The Southern Caucus of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) this week introduced the idea of Belizean self-defence on the Wednesday morning edition of the KREM Radio/TV Wake Up Belize (WUB) show. When we say “introduced,” what we mean is that no group of area representatives and standard bearers from the two major political parties, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the PUP, has ever gone public with respect to the idea of Belizeans defending ourselves. The spokesman of the Southern Caucus, Dr. Luis Zabaneh, on Wednesday morning went so far as to articulate the possibility of a military draft for Belizeans 18 years and older.
Belize is a country where a lot of significant socio-political realities remain sub-surface. Immediately the idea of Belizean self-defence is broached, the reality of the present composition of our army becomes a matter for conversation. Belize’s Mayans and Garinagu are represented in our security forces in numbers disproportionate to their population percentages. We honor them. On the other hand, and to the best of our knowledge, the Mennonites, Chinese, and Hindus, who are affluent Belizeans, have no representation in our security forces. In other words, if Belize had to fight any kind of military action today, it would, in a sense, be a case of poor Belizeans defending rich ones. Think about that.
Nobody else in Belize, except Kremandala, would mention or discuss such a subject as the one in the previous paragraph. Because we dare to confront such subjects at this newspaper, we are much disliked, even shunned, by Belize’s power structure. But for that same reason, we have been cherished and supported by a broad base of Belizeans since 1969.
The nature of planet earth, when it comes to human beings, has always been violent. Even those of you who take refuge behind the Bible must concede this: the Scriptures famously speak of “wars and rumors of wars.” The subject of violence is vital if we are to understand the fundamental nature of enslaved and colonized societies, because it was precisely through the instrument of violence that imperialist peoples made our free ancestors into subject peoples in Africa and Indigenous America five plus centuries ago. Remember this, all you Biblical Belizeans, in the first instance the Spanish and the British came with cannons, guns, swords, and so on. Once they achieved imperial mastery over our ancestors, then religion and education were introduced by the imperialists. Today, in independent Belize, our religion and education basically remain as they were under slavery and colonialism. In order to receive the education, most of us have to accept the religion.
When the various European peoples ventured out from impoverished, war-torn Europe five centuries and more ago, some scholars describe their entries into, invasions of, Africa and Indigenous America, as clashes of civilizations. We should note here that Europe also entered/invaded Asia, and imposed their imperial rule, but today it may well be said that Asian giants such as China and India, who once suffered under the boot of the Europeans, have freed themselves of Western, Christian rule in their educational and productive sectors.
In Belize, our decolonization process, our journey to self-rule, beginning in 1950 and supposedly culminating in 1981, remains an incomplete process, an ongoing, distracted journey. Perhaps the major reason for this is that the Christian religions which the Spanish and the British introduced into this territory amongst our ancestors are firmly in control of our system of education. Implicit in the structure of how we educate our children, then, is the willing acceptance of civilizations which were imposed by brute force. Imperial civilization, whether, Spanish or British, was made legitimate by imperial violence, not by divine right. Generations of Belizean children, however, were given the distinct impression that the system of education and civilization in which we were being trained, was blessed by God. In that respect, nothing has changed with self-government and independence.
We could go on and explain to you that Western, Christian religions in Belize have refused to teach African and Mayan history, because such history would suggest that there was intrinsic value in the African and Mayan civilizations which were destroyed by the British and the Spanish. Such African and Mayan history would open a can of worms with respect to the role that Western, Christian religions have played in the evils of imperialism, racism, and colonialism. The power structure here does not wish such subjects to be raised.
Well now, here we have two Western, Christian countries which have a dispute which they inherited from their imperial rulers. Spanish Guatemala and British Belize were populated by peoples who had been made subjects, violently, by European, Christian Spain, and European, Christian Britain.How are our children going to begin to understand this 2018 situation, if they are not taught that the Spanish and the British were the most violent and hate-filled of enemies for centuries even though they supposedly worshiped the same God?
Hon. Philip Goldson, who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1954, was a man who never discussed religion, but he was the first Belizean political leader to introduce the idea of Belizean self-defence into our national conversation. He began to call for establishment of a Belizean army from the time he was Leader of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) in the mid-1960s. (The NIP held two seats in the Belize House of Representatives from 1965 to 1969. These were Mr. Goldson’s seat in the Albert constituency, and Edwin Morey’s Toledo North seat.)
The first conference hosted by the United States for discussion between the United Kingdom and Guatemala about the Belize dispute was held in Puerto Rico in 1962. The ruling PUP was represented at that Puerto Rico conference in an observer capacity, but the NIP, which held no seat in the House at the time, was not invited to Puerto Rico.
Talks between the British and the Guatemalans were held in Washington at the State Department in late 1965. The New York City attorney, Bethuel Webster, mediated on behalf of the United States. Following are quotes from pages 62 and 63 of Assad Shoman’s recently published GUATEMALA’S CLAIM TO BELIZE: The Definitive History (Image Factory, 2018). “The Belize delegation (5 from the PUP led by Price and 2 from the NIP led by Goldson) met with the British in London on 1-3 June 1966 and saw the drafts for the first time.” “The British and Belize delegations moved on to New York, where they met with Webster on 6-7 June …”
The Belizeans were sworn to secrecy by the British. But, when Mr. Goldson realized that the talks were designed to make an independent Belize a subservient, satellite state of Guatemala, he broke the secrecy to which he had been sworn, thus risking jail, and revealed the so-called Thirteen Proposals to Belizeans. Belizeans reacted violently. Belizeans reacted violently again in 1968 when the Seventeen Proposals, the official version of the Thirteen Proposals, were read.
The indications are that the aforementioned violent reactions of Belizeans to the Thirteen and Seventeen Proposals convinced Mr. Price that he could not yield to British and American demands that he cede land to Guatemala as a condition for Belize’s independence. It was because of Mr. Goldson’s courage and intransigence in 1966, we have opined before in this newspaper, that he was replaced as Opposition Leader in 1973. The new Opposition party, the UDP, dropped Mr. Goldson’s call for a national defence force, but that call was subsequently taken up by Mr. Price, who established Belize’s army, the Belie Defence Force (BDF), in 1978.
This was a very serious subject which the PUP Southern Caucus raised on Wednesday morning. But, the Guatemalan claim to Belize is a very serious subject, because it brings the dismemberment of the nation-state of Belize into play. We are living in very serious times. More than a half century ago, Mr. Goldson was seeing down the road.
There are International Court of Justice (ICJ) proponents in the UDP who are arguing that Mr. Goldson desired ICJ arbitration for the Guatemalan claim back in 1967. None of us can say where Mr. Goldson would stand in 2018, but things have surely changed since 1967. Most of us Belizeans wish that we could benefit from Mr. Goldson’s wisdom, foresight, and patriotism today. But, wishes are not horses.
Jump high or jump low, the fact of the matter is that before Mr. Goldson called for the ICJ, he was calling for Belizean self-defence. This is real. The records of Belize’s House of Representatives will verify that.
Power to the people.