The Opposition PUP has focused a lot of its recent propaganda on making Prime Minister Barrow out to be a kind of dictatorial ogre. What? Don’t we have elections in Belize?
For most of our adult lives, there has been a personal rivalry between Mr. Barrow and myself. There have been times when the rivalry was bitter. Our mothers were first cousins. I am about four years older than himself. Our fathers were both civil servants, and neighbors. The most intriguing tie between us was the close relationship between his father, Artie Barrow, and my maternal uncle, Buck Belisle, who was Dean Barrow’s godfather.
I have heard PUP propagandists insist that Dean Barrow was born to wealth, but this is simply not true. Dean Barrow passed three Advanced Level subjects out of St. Michael’s College Sixth Form, if I remember correctly, but he failed the General Paper. Now, the General Paper is only an English essay, and his failure here is simply incomprehensible. Mr. Barrow comes from a family with a history of English language skills, and he himself is clearly an expert in the language. How could he possibly have failed the General Paper?
And, the thing is, you could not get a scholarship to university without the General Paper. In fact, when I went to teach English at the Belize Technical College in September of 1968, there were several students on the Technical campus with two and three “A” Levels who could not pass General Paper, and hence could not get university scholarships.
My understanding is that Dean Barrow’s late mother, Mrs. Joyce Lindo Barrow, left Belize to work in New York City to help pay her eldest son’s fees at the University of the West Indies. Although Dean Barrow and I had a friendly, conversational relationship roughly between 1983 and 1986, I have never asked him about the General Paper incident or matters incidental thereto.
This General Paper incident must have happened right around the time I returned from school in the States, which was 1968, or soon after in 1969. Because I cannot understand how Barrow could possibly fail General Paper, I am inclined to be suspicious. This was a time of vicious political victimization on the ruling PUP’s part. They were “in the heights of their glory,” and if you came from a family with an anti-PUP background, as Dean Barrow did, all kinds of bad things were likely to happen to you.
Returning from Jamaica with his law degree in 1974, Dean Barrow benefited from joining his uncle’s law firm just before that uncle, Dean Russell Lindo, was about to take the new Opposition UDP into its glory years, between late 1974 and late 1979. In addition, Dean Barrow made a very good first marriage around 1978 to the former Lois Young, herself an attorney but one who was favored by the ruling PUP.
The years between 1974 and 1979, when Dean Barrow was laying the foundation for his later political successes, were almost precisely the years when my personal star was plummeting in Belize City. Between 1969 and 1972, I had been a community hero amongst black youth, and even some older black Belizeans. When I was going down, Dean Barrow was going up.
Being a hero is an exhilarating feeling. The high is better than any drug you can try. But, the high is, ultimately, unsustainable. Reality has to set in at some point. Dean Barrow had experienced the high of heroism in 1983 and 1984, even 1993, but becoming Prime Minister in 2008 was positively euphoric. Today, reality has set in for Mr. Barrow. The fact that Belize suffers from those problems which Third World nations are fighting all over planet earth, apart from the international economic downturn, is making Dean Barrow’s job harder and harder going forward.
If this essay is seen as defending Dean, wait a while, and you will see the opposite. I wanted to set the record straight on Barrow’s early years. His dad was a humble, though highly proficient pharmacist. Dean Barrow was not born to wealth: he achieved it.
Insofar as the personal rivalry between us, this is, to an extent, a function of our very different personalities. My late uncle had a gambler’s instincts, and so do I. Dean Barrow’s father played like “the house” – always the percentages. The Prime Minister is usually like his father – safety first. Such an attitude is usually referred to as a “responsible” one. Powerful opponents of his are attempting to make Mr. Barrow out to be otherwise than I have known him to be. That’s how I am seeing it on this Sunday morning, July 3, 2011.