There is no dearth of candidates to vie for the hundreds of leadership positions in the village councils, the town and city councils, and the House of Representatives in our country, and there is no shortage of charisma in those who succeed in the elections, but oh, if all it took to make good leaders was popularity! If popularity was all that was demanded of leaders, Belize would not be in the chaos it is in today.
Belize needs a lot of investment in leadership. It is a fact that we were a better run country when we were a colony, and we can say that because there were few reports of corruption in our political leaders and partisanship in our top public servants, and we were a tranquil haven. Our country wasn’t being run for the greater glory of Belizeans, but there was order in our nation and respect for governance systems across the land. Our bold step to nationhood was taken so that the country would be run for the greater glory of Belizeans. Order and respect we inherited, and they were pillars to build on.
It is useless to tell lies to ourselves. Modern Belize was founded in the seventeenth century by European (mostly English and Scottish) outcasts who bought slaves to do the bulk of their labor. In time, the outcasts and the slaves were joined in nation building by the people who were native to this area, and others. Over time, British governors and other administrators were brought in, and it is they who ensured that there was order in our nation and respect for governance systems over the years.
The British have their sins, for sure — vile, unforgettable sins, but for our purpose here we will zero in on one of their virtues. They, the British, over time had inculcated in their people the fundamentals that create leaders and citizens who prize order and respect in a nation.
When we Belizeans took over the reins of leadership, we not only rejected the sins of the British, we, unfortunately, rejected some of their virtues too. One virtue we jettisoned is their honor code, which is one of the foundation stones of the British system of governance we inherited. In the British system, they refer to their elected leaders as, “Honorable”. Many of our leaders are not. Many of our leaders are patently dishonorable, and they have made a mockery of the system.
They are dishonorable, and they are immersed in the art of staying in power. On October 15, after reading the book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, by Doris Goodwin, and while reflecting on all the issues of office, the mayor of Belize City, Bernard Wagner, wrote that Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the USA (1901-1909), insisted that politics should not be viewed as a proper occupation, that Roosevelt believed that as a citizen one might intermittently engage in political activity, but it would be “a dreadful misfortune for a man to grow to feel that his whole livelihood and whole happiness depend upon his staying in office. Such a feeling prevents him from being of real service to the people while in office, and always puts him under the heaviest strain to barter his convictions for the sake of holding office.”
Our political leaders are immersed in strategies to hold on to power and this has prevented them from becoming better leaders. What we have is popularity without capacity, humility, and integrity. We need to build capacity, pray for humility, and demand integrity.
We need leaders who recognize the tremendous weakness in leadership across the nation. Earlier this year we held village council elections, electing about 1200 Belizeans to conduct affairs in the villages across this country. They need more than occasional seminars to help them develop their leadership skills. They should be undergoing intense training so that they learn about our Constitution and management of the resources in their village.
In national government we need leaders who will rack their brains late into the night to come up with solutions for our problems; leaders who will be grateful for their chance at the helm and so will devote themselves to serving, not to creating opportunities for themselves; leaders who live like the masses, not like kings and queens; leaders who spurn petty, vindictive behavior.
In national government we need leaders who have the vision to see the way forward in this changing world, so that our people are not displaced, as is happening now, so that our people are not without hope, as they are now. We need leaders who respect our democracy, that it is not only of and by the people but also FOR the people; leaders who run transparent government, so that the people see what they are doing; leaders who ensure that there are the essential checks and balances in government, so when they dishonor the system they are kicked out. We need leaders who respect the title, “Honorable”.
Heaven knows we need our leaders to be better.
Hon. Barrow and Hon. Briceño spoke out against gender violence
At the last sitting of the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Laura Tucker-Longsworth, spoke about our horrific murder rate, and two recent reports of violence against women, one an allegation of choking, and the other a case of extremely vicious cyber bullying. The men who stood accused of gross behavior against women were sons of two Cabinet ministers in the Barrow government. The Speaker called on Parliamentarians to go beyond words and make serious efforts that would tangibly address the problems of murder, gender violence, and cyber bullying in our country.
At the close of the session the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño, did not hold back when he lambasted the behavior of the two men, and neither did the Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow, hold back on expressing his disgust with men in our society who are doing harm to our women when he spoke his last words at the House for the year.
Both gentlemen noted that these incidents occurred at a time when we had just completed sixteen days of activism against gender violence, a program spearheaded by the Prime Minister’s wife, the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow.
Gender violence, while that encompasses any violence involving the two sexes, is largely a story of men physically assaulting women. Men beating women is unacceptable, and we must fight it with all the tools we possess.