Publisher — 23 January 2012 — by Evan X Hyde
There are some men who, because of the very same qualities which made them great men in their prime, such as extraordinary focus and determination, begin to make fools of themselves as they age. We see this phenomenon perhaps most often in prize fighting, when famous champions continue boxing long after they should retire. Watching the deterioration can be quite sad, even pathetic.
When that aging great man is a military/political dictator, such as Rafael Trujillo was in the Dominican Republic, then the people that dictator is oppressing sometimes become frustrated and resort to violence.
Belize is blessed with a parliamentary democracy, a system under which we have general elections every five years to choose our political leaders. Our first-past-the-post system is definitely flawed, but it is far better than dictatorship, military or otherwise. We Belizeans should not take our right to vote for granted. Many of earth’s peoples do not have the right of the ballot.
43 years ago this month, Assad Shoman and Said Musa, two young, British-trained attorneys who were traveling magistrates in British Honduras, led a few nights of demonstration on North Front Street against an American movie which was glorifying the war effort of the United States in Vietnam. Among the university graduates carrying placards that first night of the Shoman/Musa demonstration was a 21-year-old English teacher at the Belize Technical College by the name of Evan Hyde.
Those who knew my views because of my day and evening classes at Technical plus a course I had briefly taught at the Extra-Mural Department of the West Indies (Bliss Institute), and specifically the late Robert “Rasta” Livingston, who was the secretary-general of the local branch of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), believed that the Shoman/Musa demonstration was a distraction, so they got me to begin lecturing on Thursday nights at the UNIA’s Liberty Hall on Barracks Road.
Out of those lectures/gatherings, a cultural organization by the name of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) was constituted on February 9, 1969. That cultural organization became so popular that the then ruling People’s United Party (PUP) decided in February of 1970 to imprison two of the UBAD leaders – myself and Ismail Omar Shabazz.
In the aftermath of our acquittal on sedition charges in the Supreme Court on July 7, 1970, I felt that, as president of UBAD, because there would likely be future attempts to jail us and because the political party represented the best machinery for self-defence, UBAD should become a political party. It was a reaction to oppression, and it was a desperate reaction, but in the words of Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
It is important to remember that UBAD was very much a young people’s organization, and at the time the voting age was 21 years. Most of UBAD’s roots and student supporters were therefore ineligible to assist the party with the ballot, but they gave their support in different ways and as best they could. The UBAD Party participated in its first election in December of 1971 as the junior partner in an alliance with the official Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) which contested a Belize City Council election. The NIP/UBAD coalition gained 39 plus percent of the votes, losing to the PUP slate.
In 1973, the UBAD Party split down the middle, so that when I, as president, ran as the party’s Collet constituency candidate in the 1974 general elections, it was the UBAD Party’s swan song in what was our second and final election. I received 4.1 percent of the votes cast in Collet. The PUP’s V. Harrison Courtenay received 46.8 percent of the Collet votes, and the UDP’s Kenneth Tillett lost by a single vote.
In August of 1969, UBAD had established a newspaper, Amandala, which continued after the UBAD Party was dissolved in November of 1974.
In 1993, after narrowly losing the June 30 general elections that year, the defeated PUP approached Amandala publisher Evan X Hyde, the former UBAD president, and asked that he become the PUP’s standard bearer in the Lake Independence constituency, one of the three constituencies formed in 1984 out of the division of the original Collet constituency. Instead, I proposed my second son, Cordel, for the assignment. After some jostling inside the PUP, Cordel Hyde went on to win three consecutive terms for the PUP as Lake Independence area representative.
Cordel’s last victory, in February of 2008, may have been his most impressive, because PUP standard bearers were dropping like flies in what became a landslide victory for the UDP. My son’s performance under adverse conditions has been ignored by the power structure of the PUP, and he has been treated with disrespect, especially during the last 90 days.
I don’t think the present power structure personnel of the PUP know what they are doing. They are behaving personally instead of professionally. For sure this was not Mr. Price’s way. As bitter as was the wrangling between the ruling PUP and UBAD from 1970 to 1974, and remember that the PUP Cabinet actually wanted to imprison yours truly after UBAD folded, Mr. Price in early 1975 sent the late Ray Lightburn to discuss cooperation with me. There are people in the PUP who shout Mr. Price’s name for tea, dinner, and tea, but they have personal instead of party and national agendas. The PUP has been taken over by an aging clique. In these days of the 18-year-old vote (instituted in 1978), senior age is not the asset which it used to be. In the PUP, some people should be coming off the stage instead of trying to decide the future.