A few weeks ago one of this newspaper’s columnists attacked the Stake Bank Development Project because of its environmental implications for the Swallow Caye manatee sanctuary. We edited the column slightly, because KREM Radio, a limited liability company, has a business relationship with the principals in the Stake Bank project. (KREM Radio is a part of the Kremandala businesses.) We thought the column was a bit personal, hence the editing.
As it turned out, both our columnist and our business associates were displeased. But, after a while life went on pretty much as per usual. This week the Stake Bank project hit the headlines again, and so we expect our dilemma to re-surface.
Kremandala is a pretty big institution on the Southside of Belize City because over the years we have created 80 jobs in a part of the old capital where socio-economic conditions are rough. When Southside Belizeans seek assistance of various kinds from us, sometimes we have to point out to them that in the larger scheme of things Belizean, we are small people on Partridge Street. It is more often than not that our words are taken as hollow or disingenuous by Southside people: after all, Kremandala looks big. We are not.
On the Southside, Bowen and Bowen are big people. A few of the law firms are big people. San Cas and some Chinese and Indian and Arab business groups are big people. In other parts of the country, there are other big people. The Mennonites are big people. Some of the citrus and banana producers are big people. Belize Sugar Industries are big people. Ashcroft is big people. The Feinsteins are big people. There are many really big people in Belize, but we don’t see them on the Southside. So then, that is why Kremandala looks big. We are not.
There was a time in the early years of the newspaper when we took our editorial issues to the streets in the form of public meetings, marches, and demonstrations. This newspaper was the voice of an organization called UBAD, which lasted from 1969 to 1974. Because of the strength of that organization, the fledgling Amandala survived direct attacks from the power structure, such as the seditious conspiracy trial of 1970.
In 1973, the UBAD organization split in two. This was a very important development, especially on the Southside of Belize City where the organization was based. After the split in UBAD, editorial issues in Amandala could no longer be taken to the streets. They remained only editorial issues. But, UBAD had built such a strong foundation for Amandala among the Belizean people that the newspaper was able to survive and defend itself after UBAD formally ended in 1974.
The newspaper was also able to survive and defend itself because of Belize’s parliamentary democracy. Ruling parties are more powerful than Opposition parties in Belize, but when ruling parties become angry at this newspaper, support from Opposition parties has been critical. Overall, this newspaper and Kremandala have succeeded in remaining independent of the PUDP.
Our newspaper competitors have been gushing in their repeated praise for the Stake Bank project, but our editorial opinion here is negative. Respecting the business relationship with the principals, nevertheless, we will not campaign against the project. We are small people on Partridge, and we think small. We opposed Ara Macao (you remember that?) on principle. We thought the project was too big for Belize. We oppose the Harvest Caye project on principle. We think it’s too big for Belize. Likewise, we think Stake Bank is too big. It is because we are old-fashioned at this newspaper why we think this way; we are fearful of change when it is too dramatic. That’s just us, although it really should be “we”.
Over the years at Kremandala we have always had to figure out how to make our liabilities less negative. It’s not so easy: a liability is a liability. Our major liability has always been lack of investment capital, and the result of such chronic shortages of investment capital has always been inferior production technology. What has enabled us to survive has been serious customer loyalty. You can call it the power of the people, small people. Like us.
On the macro Belizean scale, we always thought that we Belizeans should be looking at how to make our smallness, which is considered a classic liability, work in our favor. We always thought that we should try to avoid copying other countries around us, and stay the way we were as much as possible. In that sense, we have been, we submit with the greatest of respect, like the late Mr. Price. Mr. Price did not have a problem with Belize’s being small. Other significant Belizeans, of course, thought differently.
Where we are today in 2013, we guess our young generations of Belizeans are thinking big. Perhaps if we were young, we would also be thinking big. But Amandala is old, and we think small. They say the dinosaurs became extinct because they could not change with changing times. We understand that. For sure, we would not like to become extinct. But, in life there are no guarantees. We are who we are.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.