In recent years in Belize, a growing number of self-appointed experts have emerged, both in the professional print/electronic media and in amateur social media, who have been confidently expressing their opinions on our society’s plethora of heated socio-political issues. Unlike the case in most other democratic countries, however, in Belize our trained academics with reputations to protect almost never participate in the relevant conversations at the public level.
Conversations in Belize feature too much imprecision and indiscipline, but you have to understand that there are powerful special interests here which are always seeking to muddy the waters. The two major political parties, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), both of which own their own party newspapers and radio and television stations, in addition to the fact that several of their leaders own their own radio and television stations in District constituencies, are dominant in the conversations. Lord Michael Ashcroft, who is like a political party unto himself, owns his own television station in the media capital and uses his various advertising budgets to influence the conversations in the other media outlets. Evangelical Christian churches own radio and television stations all over Belize, including a national television station which broadcasts from Belmopan. There is even a national television station which appears to be financed by the international homosexual lobby, which supports the UNIBAM agenda. There are several radio stations with ethnic agendas. There are aggressive online news outlets. There is Facebook, an increasingly powerful institution in Belize, and the other social media operations.
It may be said, then, that the democracy of Belize is vibrant, because of the freedom of the extraordinarily numerous news sources, but the question may also be asked whether our Belizean society has been destabilized in the freedom process.
Three specific issues fuelled agitation and hysteria inside and outside of the Belize House of Representatives on Friday morning, August 26. Outside the House, a large group primarily organized by the evangelical Christian pastor, Louis Wade, focused on the issue of the August 10 Supreme Court ruling which decriminalized homosexuality in Belize and also apparently moved the legal definition of “sex” in Belize to “sexual orientation.” The evangelical Christians were trying to bring pressure on the Government of Belize in order for the administration of Prime Minister Dean Barrow to appeal the pro-homosexuality ruling. Pastor Wade, who dubbed his movement – “I want my country back,” has also been arguing for an independent, international investigation into the Llewellyn Lucas beheading. This was a passionate crowd, and it appears that sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, the evangelical demonstration was “hijacked” by professional agitators with a more political, as opposed to religious, agenda.
When the aggression of the demonstrators, led by the more politicized professionals, increased, the police appear to have been caught off guard. To our mind, the inadequate preparation of the police included their organization inside the House, because when the ferment outside the House began to raise the intensity of the gallery inside the “honorable” House, Speaker Michael Peyrefitte’s preliminary attempts to discipline an unruly gallery were not promptly or enthusiastically supported by the police officers on duty in the House. The increasingly rebellious mood in the gallery then spread to the Opposition benches, we would say, in the person of Cayo South area representative, Hon. Julius Espat, who quarreled disrespectfully with the Speaker, and then refused to leave the chambers when he was “named,” which is to say, ordered to depart the House. Police reinforcements had to be called in, and soon agitation became hysteria. (Before Hon. Espat was carried out by police, the police had dragged Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez out of the house and roughed up KREM Radio/Television’s Marisol Amaya.)
The issues which would likely have been the most important debate matters on Friday morning inside the “honorable” House itself, were the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) arbitration award and the 700-page report of the Auditor General, which had been leaked to the press earlier in the week, and which really deserves an editorial all to itself. The Auditor General’s report establishes and confirms massive corruption outside the somewhat sanctimonious UDP administration of the Right Hon. Dean Barrow, and it is more than a merely troubling report: the Auditor General’s report is fire and brimstone.
Under the circumstances, this newspaper’s Friday morning editorial on “War rhetoric criminals,” referring to the Guatemalan President, Jimmy Morales, and his Foreign Minister, Carlos Raul Morales, made no impact on the nation’s conversation. As we expected, however, Guatemalan officials, including their Ambassador to Belize who had been recalled when Jimmy Morales made his war rhetoric speech on Thursday afternoon, April 21, 2016, began trying to undermine and discount the Organization of American States (OAS) report which essentially gave the Belize government, in our opinion, the right to charge the Guatemalan government with propaganda terrorism.
Even though the Belize Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Barrow, had actually gone so far as to say that he thought Belize deserved an apology from Guatemala, the Belize Foreign Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, did his best to let the Guatemalan military/oligarchy off the hook. It was vintage Sedi, and perhaps even worse, and he totally missed the point: these are people, the Guatemalans we mean, who will come at us in this vicious manner again, and Belize’s opportunity to force them on the defensive would have been well taken.
Belize’s Foreign Minister is either a man who has not properly studied or understood international relations, or he is a complete puppet of the so-called Friends of Belize. As long as Guatemala remains as is, and as long as we Belizeans remain who we are, the Guatemalans will have a problem with us. They wish to have us cease to exist. The Belizean problem, with respect to Guatemala, is therefore an existential one. At this newspaper, our thesis has been that no court ruling can end the Guatemalan claim to Belize. The Guatemalans would do exactly what we are now seeing them do with the OAS report on the Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano incident: discredit it, and then ignore it.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie – murdered at Caracol in cold blood on September 25, 2014.