AU REVOIR, RAIDERS
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 17, 1995
In a letter today to Belize Basketball League Commissioner, Hilly Martinez, Kremandala Raiders Limited majority shareholder, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and the franchise’s Chief Executive Officer, Evan X Hyde, informed that the three-time champions, Johnson (Kremandala) Raiders, will not be defending their title in the 1996 season.
The Raiders were the most successful team in the four-year history of the BBL, finishing as sub-champions in 1992, the League’s inaugural year, and as champions in 1993, 1994, and 1995. They compiled an overall record of 44 wins and 15 losses during their 4-year tenure in the BBL, finishing with an unmatched 29-9 regular season record, and a 15-6 playoff record.
In our editorial last Friday, we said that we did not take ourselves too seriously, because Belize’s changing demographic made it so that we could not be sure for whom we spoke editorially. We should point out at the same time, nevertheless, that this newspaper’s longevity gifts us with credibility, and some confidence. On August 13, 2017, Amandala will mark 48 years of publication. By contrast, the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) will celebrate 67 years of existence in late September, while, also in September, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) will record 44 years of formal organization.
Two weeks ago, an editorial in our newspaper explained that the ruling UDP, bursting with pride in their new Civic Centre, needed to look to their own media organs, to which they have directed millions in unaudited public funds over the last nine years, for the congratulations for which their leadership so thirsted. We said that, for Kremandala’s part, we held the present leadership of the ruling UDP, primarily Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Defence Minister John Saldivar, and Housing Minister Michael Finnegan among those responsible for the destruction of the Kremandala Raiders, an iconic semi-pro basketball organization we had built with private funds and labor, and we held them responsible the destruction of the semi-pro basketball league of which the Raiders had been champions for four consecutive seasons, from 1993 to 1996.
The response of the UDP leadership was to have their attack dogs let loose a barrage of personal attacks on the publisher of this newspaper, who had been the chairman of the Kremandala Raiders. This barrage of personal attacks came through the same UDP media organs (newspaper, radio, and television) to which the three Barrow administrations have been directing millions in unaudited public funds for the last nine years. It’s nice work if you can get it.
Most of you readers probably missed it, but on page 50 of last Friday’s issue of Amandala, we reproduced the incorporation document for the Kremandala Raiders Limited, a limited liability company given the official stamp of approval by J. N. Rivero, Registrar of Companies, on January 20, 1995. A few months later, in late June of 1995, the Raiders proceeded to win their third consecutive championship, in hard-fought, overtime fashion. But UDP Minister of Sports Reuben Campos a few weeks later, in early August, forced out Raiders’ head coach, Marshall Nunez, as head coach of a Belize basketball selection scheduled to travel to the Bahamas for the CARICOM tournament. This was the straw of insult that broke the camel’s back. The Kremandala Raiders announced the disbanding of the team.
We have all the relevant company documents in our possession, and you will be interested to know that several of our foundation players and affiliates owned shares in the company. On Partridge Street, then, we had made the team a business for the continuance of economic activity in our section of Southside Belize City. No unaudited public funds were involved in the construction of the Kremandala Raiders: we made something out of nothing.
What happened to the Raiders? A UDP government had been elected to office on June 30, 1993, under the leadership of Dr. Manuel Esquivel which made the destruction of the Raiders a priority. All you have to do is read the issues of the UDP newspaper (Pulse) for the years 1994 and 1995. There was a UDP government propaganda campaign against the Kremandala Raiders, a basketball team.
It so happened that in both the 1993 and 1994 seasons, the Raiders had defeated a team owned by a UDP 1993 general election candidate (Belize Rural South) in the finals. Then in 1995, the Raiders defeated a team owned by a UDP 2003 general election candidate (Lake Independence) in the finals. This was not supposed to be, and the UDP hatred for the Raiders just grew and grew.
Let’s look more closely at the family connections of the UDP Belize Rural South candidate in 1993, Santino Castillo. There is an Arguelles family which has been enjoying all the mammoth UDP government construction contracts for the last few years. These include the contracts for the said Civic Centre, Memorial Park, BTL Park, Battlefield Park, San Ignacio’s Falcon Field, the San Pedro Ambergris Caye football field, the Punta Gorda multi-purpose center, and a recent contract for the Commercial Centre. Santino Castillo, who is the son of the legendary Santiago Castillo, Sr., and the mother of the Arguelles brothers, Solangel Encalada Arguelles, are first cousins. Solangel Encalada Arguelles was Dr. Manuel Esquivel’s lead campaigner in the Freetown (later Caribbean Shores) constituency from as early as the mid-1970s.
To be fair, it may well have been that increased UDP attacks on the Raiders were related to the fact that Cordel Hyde, the second son of the Kremandala chairman, had entered politics in 1994 as the chairman of the PUP’s Lake Independence constituency committee.
Still, the salient point from our perspective on Partridge Street is that the Raiders were built with private funds and labor. The new Civic Centre has been built with Belizean taxpayers’ money. Politically connected UDP insiders have made many millions off this contract. Why does Prime Minister Barrow expect Partridge Street to be in the cheering section when he opens the new facility? How can he really expect that?
It is more than a decade since the Kremandala organization has been involved in any kind of sports competition. Sports is a very emotional activity in Belize, and Kremandala’s media competitors would always line up to criticize our teams, which suited the UDP just fine. Kremandala’s media competitors never, ever sponsored/financed any teams of their own, but their commentators lambasted Kremandala sports productions. So that, there was this definite downside to our involvement in big time sports in Belize.
At the same time, it is for sure that generations of Belizeans in our section of the Southside remember the quality teams we organized. In fact, as far south as ‘Griga, they fondly remember the football Grigamandala, which reached the semi-pro football finals in its only season – 1999/2000.
Let’s end with the following anecdote. On Friday afternoon, July 2, 1993, the triumphant UDP, which had won a sensational general election upset victory on Wednesday, June 30, 1993, marched from Yarborough to Memorial Park. When they reached the corner of Central American Boulevard and Cemetery Road, the UDP leaders chose to turn left and head down Cemetery Road to Partridge Street. They had decided to march in front of Kremandala, apparently in order to intimidate us. At the corner where Partridge Street meets Vernon Street, the UDP turned right and went back up to Central American Boulevard to continue their journey to the Belcan Bridge.
The story is to explain to you what kind of mentality we are dealing with in the UDP leadership. At the time, we were busy preparing the Raiders to defeat Santino’s Hotpoints on July 28, 1993, for our first ever championship. It is a fact that Kremandala had not campaigned for the PUP in the June 1993 general election, but Amandala publisher Evan X Hyde had endorsed the PUP candidate, Jose Coye, who is Hyde’s distant cousin, in Mr. Esquivel’s Caribbean Shores constituency. Kremandala was singled out for UDP threats on Friday afternoon, July 2, 1993. Cordel Hyde was not in politics on July 2, 1993. To explain what that was all about, you would have to go all the way back to 1973, before the UDP was even hatched …
Power to the people.