Last week we submitted some questions for the Rt. Hon. Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize from 1998 to 2008. These questions were rhetorical questions, which is to say, they were questions to which we know the answers, or, think we know the answers.
Mr. Musa was never the dreamer and adventurer that Assad Shoman was, but because he was a faithful friend to Assad, Said basked in the aura of revolutionary romance which surrounded Mr. Shoman. You must understand that this aura was a magnetic field which drew young university students to its energy in the middle and late 1960s, especially if those young university students belonged to ancestral groupings which were being oppressed by European world dominance. In the case of Mr. Shoman and Mr. Musa, they are of Palestinian descent on their fathers’ side, so in the boiling intellectual cauldron which was London, they discovered identity and cause in the sizzling sixties.
Electoral political success for Mr. Shoman and Mr. Musa was slow in coming in the 1970s in Belize, and by the early 1980s it had become clear that this success would be limited by some political realities within the political party they had chosen as their vehicle for socio-economic change – the ruling, undefeated People’s United Party (PUP), led by the charismatic George Cadle Price.
Then, in 1984, came political disaster for the aforementioned attorneys. The PUP lost their first general election ever, and it was by a landslide margin. Both Shoman and Musa lost their seats, even Mr. Price himself. It is important to understand that the party was rebuilt after that 1984 shocker, because then you will understand why Mr. Musa felt his hands were tied, as it were, when he resumed his political career on a solo basis, Mr. Shoman having withdrawn from electoral politics after 1984.
There are some people, like Joe Coye, who have sought to take some credit for the rebuilding of the PUP after 1984, but all we can is say what we saw from our position as political observers. Mr. Price was tired after 1984; perhaps more important, in a way he was content, because the elusive Holy Grail had been achieved, after much arduous effort, in 1981. The people who rebuilt the PUP and masterminded its surprise victory in September of 1989 were two of Mr. Price’s personal protégés – Glenn Godfrey and Ralph Fonseca.
Mr. Musa had become close to Mr. Price because he had become a family member, so to speak, but Mr. Musa’s dad, the late Hamid, had been a known, prominent official of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) during the 1950s and 1960s. In the cases of Glenn and Ralph, however, their PUP credentials were absolutely impeccable.
When he became PUP Leader in 1996, and then Prime Minister in 1998, Said Musa felt, for different reasons, that he was bound to stand by and for Glenn and Ralph at all times. This is not to say that Mr. Musa did not benefit personally from his troika relationship with Glenn and Ralph: assuredly, he did. But, it is to say that, because of his absolute commitment to these two, Mr. Musa made big mistakes. He made a big mistake on the morning of Sunday, August 30, 1998, when he was forming his Cabinet. He made a big mistake in the afternoon of Saturday, August 14, 2004, when he travelled to San Joaquin.
Even though the political system of Belize is considered a parliamentary democracy, we have, in a de facto sense, caudillo politics in Belize at the level of the Prime Minister. This is because, as our political system has been operated, the Prime Minister of Belize has power which can only be described as extraordinary: Belizean Prime Ministers are caudillos. And, their close associates know that. So, Prime Ministers cannot “play simple.” They have the might to make it right, whatever and whenever and for whomever.
By Belizean standards, Mr. Musa has been a very successful politician and he has become a very wealthy man. He has eaten his cake. But, now he wants to have that cake. He appears to feel some nostalgia for the aura of revolutionary romance in which he used to bask. He would like to have 1989 to 2008 be glossed over, and he would like his revolutionary credibility of 1969 to 1984 to be given some attention.
We don’t think that Mr. Musa can have his cake after he has eaten it. Perhaps a sophisticated public relations campaign can do this for him in areas of Belize where Kremandala is of no account. On the Southside of Belize City, however, Kremandala is of account, and we know Mr. Musa better than anyone else in the media field. He should let it go, and move aside for his children to emerge from the shadows. As time goes along, the fact that he took courageous stands as a young man and that he was an activist, as they say, will neutralize some of his more recent neoliberal adventures. For now, though, we Belizeans have this superbond in a tight grip around our collective neck. And, we know on whose watch Glenn and Ralph were frolicking. This is real.