I am fairly certain the photograph accompanying this column is of a People’s United Party (PUP) parade to celebrate the release from Her Majesty’s Prison in 1952 of two of their leaders — Leigh Richardson and Philip Goldson. They had been sentenced in 1951 in the British Honduras Supreme Court to eighteen months imprisonment (with hard labor) on a weak charge of sedition. I believe Richardson and Goldson served a year “back a Baptist.”
I ran across the photo while fiddling around with some of the photos we have accumulated in our newspaper files since we went offset in 1977.
Leigh Richardson would be the man with the hat on the back of the truck, leaning over the cab. Mr. Goldson would be on his left, wearing glasses.
The former editor of our newspaper, Russell Vellos, has suggested that it appears to him that the photo was taken on Regent Street West, by his late Aunt Norma Young’s home. I tend to agree.
So, what would be anybody’s interest in such a photo? The main thing is just history. Leigh Richardson was the leader of the PUP in 1956, when he, along with Goldson, who I believe was Secretary or Assistant Secretary of the party, split with the PUP, and Rt. Hon. George Price became PUP leader for the first time. (The first PUP leader, back in 1950, had been Johnny Smith.)
You will note that in the photo you do not see anybody who is anything else but black in color. The change in ethnic demographic in Belize has been massive and dramatic.
I am not an expert on the Israel-Palestine issue. I do know that the Middle East (so-called region) in question was hugely Palestinian back in the first part of the twentieth century. Israel became Israel in 1948, and the Palestinians largely became refugees, in land they had considered their own. The process of changing Palestine into Israel was “big people business,” where the Western superpowers are concerned, “big people” being, primarily, in the Israel-Palestine case, Great Britain.
There is an island called Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean a distance from off the coast of East Africa. It was British-controlled, but the Americans felt they needed the island for strategic purposes where monitoring China was concerned. The natives of Diego Garcia were arbitrarily taken off the island, and it became an American military base. Big people business.
After Hurricane Hattie in late October of 1961, a surprise announcement came out of what was then the United States Consulate on Gabourel Lane: any Belizean with a legal relative in the U.S. would be allowed to travel to America as hurricane refugees. The announcement was warmly welcomed by Belizeans.
The announcement marked the quiet beginning of a serious change in the ethnic demographic of the land then known as British Honduras, which became self-governing in 1964, changed its name to Belize in 1973, and then became politically independent in 1981. Big people business.
People like us at this newspaper give the greatest respect to the late Fidel Castro of Cuba, but we must always remember that he had a big brother at critical moments called Russia.
Let’s move on. In 1977, United States president Jimmy Carter put a ban on the sale of American arms to the Guatemalan government, which was locked in a bloody civil war with leftist guerrillas and its Indigenous inhabitants. Among the countries which stepped in to fill the Guatemalan government’s armaments needs were Israel and Taiwan.
The United States Southern Command, its military control arm in Central America, used to be based in Panama, but I believe it is now based in another of the regional republics. My point is that Washington is the big boy in these parts.
U.S. President Joe Biden has responded to the recent Hamas attack on Israel by declaring that he will give full support to Israel. I think most scholars feel Israel is not in need of military assistance the way the Ukraine is. Israel receives three billion dollars (U.S.) in military aid from Washington every year.
This week the PUP government essentially gave the blessing to petroleum exploration in Toledo by an American oil company. This is a legally elected government, so all we can do is wonder what are the implications down the road. Some years ago we tapped into an oil well near Spanish Lookout and we began exporting petroleum. The oil soon ran out, and we were left with damaged highways, which we had to repair ourselves.
I say all this to say that when I watch the photograph of our forebears celebrating the release from prison of Richardson and Goldson 71 years ago, I know that none of their euphoric supporters had the slightest idea what they believed was our country would end up being in 2023. I’m just saying. There’s a thing called the ICJ, and big people run the world.