Editorial — 26 January 2019
It will be anything but honest on April 10

The ruling UDP government, under the leadership of Hon. Dean Barrow, declared on Tuesday that its entire elected leadership (Cabinet) was supporting a YES vote in the referendum set for April 10, 2019. This could be a response to the country’s main opposition, the PUP, which had indicated that it would declare against the special agreement (to go to the ICJ). (The PUP made their NO position official on Wednesday.)

Parliamentary democracy, definitely in Belize, means that whatever the ruling party proposes, the main opposition party will stand against. On the surface it does appear to be a reversal of roles, but this saga has been going on so long it all depends on where you choose to begin.

It is for sure that these declarations will affect the local landscape for some time. The UDP, as a party, is not united in its YES position, and the PUP, as a party, is not united in its NO position. There are traditional PUP voters who support the government’s position in this case, and there are traditional UDP voters who support the PUP’s position in this case.

For the majority of us, what happens on the local landscape pales beside the existential decision we have to make on April 10. The story is “to go or not to go” to the ICJ, and this united stand declared by UDP leadership gives the YES section of the nation a THIRD unfair advantage.

The first unfair advantage is the disenfranchisement of Belizeans who live abroad. Whatever the costs/difficulties to allow Belizeans abroad to participate in the vote, we cannot run from the fact that Belize is their native land. The natural position on the ICJ matter is NO (who would, without serious contemplation, say YES to the special agreement?), and the voices from out there have largely indicated that this is where they stand at this time. There might be sufficient excuses, but the fact on the ground is that cutting them off decreases opposition to the special agreement.

Many Belizeans who live abroad, dream of returning home. Of course, some migrants adapt and become full-fledged citizens of the country to which they migrated to, participating fully in the politics and the culture of their new home. There are a few Belizeans who fall into this category. The Belizean in their identity is long pushed into the recesses of their minds and hearts. They might feel a thrill when they read or hear of some Belizean making good in the world, but that is passing.

There are those who are Belizean to the bone still (there are many), and it is such a shame that they are being denied the opportunity to participate in the decision on this special agreement. These Belizeans dream of returning home, and they expect that they will meld into the national fabric seamlessly when they do. It is not likely that their being “denied” will make these Belizeans love Belize less. It is for sure that their being “denied” cuts them deeply.

The second dishonest decision (unfair advantage?) is including naturalized Belizeans who have had such status for less than twenty years. This group couldn’t possibly have lived in Belize long enough to grasp what the Guatemalan claim means to native-born Belizeans. They most likely are dispassionate when they deliberate on the matter. How can one who is not native to our land appreciate the consequences of this vote?

Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott, wrote: “Breathes there the man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land!”  Belize is not the “native” land of naturalized Belizeans.

That is not to put down persons who have made the decision to make our country their home. We cherish naturalized Belizeans who love, respect, and try to make our country better. We are just about being true. Only a few naturalized persons ever make their adopted home first in their hearts. Naturalized Belizeans will have to have lived here many years to love our country that much. They will have to have set down deep roots, maybe even have children who were born here.

There are Mexican-Americans who cheer for EL Tri, the mighty national football team of Mexico, whenever that team goes to the United States to play against that country’s national team.

It is the same everywhere. When the national teams/championship clubs from neighboring countries come to Belize, they are always assured of a fan base here to cheer alongside the fans that accompany them on the trip. The land where we were born would have to make our lives hell, before we lose the love and condemn the land of our navel string.

Finally, now, thanks to the UDP committing its political machinery to the YES cause, there is a third unfair gain for that position. The leaders of the UDP might not have the credibility to sway Belizeans to a YES vote, but their decision is much more than their capacity as politicians to convince the undecided. It has to do with cold, hard cash.

The UDP is bolstered by the nation’s treasury, and international funding that is in support of a YES vote. It is unlikely (nigh impossible) that the PUP, or the small parties, can muster equal resources in support of the NO vote.

Even if they were capable of doing so, and were so inclined, they have to consider that in our country the ruling party can snap off an election at any time. If the PUP and other opposition parties committed their resources to April 10, they would be absolutely vulnerable to the ruling party, which has shown that it isn’t shy about seizing the moment to increase its chances at the polls.

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Deshawn Swasey

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