The right wing, anti-communist Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), led by the late Dean Lindo, was widely expected to win the 1979 general election, but the incumbent People’s United Party (PUP), led by the late, Rt. Hon. George Price, won a surprise victory and went on to lead Belize to independence in September of 1981.
Assad Shoman and Said Musa were controversial PUP candidates in that 1979 election, because they were considered left wing, pro-Cuban, and even communist. Shoman won his seat in Cayo North, and Musa won his in Fort George, whereupon Assad became Minister of Health, and Said was appointed Minister of Education and Sports in Mr. Price’s new Cabinet.
There were two initiatives pushed by the Hon. Musa which may have been inspired by highly successful models in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. One was the Belize College of Arts, Science and Technology (BELCAST), which was immediately smashed by the UDP when they came to power in 1984. The other was the National Sports Council, of which I was supposed to be the first Chairman after the legislation was finished being prepared in early 1980.
Early in 1980, I was introduced as the projected NSC Chairman to leaders of Belizean sports in a luncheon at the old Premier’s Lodge, and with the backing of the new Sports Minister, we organized a Sports Spectacular for early March at the MCC Garden. The event was hugely successful, whereupon we scheduled another such for May 24.
I myself was controversial in Belizean sports at the time, not because I was any kind of left wing ideologue, but because it was known that I was in favor of some kind of professionalism at the highest levels in Belizean sports.
The internationally-affiliated sports establishment in this country had been led by the late Gilmore Hinkson, and by 1980 it included people like Ned Pitts and Hilly Martinez. All these personalities were dedicated to absolute amateurism as philosophically represented by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
After the first (and only) Sports Spectacular in early March of 1980, there was a meeting of sports leaders held at the old Riverside Hall. Remember now, Coca Cola, the giant transnational which is the power behind the very influential Barry Bowen group of companies, views sports as an essential component in its international marketing strategy. At that Riverside Hall meeting, one of Belize’s “big men” in softball and basketball, a man I knew to be a loyalist of the Bowen group, said that the Olympic Committee in Belize was having problems with certain aspects of the National Sports Council legislation.
I understood this to mean that the NSC under my chairmanship would come into conflict with the Bowen empire, and, trust me, in 1980 I personally was in no kind of position to fight with King Street and Southern Foreshore. I went to Mr. Musa, with whom I was close friends at the time, and told him it would be best if he chose someone else to lead the NSC. That is why there was never a second Sports Spectacular.
I never asked Mr. Musa if he was willing to fight the Bowen group and the Olympic people. I never have. It may well have been that I overreacted to the Riverside Hall comment. It may also have been that I underestimated Mr. Musa. But I don’t think that last was the problem. I believe, more than anything else, that I did not want to put him in a position which was going to become very messy.
After the PUP’s election defeat in 1984, it appears that Mr. Musa began to change his political and philosophical views. In 1980, however, when he was beginning to put the National Sports Council and BELCAST together, Said Musa had views on education and sports which would have been considered revolutionary by the Belizean establishment in these disciplines.
Power to the people.