During the 2008 general election campaign, Kremandala supported the United Democratic Party (UDP) Pickstock constituency candidate, Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, with all the media resources at our disposal. The then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) had never lost Pickstock before. Kremandala supported Mr. Elrington because it was clear that the incumbent PUP Pickstock candidate – Godfrey Smith, was a special favorite of Lord Michael Ashcroft’s. The two had travelled together in Africa in the Lord’s private jet.
In March of 2007, Lord Ashcroft had instructed his lawyers in Belize, the Barrow & Williams law firm, to write the Kremandala chairman threatening him with lawsuits because of a 10 percent share of KREM Radio which had not been transferred to him in 1994, and because, according to attorney Rodwell Williams, who was and is the law partner of now Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, Kremandala owed the Belize Bank in the neighborhood of $262,000, which did not include special penalties. For Kremandala, needless to say, the attack was traumatic.
Mr. Williams had not done any research on the unjustified $262,000 claim. It had to do with a $75,000 loan KREM Radio had negotiated from the Belize Bank through the supposedly good graces of then PUP Deputy Leader, Hon. Said Musa. This was not the Kremandala chairman’s decision, but he went along with it because he felt that he could service the loan, in a worst case scenario, through the Amandala newspaper, which he actually ended up doing. Four different Ashcroft companies ran advertisements in Amandala for 12 years before that 1994 loan to KREM Radio was paid.
You have to understand KREM Radio history. This radio station was ticketed for destruction from the beginning. It was only a PUP campaign gimmick in 1989. But, somehow KREM survived, because of popular support, because of subsidies from Amandala, and because of the Kremandala Raiders. The power structure in Belize, then represented by the PUP government of 1989 to 1993, was not happy about KREM Radio’s survival, because what it meant, in their judgment, was that the Kremandala chairman, who owned Belize’s leading newspaper but had anti-neoliberal views, had become too powerful.
Lord Ashcroft agreed to the $75,000 loan to KREM Radio, which was really struggling in 1994 after the well-financed LOVE FM entered the broadcast picture in February of 1993, just four months before the PUP unexpectedly fell to the hasty UDP/NABR coalition. But the Lord laid down a loan condition – the Kremandala chairman had to sell him 10 percent of KREM out of his 40 percent shareholding. Lord Ashcroft even named the price – $25,000. This was a condition of the loan which was revealed at the last minute.
The Kremandala general manager, father of the Kremandala chairman, had assumed the PUP attorney Said Musa to be a friend in the negotiations, but something happened on May 15 of 1994, just weeks before the negotiations were concluded. That something was a rebellion inside the PUP which we have referred to as the “May 15 Movement.” In that rebellion, the young Cordel Hyde, second son of the Kremandala chairman and newly elected Lake Independence PUP chairman, was on the side opposed to Said Musa, Ralph Fonseca, and Glenn Godfrey. So then, in the completion of the transaction between Lord Ashcroft and KREM Radio in late May of 1994, Mr. Musa was not KREM’s friend. This is what the record shows.
In the years before Lord Ashcroft attacked Kremandala in 2007, KREM Radio and Television morning show host, Evan “Mose” Hyde, eldest son of the Kremandala chairman, had become a thorn in the side of the Ashcroft-owned BTL, then the very wealthy telecommunications monopoly in Belize. Mose was defending the husband-and-wife trade union team, Paul and Christine Perriott, from the hostile power of BTL management, supported by the Musa PUP government. Something had to be done about Mose, and that something was the Ashcroft lawsuit attacking Kremandala in March of 2007.
All in all, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals hearings which featured Lord Ashcroft as plaintiff and Kremandala as defendant, have proved to be public relations disasters for the British billionaire. And those lawsuits probably cost Godfrey Smith his political career. It is questionable whether Sedi would have defeated Godfrey in 2008 without Kremandala’s support.
In any case, within weeks after defeating Godfrey and becoming a high ranking member of the new Dean Barrow UDP Cabinet, Sedi Elrington accepted a $200,000 gift from Lord Ashcroft! Himself, Sedi Elrington did not need $200,000 from Ashcroft: Sedi is a millionaire many, many times over, his law firm having profited immensely from real estate and passport deals, beginning in the first UDP government of 1984 to 1989. But, Sedi wanted to establish the Samuel Haynes School of Excellence in his Pickstock constituency, and he didn’t want to pay for it out of his own pocket. Some people say the end justifies the means, but what did Sedi Elrington expect Kremandala to think of him when he stuck out his hand for Lord Ashcroft’s money?
Decades ago, the story began circulating, a Gracie Rock resident was hunting one night in old Gracie Rock stomping grounds when some Chinese held him up at gunpoint and declared him a trespasser hunting on private property. The story seemed perhaps apocryphal at the time. But last week in a press conference, Sedi Elrington declared himself a special friend of a special Taiwanese citizen who had bought thousands of Belizean acres between Mile 21 and Mile 27 on the Western Highway.
There is another story we must tell you. Between 1993 and 1998, Sedi Elrington spent time in Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel’s Cabinet. Esquivel is said to have spoken as follows one time about Mr. Elrington: “Sedi doesn’t know whether he wants to be Bill Gates or Hugo Chavez.” Today, it seems the Venezuelans think Sedi is a Belizean version of Chavez. But, the Taiwanese are sure Sedi is closer to Bill Gates. It’s nice work if you can get it – all things to all people. The fly in Sedi’s ointment is that there are some of us who might view all this as a socio-political philosophy with elements of the bipolar.
Power to the people.