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Reflecting on the Philip Goldson legacy – 1923-2001

FeaturesReflecting on the Philip Goldson legacy - 1923-2001
Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson, after whom Belize’s only international airport and the PSWG – the Patrimony Stewardship Working Group – are named, is one of Belize’s enduring legends, and the name invoked to stir sentiments of patriotism in almost every discussion on the Belize-Guatemala dispute. Mr. Goldson was a man of no compromise.
Sharon Pitts-Robateau, PSWG consultant, shared her recollections on Mr. Goldson, remembering him as intelligent, talented, humble, visionary and compassionate—a stalwart for social justice.
Goldson, as a young man, was a good speaker and an excellent listener, said Pitts-Robateau.
He was a Protestant but later converted to Catholicism. While on a St. John’s College scholarship, he became involved in the People’s Committee and was one of the members of the first organized political parties in Belize–the lifeblood of which was the labor unions, she shared. [That party is the People’s United Party, which is now in Opposition.]
Goldson was a gifted writer, Pitts-Robateau continued. He wrote for the SJC journal along with men like H.E.C Cain and Leigh Richardson.
“He was recognized in the Caribbean for his skills as a journalist,” she added, noting that Goldson walked in the footsteps of men like Samuel Haynes, credited as the author of the Belize National Anthem, and the veterans of World War I.
Mr. Goldson was also noted for his work as a social innovator and legislator. “He empowered handicapped people,” she added.
Goldson as a member of the Opposition, National Independence Party (NIP), the forerunner of the ruling United Democratic Party, is still on record as having given the longest speech in Parliament, Pitts-Robateau recollected. We are informed that he did two sessions over two days, speaking about freedom for Belize.
“He parted ways with the PUP with Leigh and others because he felt that when it came to Belize Independence it should be enduring and lasting,” she said, as Mr. Goldson insisted that Belize should not have a makeshift independence, which would cause Belize to eventually become a part of Guatemala.
“He [Goldson] felt that the nationalist movement was being hijacked,” said Pitts-Robateau. “He insisted that the British had a moral, legal and historical obligation to Belize and felt that Belize needed a defense guarantee.”
“One of his credos is that you don’t listen to the experts but the conscience and the voice of the people. When the experts and diplomats get Belize into a fix, the people will show the way out,” she added. “One of his most famous sayings is, ‘The time to save your country is before you lose it.’”
Mr. Goldson said that when he was in a hotel lobby in Miami, he saw a Cuban shedding tears and she said something to the effect that, “I wish we had done something to save our country…” That’s what inspired Goldson’s mantra.
Pitts-Robateau also recollected a conversation the early 1970s between Mr. Goldson and Bethuel Webster, who authored what she described as “the infamous Webster proposals”—rejected by Belizeans as the way to settle the unfounded Guatemalan claim over Belize.
“He [Webster] saw Philip Goldson and spoke with him subsequent to Belizeans rejecting the proposals….” she said. “Bethuel Websbter indicated to him [Goldson] that he was made to believe internationally… his brief was that this was what the people of Belize wanted. He [Webster] said he was happy that Belizeans had rejected the Webster proposals, [because] …the people of Belize by rejecting the proposals had saved him from his own conscience.”
Pitts-Robateau said that as a young person, her family was very close to Philip Goldson.
“Mr. Goldson was somebody you could easily learn from,” she told us, adding that he infected her with his wisdom and patriotism.
He had vision 20-20 although physically he had a challenge with his sight, she asserted.
Pitts-Robateau also remembers Mr. Goldson as a humble man who pioneered in the area of social services in Belize, as well as in the establishment of the Family Court. He had also set up the Department of Patriotism in Belize.
He was a journalist and editor with The Belize Billboard.
Goldson, a diabetic, loved his Belizean food, anything from rice and beans to tamales. He also loved his ice cream as well, she added.
“He never had bitterness,” Pitts-Robateau noted.
Mr. Goldson was not recognized as a national hero until 2008, seven years after his death.
(Story based on the Tuesday, October 19, 2010, edition of The Adele Ramos Show, simulcast on KREM Radio and KREM TV.)
The National Library Service’s bio of Mr. Goldson is reproduced below:
Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson (1923-2001).  Born of humble parentage on July 25, 1923, in Belize City, Belize, Philip Goldson started life as a person of modest means and was able within his 78 years to soar above the various diverse circumstances that would govern his illustrious life. His early education was at St. Mary’s Primary School in Belize City, and he went on to study at night to successfully obtain the Cambridge University Overseas Junior Certificate in 1939, and the Senior School Certificate in 1941.
Political career: After working briefly as a civil servant for six years, Goldson became enticed by the beginnings of the Nationalist Movement in Belize of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The route into politics at that time was by way of the labor movement, and in 1949 he became the National Organizer of the General Workers Union, and later General Secretary.
Together with early activists like John Smith and George Price, he founded the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1950 and served as Assistant Secretary. Convicted of seditious intention in 1951, Goldson was sentenced to one year in prison.
Differences in opinion caused Goldson to break with the PUP in 1956, becoming Party Secretary of the newly formed National Independence Party (NIP) in 1957, and Party Leader from 1961-1974. He served as Deputy Party Leader from 1979-1982 of the United Democratic Party (UDP), formed out of the NIP and two other parties in 1973. He resigned from the UDP in 1991 in opposition to the passage of the Maritime Areas Act, and formed and led his last political party: the National Alliance for Belizean Rights.
Late in his career, at the age of 51 in 1974, he began to study law, subsequently called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London, and to the Belize bar the following year.
Although blinded by glaucoma in 1978, Goldson remained active in politics and as a member of the House of Representatives up to 1998. Always an unpretentious and humble man, as a politician and statesman, his achievements included:
* The longest continuous serving member of Belize’s House of Representatives, 1954-1957, 1961-1998.
* First Leader of the Opposition in 1969, as the Leader of the National Independence Party.
* Re-elected to the Albert Division of Belize City from 1965 to 1993.
* As Member for Social Services, coordinating the rebuilding of Corozal Town after Hurricane Janet in 1955.
* Minister of Local Government, Social Services and Community Development 1984-1989.
* Minister of Immigration, Youth Development and Human Resources 1993-1998.
* Elected to the Belize City Council in 1974, 1977 and 1983.
* The first Belizean statesman to speak before the General Assembly of the United Nations, when he addressed that body in 1967 on the Guatemalan question.
1989: The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport named after him.
2001: Conferred with the Order of Belize for his patriotism and political work.
2008: Conferred with the Order of the National Hero (posthumously).
(Bio Source: http://www.nlsbze.bz/bios.html)

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