5 is a little more than 20 years old, I think.
I am trying to paint a quick picture of the editorial landscape in Belize. There are powerful individuals and groups out there who disagree vehemently with our ideas on Partridge Street, but over the years they have adopted a strategy of ignoring us, and hoping, I guess, that we will wither away.
In my publisher’s column last weekend, I focused on the nature of the two major political parties in Belize, and why it is they are corrupt in function and reality. I claimed that if one wants change in Belize, one has to seek political power, but for one to achieve political power, one has to become as corrupt as the UDP and the PUP are. I described this as “the dilemma of so-called activists in Belize.”
Three young activists were on a KREM Radio/KREM TV show last Sunday morning, and all three openly disagreed with the postulate I just quoted. To be truthful, I’m not sure specifically what they disagreed with, or how much of the column they found unacceptable. But, I think, in retrospect, I would have been disappointed if they had not disagreed with the postulate. I did not explain myself fully in that essay, and I realize now it was because I was writing for MY generations, and not for those born after the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War.
When young people like myself in the mid/late 1960s became revolutionary in thinking, demanding socio-economic change in our societies, all the revolutionary thinkers and experts were saying one thing: in a situation where democratic avenues exist for change, there can be no revolution. Fidel Castro, a lawyer, saw no opportunity for democratic change in Batista’s Cuba, so he led a revolution. Nelson Mandela, a lawyer, saw no peaceful and democratic way to change apartheid rule in South Africa, so he attempted a revolution. Maurice Bishop, a lawyer, saw no democratic way to change the Gairy dictatorship in Grenada, so he led a revolution.
In Belize in 1969, however, our parliamentary democracy theoretically offered a means of effecting change, so no classic revolution was possible. Assad Shoman and Said Musa soon joined the ruling PUP in search of change. My story is somewhat more complex, but, like my two university-educated activist colleagues, I became swallowed up by the system, so to speak.
Dominica is a small island in the Eastern Caribbean. One needs to differentiate Dominica from the Dominican Republic, which is the nation which shares, with Haiti, the large Caribbean island which used to be called Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic was a Spanish possession, but Dominica was British. Dominica became independent in 1978, and there are free and fair elections in Dominica. Wikipedia describes Dominica today as a “unitary parliamentary republic.”
There was a great revolutionary who came out of Dominica by the name of Roosevelt Bernard “Rosie” Douglas. Rosie was the son of a wealthy Dominica businessman/cocoanut farmer. He was attending Sir George Williams University in Montreal, Canada, when he led an anti-racism sit-in at the university’s computer center. This was 1969. The Canadian police stormed the computer center, and the computers were smashed. Rosie was charged for arson, and served 18 months in a Canadian jail.
I met Rosie Douglas about three or four times in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He would visit me when he was passing through Belize on his way to Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, which was considered communist. I can’t remember who introduced me to Rosie, but my understanding of the man Rosie was that he was dedicated to scientific socialism as a vehicle for development in Dominica. He believed that by talking and communicating with the people of Dominica, thus doing fundamental political work, he could achieve an electoral majority to give him a mandate for serious change. Rosie was strong, brave, and indefatigable. I don’t have a lot of heroes: he is high on my list. This was a man.
Rosie worked the political system in Dominica for more than twenty years before he finally conquered and became Prime Minister of Dominica in 2000. Tragically, just eight months after becoming Prime Minister, Rosie Douglas was found dead, at the age of 58.
In a democracy, you have to achieve a working majority in order to acquire a mandate to effect change. Rosie Douglas did that. His revolutionary stand in Montreal in 1969 had provided hard proof that Rosie Douglas was not afraid to walk any kind of walk. If the need had been there, Rosie would have followed the examples of Castro and Mandela. In Dominica, there was a different situation, and he did what he had to do.
I do not believe that Rosie Douglas became corrupt in order to achieve political power. I believe, therefore, that it is possible to achieve political power in Belize without becoming corrupt. So, I would have to withdraw my comment that “one would have to become as corrupt as the UDP and the PUP are.”
To achieve political power without becoming corrupt, one would have to be pure and fearless in his/her thinking and behavior. One would have to be as great as Rosie Douglas to get the job done. Is there such a man or woman in Belize?