Features — 22 June 2019 — by Harold Young
You want one answer to Belize’s challenges? Sing Unsung Heroes (and be one)!

Amidst the murders, traffic deaths, the lack of effective governance, politricks and…and….etc., there are plenty of good things happening and good people making it happen. In all walks and facets of life across the Jewel, Belizeans toil with the hope that their labor is not in vain and things will improve. From rural primary schools with bright eyed children and dedicated teachers, farmers, construction workers, fishers, sanitation workers, and so on, I know they toil in hope (and so families can eat). This hopefulness is not the strength of the Belizean elite, generally speaking. Many are cynical, judgmental, and impatient while cloistered in walled cocoons of self-righteousness and privilege (not to put too fine a point on it. I digress).

In reality, Belizeans want better, and there are many unsung heroes among us. It is impossible to list or call out even a fraction, but on this occasion, I focus on one unsung hero who has dedicated his life to an aspect of law and order that is little in the news and garners few accolades. I choose to sing praises of Mr. Edmund Pennil, a Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court of Belize and General Registry.

I did not need to interview Mr. Pennil to write this piece. This is not a biography, but merely a personal acknowledgement of his exemplary service to Belize. Mr. Pennil joined the public service at 16 years old. By the time I was called to the bar as a snot-nosed junior in 1992, he was already an icon and a force to be reckoned with. He could school the most seasoned lawyer on filing and court processes. With an easy smile, I never heard him raise his voice, but the legal community listened.

As a good public officer starting in the colonial era, he has seen judges, prosecutors, lawyers in private practice, politicians, attorneys general and any number of petulant members of the public, come and go. On August 28, 2019, Mr. Pennil will have served 61 years in public service as an officer of the court. It might just be a living record!

In my careers, he supports me as a lawyer and as a social science researcher. Just a few days ago, he provided me with invaluable data (all from public records for my research) that he has meticulously captured over the years. I am eternally grateful, but this is not a farewell. This is merely shining a light on what is positive and a person who does his best to make an institution work.

Mr. Pennil is a statesman (service before self) in the true sense of the word. He (and many others) are who we need to BE in whatever capacity and inspire others at this juncture in our history. Cheers/Salud/Que Viva, Mr. Pennil!

In closing, I repeat the final paragraph of my last article (Amandala, June 7, 2019) as a challenge to us ALL:

“Do I think this is easy? No! If we say we love Belize (as we heard ad nauseam during the ICJ debate), do we have any choice but to try? NO! Lots of good things are happening and continuing change is inevitable. The challenge for us is how we manage the direction of the changes at this crucial point. We need not only a cadre of leaders with political will but a public steeled for the battle for the future. It starts with not littering through voting and holding elected officials accountable between elections. I pledge to do my part; will you do the same?”

 Author’s note: Belizean Harold Young is an Assistant Professor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy (Political Science) from Georgia State University and a J.D. (LL.B/C.L.E.) from the University of the West Indies/Norman Manley School of Law. In 1992, he was admitted to the Bar in Belize. His primary research areas are Public Law and American and comparative perspectives on judicial institutional changes and decision-making. Dr. Young has published in the Journal of International and Global Studies, Journal of Race and Politics and International Social Studies Review. Contact: [email protected]

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