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Remembering Recommendation #29 of 2000

Dear Editor,

I draw your attention to Recommendation # 29 of the Political Reform Commission Report 2000.

For the record, I hereby associate myself unequivocally and unconditionally with the bold editorials of the Amandala of October 3rd and 7th 2014, captioned “Respect Our Army; Equip our Army” and “Belize’s Survival Option” respectively, both pointing to the need for Belize to become militarized, and for us to truly take charge of our own destiny and survival.

14 years ago, and as a member of the Political Reform Commission in 1999-2000, I recommended that there be a constitutional amendment to provide for mandatory military service for every Belizean. The records will show this was rejected as Recommendation # 29 of the Report.

My convictions compelled me to write a dissenting view which appears below, and which concluded with the sentence: I therefore strongly and in no uncertain terms disagree with Recommendation #29 of this Report. It is my belief that each citizen of this country should be constitutionally required to give a period of mandatory service to the Belize Defence Force.

At that time, it was difficult for me to grapple with the fact that the members of the commission could not envisage the peculiar and vulnerable position Belize was in geopolitically, that our destiny was being calibrated for us by external forces, and that our future was in peril. They saw no value whatsoever in my recommendation.

I also stand by my article titled “Quo Vadis Belize – Where are we going Belize”, and my conviction that if we continue on the trajectory that we are on, Belize will be extinct by 2050. You were so kind to publish it in the Amandala of September 22nd, 2014, and I thank you.

In the article, I pointed out that there were three parallel, but inter-related phenomena, which have been occurring, and continue to occur in Belize, and which evidence suggests are converging, and ultimately will cause the nation-state of Belize to become extinct. These were firstly, poverty, demographic and population patterns and trends; secondly, the unfettered encroachment of Guatemalans into our territory legally and illegally; and thirdly, our insatiable borrowing appetite, globalization and foreign influences.

I am hopeful that your editorials will not only open the window, but kick the door wide open to national dialogue and call to action. As I said also in the article, inaction is not an option. Time has run out, and that luxury no longer exists.

So I conclude again…Quo Vadis Belize? … Where are we going?

Highest regards,

Carolyn Trench-Sandiford

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It is enshrined in the Constitution of Belize that each Belizean is entitled to basic and fundamental rights. The political reform commission has seen it fit to add to these by recommending other basic rights such as the right to education and basic health care. However, noticeable is that while concern has been focused on the rights of the individual, no attention has been given to the rights of the country, and what each Belizean can do for their country.
Understandably, it may be difficult for a person to grasp the concept that they owe a duty to their country, if they do not appreciate or are cognizant of what all their country has to offer to them, and how they can participate in its development. Admittedly, many Belizeans are not overly nationalistic, and oftentimes make haste to destructively criticize their country, rather than constructively analyzing its problems to see how they can be a part of the process of positive development.
This is often because of a selfish approach to life and a lack of love and commitment to the country of their birth. As a result, it may be presumptuous to expect a citizen to be prepared to lay down their lives for their country if they do not love their country. Notwithstanding, while it is recognized that one cannot legislate nationalism and love of country, the mechanism to encourage it can be put in place, and this can lead to an unselfish and nationalistic relationship between the Belizeans and their country.
Nationalism and love of country is a process that can be initiated from childbirth to the formative and then adult years. Programs can be developed where each citizen of Belize during their lifetime, give back something to their country and become willing to participate in the defense of their country, and not only in times of war, but also in times of disaster and civil unrest.
To prepare for this the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Education should combine efforts by encouraging nationalism and love of country through the education process, thus facilitating the transition from nationalism towards country to the willingness to defend that which they love into a term of service in the Belize Defence Force.
This does not necessarily mean that a person who serves their term will be using weaponry. There are various areas of the military that do not involve weapons such as cooks, drivers, mechanics, doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, teachers, secretaries, clerks etc. This will not only mean that the Belizean citizen will be giving back something to their country, but it can also reinstate the concept of discipline, respect and tolerance of each other. In addition, it can assist with the training of young people in a skill and reduce the unemployment rate.
I therefore strongly and in no uncertain terms disagree with Recommendation #29 of this Report. It is my belief that each citizen of this country should be constitutionally required to give a period of mandatory service to the Belize Defence Force.

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