Editorial — 06 October 2018
Belizeans, have we failed?

The UDP was against early independence, arguing that Belize was not economically ready, that without a settlement with Guatemala independence would be dangerous, and that if Price led Belize to independence he would establish a one-party communist state. Like Guatemala, the UDP propagated the charge that Cuba and communism constituted a real threat to Belize and that there were influential communist elements within Price’s government. In 1974, for example, the Belize government felt it necessary to repudiate allegations in the foreign press, attributed to UDP Leader Dean Lindo, that secret arrangements had been made with Cuba for the defence of Belize. The charges of communism would intensify in the period leading up to independence, thus playing into the hands of the military dictatorship of Guatemala. When told that he was singing the same song about fear of a communist takeover as the Guatemalan President, Lindo declared that he firmly believed that Price was in favour of a Cuban takeover of Belize.

– pg. 158, GUATEMALA’S CLAIM TO BELIZE: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY, by Assad Shoman, Image Factory Art Foundation, 2018

Bobby Lopez’s Belize Peace Movement honored the late Hon. Philip Goldson this Wednesday in Belmopan on the anniversary of our national hero’s death in the capital city on October 3, 2001. Such honor for Mr. Goldson is good. There is a mystique which surrounds the memory of Mr. Goldson: he has become a saint almost, and the reason is that his patriotism was so pure and unflinching.

On the anniversary of Mr. Goldson’s death, this newspaper would like to take a hard look at Belize’s political independence. We have to ask the question: have we failed?

Certainly the situation in the Southside of Belize City, which has always been the area with the heaviest population concentration in the history of the settlement, has moved past depressing. The Southside situation is frightening.

The symbolism of the Southside, apart from population concentration, derives from the fact that in the original Baymen’s era, it was on the shores of the Southside that the pirates first landed. Southside Belize City was the port of entry, and it became the gateway to the exit break (quebrado) in the Belize Barrier Reef at English Caye. When we lost the Southside, as it were, then, we lost a treasure of great historical value. There was a time when St. George’s Caye was the capital of the settlement, but Southside was always where the bulk of our people resided. After the Southside, came the Northside. Then came all the district towns.

The energy of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which fuelled the two-day takeover of Belize Town in July of 1919 by the majority black population, was a Southside energy. The energy of the General Workers Union (GWU) which gave rise to the People’s Committee, and after that the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1950, was a Southside energy which became fused with a Northside energy from graduates of the prestigious Roman Catholic high school called St. John’s College (SJC).

Philip Goldson, who converted to Catholicism in 1954, was never the Maximum Leader of the PUP. The PUP’s first Leader was Johnny Smith, who was followed by Leigh Richardson. In 1956, Goldson and Richardson left the PUP when Leigh was overthrown by Rt. Hon. George Price, who would go on to lead the party for forty consecutive years. The PUP’s focus had been on political independence for Belize, from foundation.

Mr. Goldson and Mr. Richardson, on leaving the PUP, formed a party in October of 1956 which they named the Honduran Independence Party (HIP). The HIP was short-lived. Leigh Richardson went into exile in Trinidad, then moved to New York City. In 1958, Mr. Goldson took the HIP into a coalition with the National Party, the original opposition to the PUP, with the new coalition calling itself the National Independence Party (NIP).

It was not until late 1961 that Mr. Goldson became NIP Leader. (He was originally elected NIP Secretary.) He had not even run in the March 1961 general election which introduced the Ministerial constitution to British Honduras. But Mr. Goldson had been fighting the Guatemalan claim to Belize tooth and nail in his newspaper, The Belize Billboard, the leading newspaper in the colony at the time.

The names of the two political parties which Mr. Goldson helped to form in 1956 and 1958, both featuring the “Independence” call, gainsay the accusation of some of his critics that Mr. Goldson was of a colonial, pro-British mentality. The people who formed the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973 were the ones who were opposed to independence: they formed the UDP while Mr. Goldson was away studying law in London, and in organizing the UDP they effectively removed Mr. Goldson from his leadership status in the Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Under the leadership of Hon. Dean Lindo, the UDP began calling for settlement of the Guatemalan claim before Belize entered independence. This was the same call being made by Alejandro Vernon, whose Toledo Progressive Party (TPP) was receiving financial support from Guatemala. We have heard Hon. Michael Finnegan, the UDP’s Mesopotamia area representative since 1993, who publicly rejected Mr. Goldson’s leadership for that of Mr. Lindo in 1973, claim on several occasions that this was also Mr. Goldson’s position. But Mr. Goldson never led the UDP and was never affiliated with the TPP.

The PUP leaders have said that the opportunity they got to achieve independence in 1981, with all of Belize’s territory intact, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because they had been under severe pressure from the British and the Americans to cede land to Guatemala. It is for sure that Mr. Goldson was absolutely and unalterably opposed to any cession of Belizean land or sea to Guatemala.

37 years of political independence have failed Southside Belize City. That is this newspaper’s opinion. There are at least three reasons for that failure. One is that none of the two major political parties created any employment for younger Southside Belizeans. The second is that none of the two major political parties was able to impose discipline and maintain law-and-order on the Southside. The third reason is that, with the tragedy slowly unfolding right before their eyes, the intellectuals of Belize said nothing, because they were totally intimidated by the PUDP politicians.

And yet, amidst the wreckage of the Southside, attorneys and politicians have emerged, from both the UDP and the PUP, who have become a fabulously wealthy class of native aristocrats. Political independence, then, has worked very well for said class of native aristocrats. The question is: did these native aristocrats sell out the Southside, so to speak?

There are many areas of the Belizean nation-state which, from all appearances, have done well under independence, especially in seafront and countryside locations. These include the area between San Ignacio and Succotz, Belmopan, south of Hopkins along the coast line, Placencia, San Pedro Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, Orange Walk Town and surrounds, the tourist residential sections north of Corozal Town, and so on.

Focus on the Southside in the post-independence context is appropriate on the anniversary of Mr. Goldson’s death, in the first instance, because the Albert constituency he represented from 1965 to 1998 was/is a Southside constituency.

While Mr. Goldson is remembered with reverence, the name of C. L. B. Rogers is almost never a conversation topic. Very few people know that at the foundation of the NIP in July of 1958, Mr. Rogers was elected NIP Treasurer. He moved from the NIP to the PUP the following year. Mr. Rogers was the first area representative for the Mesopotamia constituency, which Mr. Finnegan now represents. Rogers held the Mesop seat from 1961 to 1979. (Curl Thompson, another whose name is seldom recalled, represented Mesop for the UDP from 1979 to 1993.) Rogers was the most powerful Southside politician in Cabinet from the late 1960s until 1983, while the PUP was in power. Mr. Rogers was the second most powerful man overall in the PUP Cabinet from the late 1960s until 1979. But Mr. Rogers apparently did not create any institutions which had a positive impact on the Southside.

Bottom line, the Southside of Belize City, as a place for one to live and raise his and her children, has deteriorated dramatically since our political independence. Yes, with respect to Southside Belize City, we, the Belizean people, have failed. The question is, to repeat: were we betrayed?
Power to the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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