I don’t feel any sense of envy with respect to those of my contemporaries who have become personally wealthy over the last three, four, five decades. Of course I wish I possessed their material assets, but life was what it was, and it is what it is. They worked hard.
The purpose of this column is to take a look back at the socio-political process in Belize involving the decision to submit the Guatemalan claim to Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration and judgment. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall any wealthy Belizean who campaigned against the ICJ move. The money people (“Friends of Belize”) abroad and the money people at home, were of a similar mind.
I think the ICJ referendum campaign process drove me into a kind of depression, and one of the reasons was because it seemed to me there was really nowhere someone who did not want to go to the ICJ could turn. It seemed that the decision, supposedly to be made by the sovereign Belizean people, who had theoretically been independent since 1981, was being orchestrated above our Belizean heads, and more than that, all of our powerful, wealthy native entities were going along for the ride.
I come from a generation of Belizeans who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. In the United States, this generation is referred to as the “Baby Boomers,” because after the end of World War II, there was an increase in births in Western Europe and the American world, which had defeated the Axis forces in the 1939 to 1945 conflict.
Well, even those of us who came from families which were opposed to the Rt. Hon. George Price-led ruling People’s United Party (PUP), a working class party which was considered pro- Guatemalan by almost all the civil service personnel and other middle class families, were living in an atmosphere where we thought we, as maturing Belizeans, had a destiny, a place in the regional scheme of things where we would be more than just the submissive
“British subjects” our parents, grandparents, great grands, and so on, had grown up as. In other words, my generation of Belizeans was anticolonial, or, at the very least, psychologically post-colonial, as it were.
I can never get enough of listening to Sandra Coye discuss India’s role in the scheme of the post-World War II selfrule energies and initiatives in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the rest of theworld where the British Empire had been lord and master for centuries. India, Britain’s richest and most populous colonial possession, achieved independence in 1947 and began a process which took ten years before we saw the first British colony in Africa, Ghana, move to political independence under Kwame Nkrumah.
I know hardly anything about India, apart from reading Freedom at Midnight more than four decades ago.Written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in 1975, this is a book which discusses the triumph and tragedy of India’s independence, which involved the birth of Pakistan, and the massive internecine bloodshed which occurred thereupon in the original India, where India and Pakistan had been one entity and where Hindus and Muslims had lived together in peace from time immemorial. At the time of independence, India was the Hindu-controlled part and Pakistan the Muslim-controlled section of what had
been one India under the British. The British allowed partition. They must have known Muslims would be in trouble who lived in Hindu India, and Hindus would be in trouble who lived in Muslim Pakistan. Anyway, this is a very long story and one you will have to research on your own.
The point is that when I became a teenager in the early 1960s, we Belizeans were thinking, despite the military threats by Guatemala’s bombastic President/ General Ydigoras Fuentes, that we were going to become a nation-state and that we would have a proud role to play in the region somewhere down the road.
We were definitely a Christian/ capitalist society in the 1960s, and it appears to me that there was a point after Mr. Price had finally led us to independence in 1981, when a small, special section of Belizeans, mostly attorneys, and they came from both the two major political parties, began to see possibilities for massive self-enrichment, possibilities which were not, strictly speaking, in violation of Belize’s Christian/capitalist ethos.
Enter the Britisher Michael Ashcroft in 1985. He gained the upper hand in 1993, when he got control of Belize’s telecommunications, and today it’s a case for Belizeans where, to parody the words of “Sixteen Tons,” every day older we’re deeper in debt. We Belizeans are in a very bad situation financially, a frightening situation, the broad masses of us, that is. But a few of us have entered a Nirvana of riches since the 1980s, and every single one of these individuals and families supported going to the ICJ. Surely, they must have known why they took up such a position.
Myself, I couldn’t buy the ICJ argument, but at the same time, I had learned enough over all the years of being beaten down that this was a fight I, and others like me, could not win. This is not to say that there were not others who were thinking anti-ICJ like me who did not fight heroically to prevent the possible dismemberment of Belize. But I was not one of those who fought heroically, because I thought I had learned enough to know, or at least believe, that this ICJ game was a game that had already been decided.
In this unprecedented era of COVID- 19, the ICJ is not a subject which receives air time anywhere in The Jewel. The world, our world, has been turned completely topsy-turvy in 2020. And it seems that things will become worse before they become better.
I am not writing this column to try to sway your opinion one way or the other. I have said to you that I have two grown sons who are prominent in Belizean public life today, one in party politics and one in trade unionism. I am basically in retirement, and seek advice and information from my sons, rather than vice versa.
At the close of the epilogue of my book, Sports, Sin and Subversion (written in 2008), I said, with regards to Belizean sports, “Here I am now with a broken heart in the third millennium.” In ending this column, I would say the same thing with respect to those Belizeans who have triumphed on the personal level in Belize’s Christianity/capitalism. Congratulations, and best wishes. You broke my heart, Fredo.
Power to the people.