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From the Publisher

PublisherFrom the Publisher

I think the late Sir Barry Bowen was generally given credit for being a superb, or even brilliant, businessman. Personally, I was always a little skeptical because, in the first place, he was working under the incredibly protective umbrella of Coca Cola; in the second place, he was working with the advantage of a 1969 development concession for his beer and stout, and in the third place, on at least one critical occasion in the 1980s he was bailed out by a Government of Belize.

But, looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if perhaps I underestimated the gentleman. Shortly after the Kremandala Raiders won their first semi-pro basketball championship in July of 1993, Hon. Said Musa, who was then a Deputy Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), invited me to his law offices to sit with him and Sir Bowen.

At this point in time, our newspaper was going great guns, our tiny radio station (established in 1989) had survived the onslaught of the government radio station (Friends FM, I think their name was), which had been a monopoly for four decades at least, and was equipped with everything a radio station needed, and we had also survived a daring 1990 boycott of Sir Bowen’s products, a boycott we initiated because of a football dispute where we thought the Milpros club was being victimized by a Bowen executive.

Now remember, Sir Bowen was already so big a businessman that he in no way needed to talk with me about anything whatsoever. So then, it is possible that the idea for the meeting was the Hon. Said’s, and he simply asked Sir Bowen to sit in to strengthen his, Said’s, hand.

At the time of the 1990 Kremandala boycott of Bowen products, Hon. Said was Minister of Sports, and I think that it was he who convinced Sir Bowen to allow for football to go semi-pro in 1991 (quickly followed by basketball in 1992).

In any case, the substantive issue at the meeting was that the gentlemen wanted me to take over the Lake Independence constituency for the PUP, which had just lost power to the United Democratic Party (UDP) in late June. (The PUP’s Carlos Diaz had lost to the UDP’s Hubert Elrington.)

I had resigned from electoral politics in November of 1974, was hauled out of retirement by the PUP for the 1977 Belize City Council election, and then retired again after losing again.

Whatever your skills or credentials, you cannot be successful in Belize’s politics if you do not bow to the power of the Christian churches, which control Belize’s educational system. My brash demand for the teaching of African and Indigenous (Mayan) history in our schools had put me on a collision course with the churches, and consigned me to the minority garbage heap of local politics.

So then, Sir Bowen would have had to throw all his enormous power and influence behind me for me to have any kind of chance in a future election. This is essentially what he had done for Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow in the general election of 1984, because Sir Bowen had a personal beef with Barrow’s opponent, Ralph Fonseca. He did not commit to doing the same for me, that much was clear to me.

Whatever the intrigues behind the Lake Independence offer to myself, what the meetings in Hon. Musa’s offices did (there were at least two of them) was raise the possibility of a scenario which, through a sequence of subsequent events, ended up with my second son, Cordel, taking charge of the PUP’s Lake Independence constituency in 1994 and winning the seat for the blue in 1998.

Cordel has been the Deputy Prime Minister since the PUP returned to office in November of 2020, and his political success has changed the course of history where my public expressions of personal opinion are concerned. I can’t criticize my own grown son. But Kremandala retains a degree of freedom, and our people criticize the present PUP government from time to time. Although I am not personally responsible, as Kremandala chairman I believe I am blamed for any criticisms of the present government by the Kremandala media systems.

The fact of the matter is that Sir Bowen essentially changed Kremandala history in those 1993 meetings. I’m not sure if he knew precisely what he was doing, but I know now for sure that these two heavyweights, Musa and Bowen, were more than I could handle. The point I want to make is that it is possible that I underestimated Sir Bowen. I definitely did not underestimate Rt. Hon. Said, and the subtlety of his role in these meetings (and afterwards) I would say was above my head.

Anyway, I want to end the column with something which is not directly related to what I have been discussing, but something which provides an example of how tricky and treacherous our two- party “democracy” in Belize can be.

When I went to bed late the night of the 2012 general election, it appeared that the PUP was about to win an upset victory over the incumbent UDP. This was of serious concern to me, because I felt there were people in the PUP who would be very antagonistic to me because of a series of events which took place in late 2011 and early 2012. I felt I would be blamed to a certain extent for the fact that neither my son-in-law, Mark Espat, nor my son, Cordel, had run for the PUP in their respective divisions, Albert and Lake I.

As it turned out, the UDP won a couple unexpected seats after I took a sedated sleep, and in so doing eased those fears I spoke of in the previous paragraph. But late the following year, 2013, the Elvin Penner/Citizen KIm passport scandal had thrown the ruling Barrow UDP into a bitter confrontation with Kremandala, and so the UDP I had preferred to win in early 2012 had become my worst enemy by late 2013. Such is the nature of this animal we know as party politics in Belize. Perhaps, “mercurial” would be one adjective to describe the beast.

Power to the people.

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