A Belizean died in Great Britain recently who had traveled from here to London and flown combat missions in the Royal Air Force during World War II. His name was Clifton Pinks. He married in England and spent his life there. But he was part of the Belize lobby in England, led by Nadia Cattouse, which made sure that the British public and the British government remembered that Belizeans had served the British loyally during the war and argued that Belize should not be abandoned to Guatemalan aggression. This lobby was active during the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when the Belize issue was an Anglo-Guatemalan dispute.
The Belizean leaders at the front line of our final push to independence in 1981 always claimed that they did not trust the British where the matter of land cession to Guatemala was concerned. They have stated that they went for a risky independence without a defence guarantee because they were being pressured by the British and the Americans to cede Belizean land to Guatemala in return for a settlement of the claim.
In the aftermath of independence, Belizean politicians as a class have been exposed as bourgeois opportunists who change personal government vehicles frequently and in a cavalier manner while the military vehicles of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) are allowed to deteriorate. In the years immediately before and after independence, there was a government focus on the BDF, because the defence strategy of Belize was built on the BDF’s capacity to resist any Guatemalan offensive for a minimum of 24 hours in order to allow our allies to fly in support.
The call for a Belize army was first made by the visionary NIP parliamentarian, Philip Goldson, during the 1960s, but the PUP government did not choose to go along with that proposal until 1978. Armies are very expensive organizations, and Belize has always had tight budgets. In addition, there were those who argued that a Belize army could hardly be expected to stand up to the Guatemalan military. In any case, Belize finally got an army in 1978, and the Belizean politicians quickly became afraid of their own army.
The logical choice as first Belizean Commandant of the BDF should have been Charles Good, but the elected politicians were intimidated by his rigid principles and the loyalty he inspired among the BDF rank-and-file. The politicians decided to take a lesser man out of the originally Volunteer section of the BDF and send him to Sandhurst to train for the post of first Belizean BDF Commandant. The move alienated Good, and began the undermining of a military career which had shown spectacular promise.
When the BDF soldiers were first introduced as support for the police in Belize City, that was a dark day for the BDF. Your army is fundamentally different from your police force. Soldiers don’t belong in streets. The politicians should have augmented the police, with special units if necessary, but the honor of our army’s profession should have been respected, protected, and maintained.
The politicians were trying to save money. And yes, there was a civil war inside the old capital. But now there is a war going on inside our border with Guatemala, and the BDF transport section has been neglected. As a direct result of this, a Belizean tourism police officer at the Caracol Maya site was left without any support last Thursday and was murdered by Guatemalan bandits.
Danny Conorquie’s murder has served to highlight the issue of the brazen incursions into Belizean territory being carried out by Guatemalan bandits and the refusal of the Belize government to address the issue as a sovereign state. The Belize government has relied on diplomatic appeals to the Organization of American States (OAS), but now we have a war casualty on our hands. Serious business.
On the ground, the mood of the Belizean people with respect to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been a negative one. If this is true, then we Belizeans now have to accept that all able-bodied Belizeans have to be trained. The BDF will oversee that training, but the BDF cannot fight this war alone. The BDF are our fighting vanguard, but we Belizean people must now be prepared to commit ourselves to the defence of our precious, beautiful Jewel.
We Belizeans never wanted to be in conflict with the Guatemalan people. They are our neighbors. This claim is an anachronistic, oligarchical business which goes back to when the Pope ruled the world, and Spain and England began to fight for control of the so-called New World and the high seas. England bullied Guatemala and left Guatemala with grievances for which we, the Belizean people, are not responsible. After the British exploited Belize’s natural resources for centuries, and after Belizeans served loyally in their world wars, the British now expect us Belizeans to pay the debt they owe Guatemala. This is how white supremacists still think. In Belize, these days are over. The Children of the Stars can never be dogs.
Power to the people.