Around this time in late September each year, both of Belize’s major political parties, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) celebrate the anniversaries of their foundation. The PUP was established in September of 1950, while the UDP was established in September of 1973.
The origins of the UDP do go back to 1951, when the National Party (NP) was organized to oppose the young PUP. In 1958, the National Party and the Honduran Independence Party (NIP) came together to form the National Independence Party (NIP). It was that National Independence Party which combined with the People’s Development Movement (PDM), founded in 1969, and the Liberal Party, organized in 1972, to establish the UDP.
The surpassing relevance of the two major political parties derives from the fact that they are national organizations which are completely indigenous, completely Belizean. Belize’s is a population of multiple ethnicities and different religious beliefs. The major political parties represent the most important permanent organizations which absolutely emphasize Belizean nationality above all else, such as ethnicity and religion, the reason being that it is Belizean nationality which decides an individual’s eligibility to vote. And it is that vote in which the political parties are interested. A majority of such votes on general election day will enable the political party garnering same to form a government.
When a political party forms a government, that party controls the public finances of Belize, and in so doing that party can reward all the Belizeans who belong to the party and contributed to their election day victory in various ways. When all the hype and hoopla are over, politics is about money.
Under colonialism in British Honduras, it was the British who controlled the public finances of the colony. It was the fact that the British devalued the British Honduras dollar on December 31, 1949, that led to the establishment of the PUP the following year.
At some point after Belize’s independence on September 21 of 1981, it appears that foreign money, or money which originated from foreign sources, began to play a larger and larger role in Belize’s politics and political campaigning. There was a point when Belizeans at the base of the socio-economic pyramid began to view their vote as something to sell on election day. In the beginning of modern party politics in 1950, it is for sure that PUP Belizeans saw their vote as a tool of liberation, a means of achieving self-rule. Those voters who opposed the PUP saw their vote as a means of trying to preserve the socio-political status quo. The vote was originally a weapon in Belize: for too many of our people it has now become a commodity.
We have said that the major political parties are important and valuable because they are organizations which are truly national in scope, and they unite Belizeans across ethnic and religious lines.
But the major political parties also have a negative aspect. While the PUP and the UDP unite many, many thousands of Belizeans across ethnic and religious lines, the PUP and the UDP are also dedicated to division in our Jewel. Because the major political parties so often place the good of their specific party above the national good of Belize and Belizeans, the PUP and the UDP are a permanent source of division amongst Belizeans. And, not only that, because of their nature where motivation and structure are concerned, the PUP and the UDP are, almost by definition, corrupt.
And, not only are they corrupt, when they are in office the PUP and the UDP are also dangerous. They are dangerous because they are violent organizations, violent because of the fact that they are the largest organizations in Belize, and because of the fact that when they are in office they control the police and they influence the judiciary. This is real.
Almost everything that you can see wrong with the ruling UDP in 2015, you would have seen wrong with the ruling PUP in 1969. In 1969, the PUP had never been defeated, and the PUP base was arrogant in the streets of Belize City, where this newspaper began life on August 13 of 1969. In poor, post-colonial, Third World countries like Belize, newspapers are owned by rich people. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that printing equipment is expensive, and another reason being that rich people are usually friendly with the ruling politicians. So, this Amandala newspaper was an aberration, a strange occurrence.
Because newspapers deal with information and opinion, newspapers have a political effect. You will note that both the UDP and the PUP publish their own newspapers. This is because they want to have their very own political effect. But this Amandala newspaper has a much greater potential for political effect than the newspapers of the UDP and the PUP do. That is because far more Belizeans buy this newspaper and read it than buy and read the PUDP newspapers.
Amandala has credibility amongst Belizeans. We cherish that credibility, and we seek to maintain it. The strength we require to resist the pressures of the major political parties is derived from you, the Belizean people. That is why we always remind you that, no matter how things may appear, it is you, the Belizean people, who make ist possible for us to add what we add to Belize’s democracy. This newspaper, needless to say, is not as important as the UDP and the PUP are, but we provide an element which they do not, and which they cannot: we are 100 percent Belizean. For us, the nation is bigger than the party. Belize all the way.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Honor Danny. Fight for Belize.