Features — 04 July 2018
PUP leader says we need to walk more

All Belizeans who aren’t averse to a little sweat were in step with the Leader of the Opposition last week, when he wrote in his party’s newspaper: “I believe we need to walk more and if we’re going to walk then we need proper sidewalks.”

I can’t go to Belmopan without noticing all the beautiful sidewalks in that city. Belmopan is the land of my second childhood. I was there when it opened for business in 1970, and I’m a proud “Compre boy” forever. Bully for Belmopan and those beautiful sidewalks. It is good for the government to invest the love in Belmopan, make her look good and be safe. When foreign dignitaries come to Belize, there’s where they hang out. We don’t want them going home with stories that they had no safe place to walk or jog; no safe place to apply a little stress to their bodies, to keep healthy when they are in our country.

Out here in the villages alongside the George Price Highway (and villages alongside other highways), we could do with a little bit of the love too. No envy from me for their paved streets. In the village all the roads are dirt, and we’re satisfied with that.

Somebody said we would get the love, if we paid for it. I have heard a Plus TV host say that folk in Belmopan pay much more taxes than people who live in villages. I’d really like to see the numbers. We pay the same taxes on most everything, from electricity to water to fuel to rum. I’m not so sure their higher property taxes count for so much more.

There are some road experts (engineers) in this country who do not recognize that villages along the highways should get special consideration on traffic matters. You will notice when driving on the George Price Highway that there are few signs, if any, calling on drivers to not exceed 25mph. There are few signs, if any, designating village limits.

I’m not lost on the business of highways. They are designed for transportation of goods and people, at a fast pace. They are not designed for “promenades” for cyclists and pedestrians. But our reality is that many of our highways are”streets”, because our governments allowed them to develop that way.

Too many accidents forced our governments to put in speed bumps in villages. Villagers are extremely grateful because it is very uncomfortable living when you know your children and other loved ones are walking or cycling on the “main” street in the village, in high speed traffic. The speed bumps are no perfect solution, but they “knock nothing to hell.”

The highway in our area is being upgraded right now. The talk is that they are going to widen it. I am waiting to hear about other improvements, specifically what is being planned in respect to road safety for villagers. Readers of my column have read enough from me on the need for paths for pedestrians on the side of the highway.

The highways, wherever they pass through villages, should never be race tracks. As I am writing, a young man just flew past my house on his big motorbike, yep, at high speed. I am disappointed that the traffic people or the police haven’t hauled him in and explained to him that it is very disrespectful to speed through a village.

We can’t run away from facts. The fact is that villages were ALLOWED to develop alongside the highway. Clearly there is need for compromise. The 55 mph just can’t apply here. There have to be zones where vehicles creep along at 25mph. But we can live with 40mph, if we had proper pathways alongside the highway, and there were signs to direct people on proper conduct.

Take note, PM-in-waiting, that presently, between Roaring Creek and Santa Elena, there is less than a mile of walkway. Make sure that you put it in your manifesto that all villages in this country will have side paths, maybe even as good as the ones in Belmopan. The Mayas were able to use limestone to make a kind of cement. We don’t manufacture Portland cement or have an asphalt lake, but we could hire our chemists to improve our limestone for pathway construction.

We also have to eat. A lot of our people ride bicycles and motorbikes to go to work, so they can have money to buy food. You must have noticed, PM-in-waiting, that we are getting knocked down on the highways, falling like flies. And the people in charge act like nothing is happening. So they turn a blind eye to the genocide in Belize City, so they turn a blind eye to poor people being knocked off their motorcycles and bikes on the highways.

Our problems are either too big for this crowd in power right now, or they don’t give a daam. I hope you have something in your manifesto to address this craziness towards bikers and motorcyclists. At this rate we’re being taken out, there’ll be no one to use the sidewalks alongside highways, when they are finally put in.

Only leaders who believe in democracy

Some years ago my dad told me that his vote in Albert always went to Philip Goldson. My dad is from a PUP family, and he was a supporter of the peaceful, constructive, Belizean revolution. But he voted in general elections for Philip Goldson. My dad told me he voted for PSWG not because of something he did that disappointed the great leader.

My dad told me that he signed a petition to have the king’s picture restored to its usual, prominent place in City Hall in Belize City. We all know the story. The leaders of the PUP had won the elections, and they removed the king’s picture from its honored place. My dad said he signed the petition because of his loyalty to a man named H. W. Beaumont.

H. W. Beaumont, a former Postmaster General of Belize, was a mentor to many young men in Belize’s public service, and my dad was one of his protégés. H. W. Beaumont circulated the petition to have King George return to glory. My dad said he couldn’t bite the hand that trained him. Philip Goldson made it his business to see who all signed the petition. He saw my dad’s name, and he “told him about it.”

I think that those people who put on record that PSWG was an Anglophile really must correct their error. From time to time we all get duped by propaganda. To err is human. To err, and have a chance to correct it, and don’t, is an earth crime.

My dad said he voted for Goldson because he hated the idea of one party-government. He said he loved his party, but he loved democracy more. I am absolutely on page with my dad on democracy.

I understand why the governing party should fight to win every election. But the party in power absolutely must not play dirty. A government must be truly grateful for the opportunity the people gave them. A government that is grateful will not do the ulterior to hold on to power.

The governing party has an advantage. They have all the people’s resources in their control. Woe to the country whose government uses the people’s resources to further the interests of their political party. Woe to the country whose government is into victimization, corruption, and abuse of public property for party gain. These vices are great enemies of democracy.

It is no easy thing to remove a government from office in a country with a shaky democracy. A lot of people feel that a government in power will “naturally” fade. They don’t know. It’s no soft place to be hated by a government hell-bent on holding on to power. They don’t know of the sacrifices some people make to save a nation from the dross of a party that’s been in power too long, or has gone astray.

I cannot understand the ingratitude of people who are elected by the people, and then grow to feel that it is in perpetuity. The only thing God wanted in stone on this earth, He made in stone. Perpetuity in government is the worst enemy of democracy. There are people who insist that our democracy is preserved.

The next prospective area rep that comes by my house will have to love democracy. If he/she feels that our democracy is for their political party to play with, please not to come to my door.

P.S. My dad is 95. I feel I have license to tell some of his story.

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Deshawn Swasey

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