While it is almost never applicable or relevant to compare situations in our little Belize with those in the superpower United States of America, the recent acquisition of the Bank of Nova Scotia by the Lord Michael group of companies would not be allowed in the United States because it is in violation of their anti-trust laws. What I mean is that control of Scotia, in addition to his ownership of the Belize Bank, places too much power in Lord Ashcroft’s hands where Belize’s critical banking sector is concerned, and there are laws in the U.S. to prevent this sort of situation from developing in the republic.
Lord Ashcroft recently toured some poor areas of southern Belize, and the photographs he published on social media gave evidence that he was treated with some modicum of cordiality. In fact, we have heard that he takes exercise walks in the seafront area of Belize City, and that there has never been any sense that Belizeans in his vicinity consider him persona non grata.
Yes, a couple weeks ago two or three members of FECTAB and a Christian Workers Union (CWU) stevedore were hauled off by the police when they attempted to speak to Lord Ashcroft, while they were waiting for him to finish an on-air interview on his personal television station – Channel 5.
But, overall, one would have to say that Lord Ashcroft enjoys fantastic public relations in poverty-stricken Belize for a man who has been gouging hundreds of millions, billions even, out of our consolidated funds and our private pockets. There is no hatred of Lord Michael in Belize. It seems to me that there is only a form of bemusement, or perhaps puzzlement.
Who is this guy, and what does he want? He keeps taking huge gobs of our money, but he has more money than he can spend if he lives another hundred years, which he won’t. So, it is likely that there is more than a money factor here. There is something going on in Lord Ashcroft’s mind which is a mystery.
All we can look at is that biographical fact that he spent a year or so in British Honduras around 1958 when he was 11 or 12 years old. He went to school at the primary school section of St. Catherine Academy (SCA), which we boys in public schools like Holy Redeemer Boys at the time used to refer to as “convent.” Other notables in school with him at “convent” were the late Sir Barry Bowen and the one John Waight, an orthopedic surgeon who is still practising his profession at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. It was assumed by us in public schools that these “convent” boys were soft. They were all from prominent, wealthy, white or “high color” families in the colony.
Lord Ashcroft’s father was a British civil servant, and the family’s posting time in the colony of British Honduras was limited to, as I said, perhaps a year or so. In 1985, as I understand it, the year after Belize achieved political independence, with Michael Ashcroft now a successful British businessman, he was invited back to Belize by his old schoolmate, John Waight, and in a few years’ time, by 1993 in fact, Michael Ashcroft begins to show us that we are dunces, corrupt, gullible, and so on and so forth.
The key Ashcroft move, apart from acquiring the former Royal Bank of Canada in the late 1980s, was gaining control of Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) on June 29 of 1993, the day before the June 30, 1993 general election in Belize. It was one of the late Rt. Hon. George Price’s worst moves ever, because the previous Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel, had crafted legislation specifically to ensure that no such individual as Lord Ashcroft could acquire the so-called “golden share” in BTL and control Belize’s telecommunications industry. Mr. Price, presumably under the influence/pressure of Glenn Godfrey and, I believe, Ralph Fonseca, destroyed Dr. Esquivel’s legislation. He opened the door for the octopus to use BTL to strangle us.
Lord Ashcroft is a humble man in demeanor. He actually visited us, unannounced, on Partridge Street after the general election in 1993, which the PUP lost in a stunning upset to the UDP. But, of course, Lord Ashcroft is nothing to play with. He has proven himself an absolutely brilliant businessman who is able to identify and corral Belize’s best talents in law, politics, business, media, and so on and so forth.
We Belizeans now have to get the sense, as we would say. We need to figure out, or try to figure out, who the hell is this guy and what really is his game. It seems to me that he wants money, yes, he always wants money, but Lord Michael Ashcroft, if you really think about it, is a psychological mystery we Belizeans need to solve, and fast. He is the Gordian Knot which we must unloose, and preferably now.
Power to the people.