I, as Aeneas our great ancestor
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
Did I the tired Caesar – and this man
Is now become a god, and Cassius is
A wretched creature, and must bend his body
If Caesar carelessly but nod on him.
– JULIUS CAESAR, Act I, sc. ii, l. 112-118.
With each passing day, the people of Belize are seeing that we are living in a country which is hopelessly corrupt. Why is this so, when our citizens, by and large, are God-fearing and peace-loving? Belize is hopelessly corrupt because we Belizeans are the prisoners of a constitutional system of governance which is not dedicated to truth, honesty, and justice, but which was designed, in the first instance, to ensure that elected governments survive their five-year term of office, no matter what. All the mechanisms, structures, and institutions of public office and service, function to protect the elected government and to intimidate those who would wish to challenge it. The goal of whoever crafted Belize this constitution was to ensure political stability. The price we have paid for that political stability is hopeless corruption.
Along with that corruption has come a climate of fear in our communities, if we are to judge from the 2017 status quo in our largest population center – Belize City. Violent murders are committed, occasionally even in broad daylight, and often the gunmen do not even wear masks. But, in most cases the police cannot find anyone who is willing to admit that he or she saw the murderer(s). Those brave souls who initially agree to testify, most often change their minds by the time the case is being tried in Supreme Court. Those few who are braver than brave and insist on performing their civic duty of testifying, have themselves been murdered.
Two weeks ago a Belizean man who was exercising on the Philip Goldson Highway within what Belizeans consider Belize City limits disappeared into thin air. A surveillance camera at one of the gas stations on that stretch of the highway between Pallotti and Biltmore registered his image walking at 5:27 a.m. the morning he disappeared. 5:27 a.m. in this July month is broad daylight in Belize. So then, a grown, healthy, normal male citizen not only disappeared into thin air: he disappeared in broad daylight. Mark Pollard’s disappearance is truly sensational. Yet, no one really skipped a beat in Belize City.
Belize has become one of the most violent and dangerous places on planet earth, and this descent into corruption and crime began with the attainment of political independence in September of 1981. The elected politicians of Belize, whether the government be of the People’s United Party (PUP) or of the United Democratic Party (UDP), became gods in office after independence. It became clear that they could do anything they wanted when they were in Cabinet, and the rest of us got the sense. Truly, Belize became every man for himself and God for us all.
When the massive migration of Belizeans to the United States began after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the vast majority of those Belizeans were of the opinion that they were leaving a land of swamps which was condemned to eternal backwardness and poverty, and they were heading to a dreamland where the streets were paved with gold. The masses of the Belizean people had heard about oil companies fooling around in Belize (remember W. Ford Young, and Gulf?), but our people were basically ignorant about whatever oil doings.
CNN has reported that 40,000 civilians have died in the city of Mosul as a result of the fighting between Iraqi government forces and ISIS. The human tragedy in nearby Syria is even worse, but the situation in Syria is a bit more complex than in Iraq. In Iraq, the problem, at its root, involves Iraq’s huge petroleum reserves, and the fight to control those resources. Syria also has oil wells, but the crisis there also has to do with its strategic location. In both cases, nevertheless, it is a classic case of the elephants fighting and the grass being trampled, in the words of the African proverb.
In Belize today, the electronic media marketplace now features six or seven national morning talk shows and an even greater number of major evening newscasts. Our population is probably not large enough to sustain that plethora of opinions and news. But, there are special interests operating in “the swamp.” We can begin with the two major political parties – UDP and PUP. The RSV enterprises are, let us say, well-behaved. Channel 7 is owned by the UDP-connected accountant, Nestor Vasquez, Sr., a Liberal Party original. Channel 5 is owned by the voracious British octopus – Lord Michael Ashcroft. PLUS TV represents evangelical Christian interests, which have been known to be influenced by the conservative section of the American political and business spectrum. Then, there is Kremandala, arguably the people’s choice, if we are to judge from its 48-year history.
What is it that is so important about Belize why there are so many special interests fighting to influence the minds and win the hearts of Belizeans? It is reasonable to assume that something must have changed since 1961, when Belizeans absolutely believed they were running away from backwardness and poverty. It is reasonable to think that there must be something valuable here why so many special interests, including fabulously wealthy immigrant enclaves, are battling for attention in The Jewel.
So now, we come to the Senate Special Committee hearings into the scandalous deeds at the Immigration Department. Senior Superintendent (retired) Julio Valdez, who came off as an intelligent and energetic police officer, on Wednesday morning said that he would not reveal the identity of someone who gave him some critical instructions, because he feared “legal ramifications.” On Wednesday afternoon, Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, swore that there had been an investigation into the Citizen Kim/Elvin Penner matter, the investigation had been completed, and the file had been turned over to the Director of Public Prosecutions. ??? No one out here knew about this. Mayhap, the Kim/Penner investigation requires a hearing of its own. We’re just saying.
Alvarine Burgess remains the single most intriguing and important witness in the Senate hearing. The troubling thing about the Burgess testimony is that all indications are that it took the intervention of representatives of the most powerful nation in the world to have her testify. Without Alvarine Burgess, it may be safe to say, we would be dancing around the mulberry bush.
The propaganda line of the spokesmen of the ruling UDP has been that the Senate inquiry is a “joke” and a “circus.” The UDP propagandists have stuck to their guns. This is the party line. It is something that must be repeated, ad nauseam, in order to ensure that all their UDP party faithful who have enjoyed the tacos and pibil know how they should respond to questions and challenges.
“Joke” and “circus.” At Kremandala, we hardly think so. But, we are a minority. And Belize’s system of governance, as we explained to you in the first paragraph, has as its priority, the protection and preservation of Her Majesty’s Loyal Government. If hopeless corruption has been the inevitable result of that priority, is it that our only choice is to let it be? This is how things have been since 1981. So it has been written, and so it is being done.