I would consider ignoring all the Foreign Minister said at the House meeting on Friday, because it appears that he is not able to separate his personal and professional selves, and the failure of his professional self, when it is pointed out to him, is causing him great personal stress. That’s the sense I got from his presentation to the House on Friday.
Leaders have to be scrutinized intensely. Years ago, when Mr. Elrington was in his prime, a time when he was a political activist, not a Government Minister, he said that governments respond to pressure. He made this statement at the time when there was much consternation in some quarters about the introduction of casino gambling in Belize. Mr. Elrington predicted that the side that had its way would be the one that brought the most heat on the government of the day.
I don’t have the hair from the horse tail in my hand, but if we follow our nose we would believe that Mr. Elrington had picked a side in this fight, the reason for such assumption being that subsequently he would acquire shares in a private gambling business in Belize. I say assumption, not conclusion, because I don’t know for a FACT what the gentleman owns. It has been said in public places that he has/had financial involvement in a gambling business and I have not heard him deny it. I question not the business of gambling; I’m just pointing out that he might have had a horse in the race.
At the time Mr. Elrington enlightened us about the way the real world works, I was of the opinion that governments should look at issues, and then decide what was best for our country. I was of the belief that the place in this world for harsh criticism and cold decisions was the sports world, and only in extreme cases should such ruthlessness enter into the governing process. Mr. Elrington introduced me to the real world. I have not incorporated the lesson into my DNA, but I believe I now understand it well.
The reluctant student cannot overlook the teacher’s faults. Unfortunately, the gentleman’s professional failures could harm innocent people, if left unchecked, so he cannot, should not get away with some not so smart things he said. A lie can become truth if it is not exposed.
There are a lot of lessons one can learn from sports. Some leave the stage while they’re still good enough to play, some leave the playing field when they are at the very top of their game, and some end up being dragged out, booed out of the stadium. Look, if you like drinking, it is good practice to go to your host every half hour and say, “You think it’s time I leave?” You don’t want to wear out your welcome.
There’s not a person who’s an absolute dud. We all have our status in the world, some high, some not so high. It doesn’t matter which state you belong to, you have to watch yourself. Take private me, for example. I don’t go anywhere, because some hosts don’t want to tell you to leave. And then they end up hating you, and you end up hating yourself for messing up. They can complain that I didn’t show up, but they can’t complain that I slobbered into my drink or said something that made people feel angry or uncomfortable.
I think Mr. Elrington really must stop trying to defend the absolutely disastrous term he used to describe our border. Look, if he can find one instance when Philip Goldson spoke about our “artificial border”, a lot of us owe him an apology. Mr. Goldson was on the public stage for many years, and surely he knew, was aware of the term. You will find “artificial border” in textbooks, on Google. No one questioned the legitimacy of the term. We questioned the use of the term in discussions about a neighbor who claims our entire country.
Mr. Elrington signed the Special Agreement. On first reading it, the former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Said Musa, said the agreement gave Guatemala too much room to maneuver. He has since changed his mind. I am on record for a yes vote; I have said that I agree with the opinion that our case is very, very strong. I have also offered my other reason for supporting YES. I don’t see how we back out of it.
Mr. Elrington said that after he signed the agreement he was to pass the ball. Someday the Prime Minister will have to explain why he left him in charge. A good leader never puts people in positions where they will fail. There are a lot of questions here.
Many believe that Mr. Elrington should have been moved from the post of Foreign Minister. He could have gone on to his memoirs, or to a Ministry where he would have nothing to do with the Guatemalans and their claim for our territory.
The PM and the UDP must have reasons for keeping him as Foreign Minister, after it was obvious that he had exceeded his useful life in that position. Maybe they thought that if they moved the one who signed the agreement, it would have reflected badly on it. I think we all agree that it would have been better to have us speculate about his removal, than keep him in place to totally Peter Principle himself.
It is not impossible that the UDP is so short of talent in that arena they had no choice. The party had to reach outside of the area representatives’ pool to grab talent to fill a number of positions, but none of those they contracted fit the bill for foreign affairs. Maybe Mr. Sedi is all we have. Well then, we’ll just beg him to be mum. But he can talk, if he can produce some correspondence where our hero, our national hero in fact, Hon. Philip Goldson, spoke equally trivially about our border. If he does, I for sure, will have nothing more to say on the matter.
India and the British
It is written somewhere in the New Testament that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and we know the same applies to a country. Some years ago I wrote about meeting a young man, an attendant in a shop while trying on a pair of tennis. We struck up a conversation and I learned he came from Calcutta. I told him, “I think if you can make it in Calcutta, you can make it anywhere.”
The Americans sing that if you can make it in New York you can make it all over the world, but the prize goes to Calcutta. In a wealthy place like New York there are rich crumbs falling all over the place so anybody with desire can get somewhere. In Calcutta, which is poor and has nearly twice the population New York has, you’ve got to climb over a lot of people, just to survive.
I could envisage leading Belize, if I tried very hard, but I would never contemplate leading a country like India. I have to take a drink just to walk around at the National Agriculture and Trade Show. You know, I just stumbled on the answer for leading India. I bet I’d need a lot of drinks, the very strongest.
I’ve got a number of stories on India in my files, and I’ve read the epic, Freedom at Midnight, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. It is a fascinating place, with fascinating people, some of whom chose to make Belize their home. In the 1900s, Indians came over as indentured servants, and later on they came to our shores as merchants. They’ve also come to our shores as highly trained doctors and lawyers and engineers too.
We’ve got to thank India for their wonderful people. We’ve got India to thank for their spicy cuisine too, and many of the best things we get from the earth. What would life be in Belize without blackberry wine (made from Java plum, from India), coconuts, the fruit/nut that gives everything, and the most glorious fruit God ever made, the delicious mango.
We’re running out of space here (this column) so I’ll lean on this short piece by Naras Rao, “What were the real conditions in India before the British arrived?” for a snapshot of the British in India.
When the British came to India there were a number of countries trying to get control of it. India was a divided country, and the worst of it was the caste system.
Rao said, “India was a bunch of feuding princely states… If you take a microscopic look, there were a whole group of castes, communities, races, religions feuding against each other, which were kept simmering by local rulers and landlords.” He said the caste system was very oppressive and that for a lot of Indians the British coming was indeed a “saving grace.” But that is about as far as British grace goes, according to Rao.
Rao said that when the British set up the East India Company, India accounted for 25% of the world’s GDP, and when the British “left in 1947, India’s share was reduced to about 2%.”
India, he said, “produced and exported some of the world’s most desirable fabrics”, but when the British came they flooded “India and the world with cheaper fabric from the new satanic steam mills of Britain”, causing India’s manufacturing to collapse. I note that other sources say the British tried to control Indian manufacturing, and when they couldn’t they countered with their own goods.