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Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Flag days & statesmen

Dear Editor,
There are things best left for the politicians to handle. True! Also true is that the best politicians engage the public in issues of governance that are likely to outlast their own tenures. We call those, “statesmen.”

All Belizeans felt that we would, by now, have joined Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and most nations of the world in having a Flag Day. Looks like the gears got stuck in “park” after NICH announced that the search for a standardized flag and coat of arms was underway. A first image was to be unveiled in September 2019. That was to be followed by a “consultation and education campaign”, neither of which, as far as I know, got beyond the coffee and handshakes.

Reasons? To this observer, the upheavals at NICH, a devastating drought, trauma to our governance equilibrium and COVID-19 smeared the picture. Sufficient to derail the most carefully laid plans. Added to these was the pushback from many who felt excluded from meaningful participation. Déjà vu!

I, too, felt the energy; the overarching urgency; the wholesaler’s desire to deliver the load with minimal turnaround delay. That’s the only rationale for not taking the “campaign” to Maskall, Burrell Boom, Crooked Tree, Rancho Dolores and Lemonal, but instead hosting a come-one-come-all fête in Belize City dubbed a pan-Belize District consultation!

Only this was not a load, as some like to say. It was the new national flag, and here was a chance for the fisherman on his rickety pier at Backlanding to be given a say in fashioning what would become the emblem he and us could gallantly hail as our own: homemade, nationally branded and Belizean, from Corazón Creek (Toledo) to Sarteneja (Corozal).

In that sense, then, the NICH et al setbacks, had the salutary effect of providing a brake to the rush for “standardization.” See, the broader the participation spectrum, the more likely we would see an end to the mouth-wiping dismissals that so often greet the flag.

The flag issue calls for bipartisanship, multi-sectoral scrutiny, and pan-ethnic-centric cranking. Only so will we be assured of fresh, genuine, people-driven (as opposed to wind-driven) ideas for this craft of state. And should the engineer (on propellers) or the coxswain (on rudder) have the captain’s ear? Also, will the deckhand (on anchors) have authority to drop those behemoths the moment he senses trouble ahead?

Pardon the cliché, but this is no small matter: it has to be ALL hands on deck! We need to get it right this time.

Hart Tillett

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