Politics is so big in Belize that if you are a political loser, there is little you can say in defense of your dignity. You can’t explain to people why things happened the way they did, especially when you have someone as loud and persuasive as Michael Finnegan castigating and ridiculing you for decades every opportunity he gets. In this matter of political losing, of course, I’m referring to yours truly.
On Saturday morning, I asked Cordel to come and see me. I said to him as follows, “Son, I’ve been hard on you, both to your face and behind your back. I want to say right now that I’m proud of your political success, and I will support you in any way I can.”
Since Lake Independence became a political constituency in 1984, no one had won the division twice in a row before Cordel achieved the feat in 1998 and 2003. Now he will seek a third consecutive term. This would be truly impressive, especially in view of the fact that the party he represents is the underdog party according to all the polls we have available.
There is a reason why the PUP is the underdog party. It is because they began to think power was their “divine right,” to use a medieval term. Personally, I would not have remained in such an organization once they became megalomaniac, and that is precisely why Kremandala separated from the PUP on December 28, 2004. And it is a perfect example of why I am not a politician.
Cordel (and Mark) chose to remain in the party, and one has to consider that decision as a sensible and pragmatic one, politically speaking. The business of a politician is to run in elections, and it is to win elections. I am not a politician. I am a writer who was charged for a political crime (seditious conspiracy) in February of 1970, and then decided that the defence against future such charges was to transform the organization I led, from a cultural one into a political one. This August 1970 move was a useless exercise, given the first-past-the-post system, which existed then and exists now. It would only have worked in the system of proportional representation.
There have been two basic keys to political success in Belize. The first is that you must run on the ticket of one of the two major parties. The second is that you must make sure you do not quarrel with any of the major Christian churches. I have seen absolute idiots elected to the House of Representatives here once they followed those two rules – run for a major party and say your “Our Father.”
The successes of UBAD have not been recognized. In the first instance, the 18-year-old vote, which was adopted by the PUP in 1978, was an original UBAD Party demand from 1970. The PUP gave the 18 vote because they wanted to appeal to UBAD voters. (The PUP won in 1979.) The freeing of Belize’s radio waves was conceded by the PUP in July 1989 after years of UBAD and Amandala agitation. The PUP gave KREM Radio a licence because they wanted to appeal to UBAD voters. (They won in September 1989.) And finally, in 1998 the PUP agreed to the teaching of African and Mayan history in our schools. The PUP introduced African and Mayan history because they wanted to appeal to UBAD voters. And the PUP won in August 1998.
This last UBAD demand was the one which had angered and alienated the major Christian churches here. Once UBAD insisted on this, then UBAD could not hope to gain majority support in Belize. In fact, to this day the UDP refuses to endorse African and Mayan history, presumably because they know that the major churches do not like the concept. And the UDP, apparently, does not care about UBAD voters.
Whenever Mark and/or Cordel consult me on any major decision, they always have the final say. As young as they are compared to me, their political views have more weight than mine, because they have a record of political success. I respect that, big time. These two young men know what they are doing.
During everything that has happened since August of 2004, family has been an important consideration. I know that my political adventures between 1971 and 1977 caused stress for my family members. But that period was my most creative as a writer, so for me it was not a complete waste of time. I was in the streets for most of those years, and I became very close to my people.
The disaster which ended my political adventures was running last in a Belize City Council election in December of 1977. My younger brother Ronald, who is now a physician in Arizona, was then living with me at our family home on West Canal. I think he was helping to edit our newspaper at the time. It was he who received a phone call from his Belmopan schoolmate/friend, Eamon Courtenay, giving all the bad election news the morning after the counting.
It turned out that when Cordel Hyde was nominated as the Lake Independence candidate for the August 1998 general elections, Ronald was in town. I remember seeing him observing the great crowd support as Cordel’s nomination march left Kremandala to proceed to the Complex Building on Mahogany Street. I think that tears were in both my eyes and Ronald’s. Our family honor would be properly represented after more than twenty years.
I have wandered in this essay, and I hope you understand why – my emotions are high. My children are now in charge of the politics and business of our family, and they have generally been more successful than I. I have no problem with that. I know that UBAD laid the foundation for these things, and I know also that my time on the stage is over.
We’re in good hands with Cordel. His hands are good hands. He had to learn everything from scratch, beginning in 1994, and he had to learn the hard way. He’s made mistakes, but all of us do. I love to see how close he and his committee are. They have been there for each other. I endorse you, Cordel, and I do so with pride. Respect.