“The vital statistics of men and women in Belize during the period are almost non-existent. So I made up some of them. Fortunately, I am not a qualified historian and, therefore, not bound by the rigid restrictions of the professional.”
– pg. 3, BELIZE, 1798, THE ROAD TO GLORY: THE BATTLE OF ST. GEORGE’S CAYE, A Novel History of Belize, by Emory King, Tropical Books, 1991
When the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) enters a leadership national convention on Sunday in Belmopan, the exercise will constitute the supreme decision-making body of the 65-year-old party. Sunday’s leadership convention may arguably be the most democratic exercise ever in the history of the PUP. There will be at least four times more delegates choosing the PUP Leader than the amount of delegates who chose the Party Leader, on separate occasions, in 1996 and 2008.
It may well be, in fact, that Sunday’s convention will be the most democratic exercise ever in the history of major political parties in Belize, and it be even be the most democratic exercise ever in the history of the settlement of Belize.
There are romanticists, dare we say apologists for white supremacy, who have pointed to the vote in June 1797 which decided to defend the settlement by a 65 to 51 margin as some kind of primitive people power in the settlement. But that vote was taken by white slavemasters and a few free colored people of substantial property. There were thousands of slaves in the settlement who did not participate in the vote. In addition, we are not completely convinced of the authenticity of the “Flowers Bank 14” story. We believe it originated with the late Emory King, who was at all times seeking to exalt the “nobility” and “heroism” of the European Baymen, and at the time of his introduction of the Flowers Bank 14 narrative, felt the need to include a melanin base in the St. George’s Caye saga.
Be that as it may, the first constitutional attempt in British Honduras at some kind of real democracy, we submit, began with colonial adult suffrage in 1954. For the first time, all Belizean citizens over the age of 21 were allowed to vote for representatives in a Legislative Council. British Honduras remained a colony of Great Britain in 1954. Belizeans were legally designated as “British subjects.” Our 1954 “democracy” was therefore confined and conditional.
In 1964, British Honduras became a self-governing colony. In 1978, following the years of agitation by the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) and the UBAD Party between 1969 and 1974, the voting franchise was extended to 18-year-old Belizeans by the then PUP government.
It is surely possible to consider the eight general elections in which Belizeans have voted since political independence in 1981 as serious democratic exercises. At the time of independence, however, a rigid leadership structure had emerged in both major political parties – the ruling PUP and the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), and by that we mean, although there had been leadership changes in the Opposition, such as that occasioned by the death in 1961 of National Independence Party (NIP) Leader, Herbert Fuller, when he was replaced by Philip Goldson, or Goldson’s replacement by Dean Lindo in the House as Opposition Leader in 1974 when the UDP formally replaced the NIP as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, or Lindo’s replacement by Ted Arana as Opposition Leader following the 1979 general election, there was, to repeat, rigid leadership structure in both the PUP and the UDP. The power inside the two major parties was controlled by two separate groups, and those groups were fairly small. By contrast, Sunday’s list of PUP delegates is large.
There is no guarantee that the exercise on the convention floor Sunday will be as democratic in practice as it should be in theory. It is always possible for cold cash to subvert political democracy. But the mere prospect of the possibility of a democratic PUP leadership convention has the leaders and propagandists of the ruling UDP highly intrigued, if not downright concerned. In the back of their UDP heads, you see, is the consciousness that a democratic PUP exercise on Sunday may well unleash a burst of PUP energy, the likes of which the UDP has not had to contend with since 2003. And, the fact of the matter is that when the UDP itself goes to national convention on March 20 in Dangriga, although their crowds will be large, their list of delegates will be at least four times smaller than the PUP list of delegates for Sunday, January 31, in Belmopan. Claro que si.
The newspaper does not have a problem with any letter writer or essayist taking issue with our editorial opinions on the history of Belizean democracy. We are not qualified political scientists, but we are always pushing for discussion and debate. As it stands today, and we have been seeing this in Belize for the past thirty years, any wealthy person from anywhere in the world can buy our citizenship documents, purchase large tracts of land in The Jewel, come to Belize and set up shop, and then all he has to do is pay off the politicians and the police in Belize, and after that he can ignore the Belizean people, he can pretend we don’t even exist. So, whose country is this anyway? This is the question Belizeans at the base of our socio-economic pyramid have been asking themselves for the past three decades.
Look, the foreign policy of the United States of America is to have Belize become a smaller version of Guatemala. This newspaper does not consider the present Guatemala oligarchy to be any kind of ideal society for us to emulate. Hell no.
The ultimate slap in our face by the Americans took place on Monday when they orchestrated the parading in broad daylight down the main street of our population center of hundreds of gay tourists holding hands, hugging, and kissing. Such deviant behavior should only take place in private. We Belizeans want our boy children to grow up to be men, and our girl children to grow up to be women. We are able to speak categorically on the matter, because the reason the newspaper exists is because we have represented the views of the Belizean people on the most fundamental of issues in our nation-state.
Guatemalan gunboats in our face at the Sarstoon, gays flaunting their behavior in front of our children, gangsters muscling in on our political parties, it’s all part of the same crisis: we Belizeans are losing our country. The time to save it is now.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.