Features — 09 January 2019
How Camalote pathway led me to  become unethical/political

There are things in this world that put no strain on the brain to figure out. If there are no people on the earth, then another animal will rule it. It is a natural follow that people are important. If people are important, then it is obvious we must put in extra effort to conserve human life.

If we consider our own lives, and the fact that we are passing through this beautiful and awesome world just once, we naturally make an effort to conserve it. If we have any respect for the lives of others, if we believe that we should love others as we love ourselves, we also make an effort to conserve theirs.

Human beings are a nation’s greatest resource, so safeguarding human lives is paramount. And protecting the physical limbs and the mental health of people is important too.

I was born and spent my childhood in Belize City, and I spent my youth in Belmopan. At no point during my first eighteen years on this earth was I endangered by a speeding vehicle. You’ll have to stretch your mind to grasp the extent of the shock I experienced when I first visited Camalote and saw people walking on the roadside and vehicles speeding past them. That road took a number of lives and caused serious injuries to many people, and it didn’t have to happen. I had to put in my pound.

At that time (1980’s) I used to work on a farm near the village, and I would pass through every morning. I knew Brother Gilbert Davis, one of the members of the Camalote Village Council, and I approached him and “offered” to tear up the road with the pick end of my mattock, as a form of protest for the lack of safety features on the road, and no pathway for children and oldsters to walk on.

I thought I could move up my schedule and arrive at four in the morning instead of my regular 5:30 a.m. routine, and I could get in a little damage before daylight. Gilbert told me that they were working on the problem, and they weren’t interested in my vandalism.

Later, I married and settled down in the village, so I had a little license to get involved. The best way I could serve would be by getting a seat in the village council, but by nature I am not cut for the popularity contest. My leadership roles have been through succession (I became the oldest boy in my family, so I led the crew), determination (I led my high school and junior college sports programs because by nature I’m pretty serious), and selection (I led certain programs at different places because my bosses chose me).

I wanted to get a place in the village council. Some villagers thought I had some value, so they agreed to a little deception to get me on unopposed when the elections came around. We decided that I would accept nomination for office, and that nominations would close when the full complement of seven was reached. So agreed, but not so done. An attempt was made to close nominations when it reached seven, but an element would not have it. So, I withdrew my name. Really, I did not feel it my place to compete with villagers who wanted to serve. Ah, when I think on it now, I realize that it was a “nasty” PUP plot hatched to hambog my desire to serve. The 8th name on the board was definitely dyed-in-the-wool blue.

But the PUP couldn’t entirely keep me away from service. I got some youth together and we produced a newsletter for the area. And I got some youth together and we ran several summer camps for primary school children.

I wasn’t interested in getting too involved with sports in the village, but the leader of the village football club, Brother Fred Palacio, roped me in. And when he got married and left the village, he insisted that I ran the show, which I did for a few years.

I don’t remember how I arrived at president of the PTA for our village school. I know that it was not via a popularity contest.

Mrs. Virginia Neal, at the time the vice-chairman of the village council, decided that if I didn’t have the whatever-it-needs to submit to a popularity contest, then I should go in as pro tem member. As a pro-tem village councilor I had the full run of an elected one, and when the general election in 1993 rolled around, and the UDP won, I got a place on the lots committee, which was chaired by Melvin Hulse, Sr. Mr. Melvin had contested the elections for Cayo South, and lost, but in our system every government project in the area passed through him, and he controlled the lots committees in all the villages.

Flat out, I think it is an unethical system and it is bad for democracy. I really don’t care how they do it anywhere else. The elected representative of the people should have an input in all projects in their area. Julius Espat should have seen the plans for the rehab road through Cayo South villages long before it started. If the system were run properly, he could have made sure they corrected it, if he was a good leader, or be damned with it, if he isn’t leadership material. As it stands he carries no blame.

A little before mid-way through UDP 1993-98, my uncle, JV Hyde, a senior talent who could hold his own in his field anywhere in the world, told me he was contemplating a run for Cayo South, for the PUP. I knew that my uncle would deliver our pathway for sure, so I got ready to tell my UDP friends that I was jumping ship. But my uncle changed his mind and Mr. Agripino Cawich represented the PUP instead.

Anyway, I’m a pro tem councilor and I’m not getting the job done. I think Melvin Hulse, Sr. was too old to see what I was seeing. When the UDP made John Saldivar the political officer in my area I upped my game and formed a committee apart from the village council, so that we could get the pathway and some other necessary projects for the village done. I didn’t know John, still don’t, and in my books it was flat out unethical to step out for him, but I wanted that pathway. I’ll sell my soul for the right cause. And we did get some things done, to a fair part.

Through Mr. Political Officer John, we got a fence for our softball field, a gym, and most important of all, about 700 yards of pathway.  It served our village for twenty years, until the rehab road came along and obliterated it.
Sometime later, my nephew, Cordel Hyde, became prominent as a candidate for the PUP in Lake I, and UDP Cayo South, led by John, started spreading it that I was a PUP supporter. The fact is that I supported my nephew’s candidacy, but I was nowhere about becoming a PUP supporter. At the time my nephew was still a youth. I knew his roots, but I hardly knew him, and I didn’t see my ideas having any play in his world.

As everyone who follows Belize’s landscape knows, the UDP totally fell apart a little past mid-way through their 93-98 term. The party had expended a lot of energy trying to prove that a former chairman of the SSB, VH Courtenay, was dishonest, when clearly it was a question of ethics. When that fell through, the UDP started going down. The end for that UDP government came when they decided to guillotine about 800 workers.

After a while it didn’t matter that the red was daubing me with the blue brush. That 1993-98 government completely unraveled. With blue paint daubed all over me, I didn’t think twice about asking people in the blue government to contribute to our pathway, even though I was no longer on the village council. When Mr. Joe Coye became Minister of Works, Mr. Glenn Tillett, a former editor of the Amandala, was big in his camp. I had no shame about going to Glenn to ask him to lean on Mr. Joe. Thus we got another 300 yards of pathway. That too has been obliterated by the rehab road.

I don’t know what other unethical/political wikidnis this unconscionable rehab road is blowing me toward.

Sedi Elrington said that politicians only understand hard ball. Manuel Esquivel said that when it comes to the job, love has nothing to do with it. The way I see it, the UDP should find the money (beg, borrow, or teef) and put in the pathway. If the UDP doesn’t put in the pathway and the PUP promises to do it, you don’t need to guess which party gets my vote.

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Deshawn Swasey

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