Editorial — 15 May 2019
Get serious about BELIZE, UDP

No Belizean leader or political party ever had such an easy run. PM Barrow and the UDP came to power in 2008 after the PUP government of 2003-2008 imploded. The PUP, to an extent, has remained imploded. That party, during its 1998-2008 reign, had allowed some of its elements to handle the national treasury as if they were running their personal finances, and the people rose up against them. The PUP seems unable to come to grips with its failures: they want to point only to their successes.

The PUP’s failure to accept its failures put the UDP on easy street. They have won every election since 2008, an unprecedented run in recent years. The UDP has enjoyed every minute of their eleven years and odd days in power, and a great part of their enjoyment seems to come from rubbing salt in the wounds of the PUP. It is true that the UDP had, and has had tough times when they were out of office, and it seems that politicians in particular are heavy on revenge. Okay, but what do the rest of us have to do with that?

There is a lot to say about the Special Agreement, and the handling of it, but we are technically at war, still, with Guatemala, so all of us have to be circumspect about the things we say. That claim is as hot as ever on our country. The Foreign Minister is a wonderful person, but no man is for all seasons. We have strengths and we have weaknesses. We must know ourselves. On the foreign front Belize failed tactically. We definitely can do without “education” that doesn’t serve our purpose.

It would be good if for once, just for once, the Prime Minister could stop telling us about the greatness of himself and his party. It could be said that he tried to do just that at his last press conference. But he just couldn’t help himself and slipped off the curb.

The UDP worked hard to get a YES vote, but they didn’t experience near the pain of those who decided they had to vote YES, because that’s the hand that had been dealt to us by our leaders. That hand, by the way, we got after our leaders, Red and Blue, stopped internationalizing our story after we got independence, and began acting as though the Guatemala problem was just a step from being put behind us.

Some will argue that is how come we ended up on May 8th, 2019, putting our independence and our territorial integrity in the hands of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The British, when they challenged Guatemala to take their claim to the World Court (the equivalent of the ICJ) in the 1940s, weren’t putting up England. The nation on which the sun never set was putting up a colony — us, not their homeland.

There’s really no hurray here for any Belizean. From that date, May 8th, 2019, until the ICJ rules, we are in a battle to get back what we put on hold. We will not win this battle if our Prime Minister and his party can’t learn to contain themselves.

The partisanship has to end. Forty-five percent of Belizeans are definitely very unhappy, and fifty-five percent by any mathematical measure is no emphatic victory. Thousands of Belizeans who voted YES, Belizeans in that fifty-five percent, did so because the way the process was set up so that they felt they couldn’t say NO.

We just put our independence, self-determination, and territorial integrity into the hands of a court. This happened because of leadership neglect over so many years. Today, we are a state in limbo, a state waiting for a verdict that could be heaven, or hell. Fortunately the court isn’t an ordinary one.

Our representatives are our most popular people, not necessarily our best talent. We all have our strengths and our faults. When we accede to leadership we must put away as many of our faults as we can. It was plenty sufficient for the Prime Minister to thank all the leaders who worked for the YES vote. Did the Prime Minister have to call out each one by name? Does the Prime Minister have to pander to his favorite journalists whenever they throw bait for him to chomp on? Did the Prime Minister have to congratulate his sister?

Far too many of us who decided to vote YES, for whatever reason, didn’t do so because of the Prime Minister’s sister or his party. Red and Blue leaders have every right to believe in what they did, but it is seriously questionable that they had every right to do what they did.

The UDP is a political party. How could we not know that, when every day since they came to power in 2008 we are bombarded by their daily rhetoric and their visual trappings of success? There’s a definite way up the ladder in Belize. Former representative Mark King cut directly to the chase: UDP first.

The UDP, sadly, gets much energy from patting themselves on the back, saying how smart they are, how honest they are, and from punishing the PUP. A US administration, in an infamous moment, described the many, many innocent children, women, and men who died in one of the Iraq wars, as collateral damage. This country does not belong to Red and Blue. The rest of Belizeans resent being handled casually, as a mere incidental.

There’s an obvious DNA problem here, something inside the UDP that makes them have to brag, and laugh at people. The mouthpieces of the UDP keep saying things that make the rest of us have to swallow hard. This is no time for us to be angry with each other. There are issues that will definitely test us. There’s a difficult path up ahead and difficult things will have to be said, and done. We don’t have to exacerbate things with this incessant jabbing and gibing.

We feel it is sound advice for the Prime Minister to stop stacking these press conferences with his crowd. There appears to be a lack of real maturity, inside the gut of the UDP. Where there should be sobriety there’s an itch that it appears he can’t help scratching. A crack addict who wants to quit the drug absolutely must stay away from friends who hold on to the bad habit. It is not hatred of your friends when you avoid their company because their bad habits bring out the worst in you.

In this case there are always closed doors. The UDP can run down anyone they want, gloat about anything they choose, plot any scheme to aid their political fortunes, butter any and everyone who needs an energy boost, behind closed doors. They are a political party and quite likely they need that kind of grease. They are a political party that has to understand that for forty-five percent of Belizeans who voted on May 8th, that decision to go to the ICJ was like pulling teeth, wisdom teeth, and many thousands in that fifty-five percent are not happy about how we got here.

There is something for the UDP to gloat about here only if they swallow their own propaganda. From now until the ICJ rules, we, more than ever, must be a deadly serious, and honest, and compassionate country.

We never should have had to be about inviting the United Nations to look at our systems of governance and tell us how to stop corruption, run transparent and accountable government. We should have been the example the UN used to guide other nations.

The 13th Senator did not work out; it’s a dud. We must now introduce the elected Senate. The Elections and Boundaries Department must not be under the control of the ruling party. The Public Accounts Committee must not be under the control of the ruling party. These changes must be introduced now.

Our country is going to a trial at the International Court of Justice. If we go as a partisan place, a country whose only claim to democracy is that we don’t fight on election day, we will not be taken seriously. We, Belize, have embarked on a serious journey. We need leaders who are more serious about us, than about their party’s little ambitions.

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Deshawn Swasey

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