Thurs. Sept. 29, 2016
The Editor, AMANDALA
Amidst the uproar and political crisis of 2005, I addressed a letter to you, but I never got around to sending it. I came upon it in my old notes a few months ago, and thought it worth keeping. Today, I think those thoughts could be relevant to what is happening in our country. It’s like we have come full circle, and gotten nowhere.
I fully support our teachers, and I feel for our country. I was a mathematics teacher in the mid-1970s at Belmopan Comprehensive School and later at Wesley College in Belize City.
With your indulgence, here is the full script of my letter, started on Monday, April 24, and completed on Wednesday, April 27, 2005.
Mon. & Wed., Apr. 25 & 27, 2005
The Editor, Amandala:
THE PEACEFUL REVOLUTION
A Virus in the System
I think there is a virus in our system of government, and it has manifested itself in the crisis our country faces today.
I believe this virus was planted in our Constitution by our former colonial (slave) masters so that they and their agents could continue exploiting our country and our people.
This virus is difficult to remove because the people with the skill don’t seem to have the will to do so.
The virus is well camouflaged in a nice sounding phrase, “Strong Government;” and it is deceptive because it is flanked by reassuring terms like “checks and balances.”
I am not an expert in these matters, but I know that something is wrong, and, apparently, so do the vast majority of our people. Our governments are too strong. If they were not so strong, they would listen more keenly to the people throughout their terms in office, rather than only around election time.
Enough is enough
Belize will never be the same again. All praise is due to the Most High. May His blessings continue to nourish a most patient and loving people, who have seen the light of a new dawn.
The “King’s new clothes” are now plain for all of us to see. There has been a flaw, a mighty flaw in this so-called parliamentary democracy, this system of government handed to us by our former colonial/slave masters. “Babylon System” is indeed “a vampire;” and the good Belizean people have finally decided that we must change this system. We’ve been burned as a people enough times now to realize that changing parties is only a quick-fix, not a lasting solution.
It is no coincidence that many of our sister Caribbean countries, who also inherited their parliamentary system from their former colonial masters, have experienced similar problems. Amidst all the pomp and glamour of our constitutional democracy, what we really have is still a slavery system.
Sure, there are many good things about our system of government, which are enshrined in our Constitution. But there is one fatal flaw that, not just by coincidence, has worked to the advantage of our former colonial masters who helped to draft our Constitution, and to the detriment of the masses of our people. “Strong Government” may be good to “get things done;” but “too strong” can be dangerous, as is now evident to the Belizean people.
Strong, corruptible Government
But “Strong Government” is exactly what the former colonial masters wanted for us. They fully intended to continue sucking out our resources and bleeding our poor people dry with their modern-day economic strategies based on deception, greed and corruption of elected leaders/officials in our small countries. They needed “strong governments” which are easily corruptible, so that deals could be cut and trade arrangements made in favor of the “mother country,” while a few special people received their “pieces of silver.”
The big flaw in our system, then, is that our governments are too strong. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Honorable Baba Odinga Lumumba has repeatedly emphasized this point. Under this present Constitution, the people we elect as leaders every five years become, in effect, our owners/masters. They collect a salary at taxpayers’ expense, but in every other aspect they are our bosses. And, unless we want to become criminals and violent people, we must wait for five years to change them. Strong government, Hell! Who owns this place, the people of Belize, or a few elected politicians?
Who is the boss?
How can you say that you own a business, if there is nothing you can legally do to fire your business manager? If your business is being run into the ground, and you have a manager with a 5-year contract, there is something you can do legally to rid yourself of this situation. You can fire your manager and pay him for the remainder of his contract. You don’t have to become violent or abusive to your manager. You don’t have to become a criminal. You can simply terminate his contract and part as friends.
But if your manager tells you, “You cannot fire me. You cannot terminate my contract and pay me off. I will continue to run your business for the remaining years of my contract; and only then, you will have the chance to fire me.”….
That’s where we are today, people. And that’s a recipe for trouble.
The system, the system…
In times of peace, when the “natives” are blind to the exploitation game being played on them, the glorious parliamentary democracy is supposed to be heaven on earth, or the closest thing to it, if you swallow the propaganda of some lawyers/politicians who should know better. But it suits them fine, blue and red, for there is nothing so intoxicating as power. Already, the red leader is salivating with anticipation, and has denounced any suggestion that this parliamentary democracy system, that has enslaved us, needs to be changed.
The Leader of the Opposition knows fully well that there is nothing, nothing that a totally disgusted citizenry can do legally under the present system that can force a government to call new elections before their term is up. Every able-bodied citizen can march and demonstrate peacefully against the government, and our Prime Minister can still, according to our Constitution, stand up defiantly and declare that he has a mandate to rule for five years, and that he will do just that.
If every citizen in Belize, except his cohorts in office, petition, strike and demonstrate, according to our Constitution, it means nothing if the elected leader decides that he will not step down. He might even say, “You look like a loud, unruly minority to me. The silent majority still supports me; and the proof is at the polls. You’ll have your chance to prove otherwise in ’08.”
Criminalizing the people – leadership or ownership
Think about it, people. Do we have a Constitution of leadership or ownership?
A frustrated and law-abiding citizenry in total despair can thus become criminalized by this flawed system, because they can reach a point where they see no reasonable alternative.
In times like these, there needs to be a recourse, other than “civil disobedience” and the risk of social chaos, for the people’s will to be determined and manifested, where their government is concerned. It is therefore urgent that an appropriate amendment be drafted and enacted in our Constitution. As peacefully as we go to the polls every five years, so must there be a peaceful mechanism for a resolute and determined people to legally recall a government that has gone astray at any time during its term of office.
The next step
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but to start public discussion and debate I would propose a format where the Governor General’s office would receive the official requests, copied to the Chief Justice and the D.P.P., for a special referendum from individual groups and organizations. The popularity of elected officials and governments is known to fluctuate, and a request for a special plebiscite is not something to be taken lightly. But, perhaps a three-fourths majority vote of the approved list (approved by all political parties) of organizations should be sufficient to move the hand of the Governor General.
Power to the people
There should seldom be any need to recall a government before its term is up; and there probably would never be the need, if they knew that a legal mechanism was in place where the people could remove them peacefully. The fact of the possibility of legal recall is the check needed to keep our governments conscious that they are the servants, not the masters, of the people; that they are employees/trustees, not owners of the nation’s assets.
Let’s get it on!
Who will draft the amendment to the Constitution? I think we should ask the Governor General to seek independent legal assistance, consult with the Chief Justice and the D.P.P., solicit public comments and criticisms through the media and public forums, then put this very important piece of draft legislation to a vote of approval by the same approved list of organizations. Once the draft is approved, it could then be forwarded to the Prime Minister for tabling at an emergency sitting of the House of Representatives (within a specified time period).
Anticipating resistance (just added this heading)
(Two possible final paragraphs. I hadn’t decided on which one; perhaps that is why it was never submitted for printing.)
#1: Now, if we can’t get the blue and the red to pass this legislation into law in the House, then it is indeed time to burn the damn house down, with all of them in it; for that would mean that this system already corrupts those who are infected by it, that they will indeed make peaceful change impossible. We are not there yet.
Or #2: If this is not done, or if the House refuses to pass the law, then any citizen of Belize should be able, with the assistance of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to initiate a charge against the P.M. or dissenting House members (who refuse to vote for the amendment) of “Contempt of the people,” and “Treason,” with penalty of death by hanging or life imprisonment. That should get their attention.