It was embedded in my mind – maybe da figment of the imagination – yes, it was in my head that Manuel Esquivel gave a hefty pay increase to members of the House of Representatives, and fat pensions too, when the UDP took the helm back in 1984. I’m pretty certain about the pensions business, but about the salary raise, the files I’ve seen say that was more PUP business.
The first prime minister of our country, Brother George Cadle Price, he had no need of money because he inherited a big house in Belize City from his parents, and we know that the rent for his other pad, which was in Belmopan, the new capital, was heavily subsidized.
Price was a bachelor – if you remember, the NIP said he didn’t trust to have a woman sharing his pillow because sometimes people talk in their sleep, and let out things – and he didn’t have children, so when hihn eat di whole family belly full. Short of story, that man didn’t need cash to satisfy either family or vice. His reputation for frugality was known all over the world.
A New York Times story, “Pilot for a Free Belize; Man in the News”, written two days after we got independence by a gentleman named Alan Riding, spilled the full beans about how Price handled the finances and his salary. “He eats frugally and has virtually no personal capital; he drives an old Land-Rover and lives simply in a tiny bungalow indistinguishable from those occupied by junior civil servants. Even now, his salary is only about $8,000 a year.”
Looking at straight salaries of these political leaders, the evidence is that they didn’t start feeding off the best of the land until 2003 when the PUP (I should have known it was they who did it) gave the people who control our show a big jump, but when you see where they jumped from, it is possible that I’m not wrong that Manuel Esquivel fattened the pot with the chum, also known as cheddar, or just cheese, in his first term.
The members of the red shirt and blue shirt gangs should all say, Bless you, Said and Ralph: notes I took from a News Five transcript say that in 2003 the PUP raised the PM’s salary from $31,548 per annum to $102,000; and the Deputy PM’s from $31,548 to $96,000 per annum. The Ministers’ pay went from $28, 800 to $90,000; the Ministers of State jumped from $28,000 to $60,000; the Leader of the Opposition from $21,895 to $62,000 per annum; and area reps went from $18,422 to $42,000.
Minister Finnegan was in perfect harmony with the beautiful PUP love. Again from the News Five transcript, here’s Brother Finnegan oozing the appreciation: “It is ridiculous, I repeat Madam Speaker, for a Member of Parliament to be making eight hundred and ninety-five dollars a month. It is likewise ridiculous for ministers of government to be taking home fifteen hundred dollars a month, Madam Speaker. And finally, now that we are being paid properly, and ministers of government are being paid properly, one expects that ministers will now be placed in a position where nobody out there or in any circle will be able to compromise their ministerial position.”
Aha, aha, of course some people you can never satisfy. Can you believe Minister Sedi describing that glorious more-than-we-can-afford salary as paltry? It’s all there in another News Five transcript, this one in 2012. Sedi said: “There’s a woman calling in on KREM over and over some time ago because the minister did not put back on the zinc on her house. The minister has not put in the electricity on her house. The minister is expected to come up with the money for everything; he doesn’t have it. Any minister who gets that kind of—who is able to do that kind of thing, has to be stealing…. People think that ministers get paid; you don’t get paid. It’s a pittance; it’s really a pittance compared to the salaries of the ministers in Singapore…” Oh boy, how we will miss Sedi.
I want to say if yu lie wid dog yu will rise wid flea, but people like to take things literally in Belize, so I’ll just say, beware the company you keep. Things do rub off. Does anyone recall this same Minister Finnegan who was so grateful for the pay raise in Ought Three, this Minister Finnegan who made the point that the absolutely fat pay would keep the ministers on the straight and narrow, does anyone remember him explaining away ministerial krukidnis last year? Well, I couldn’t find the black and white evidence on him, but it is all over that the new UDP leader, Mr. Patrick Faber, splattered it about that the politicians are corrupt because of, because of¯poor we the people.
Boo hoo, we gave those bohgaz the fattest pay, and the protective pension fu life, and what for, dehn still kyaahn control dehnself. When dehn mi poa, like back in the days of George Price…well, the truth is that low pay or high pay, pension or no pension, dyaahn politicians get sticky when we give them the keys to our assets. Maybe we shouldn’t pay those bohgaz anything at all.
Brother Canul Luna not fair to Brother Haynes
Personally, one of my big fears of the hereafter is that things will linger behind that are absolutely not fair. In my life¯but let’s not get too deep into that. In my life as an Amandala columnist, there are two matters that are of concern to me in that regard. One of them is a piece that featured four bullet points, with a note at the end that said some explanations would follow. Some people pounced, the issue got clouded, and I was excoriated without ever getting a chance to make my defense.
I told my dad about my dismay, and he advised me to write about it whenever I was bothered. Funny, even though I was not cut to function in the four-wall classroom with the authority-figure teacher, writing has always been one of my main release valves. As for drinking, I never go for the spirits when my mind is troubled. For most of my life I grabbed a pen and paper when things were on my mind, and afterward I would just crumple the piece of paper with the notes and throw it away. These days most of what I write gets published in the Amandala, but there is other stuff, some, like the bad deal that gnawed at me, that go on file.
Considering that I give such a daam about what lingers behind me, I try to be sincere with others when dealing with their past. When we deal with the past of others, or events, we have to put into our computer all the “facts” that are out there, all we know about the time, and all we know about human behavior. After doing all that we can get the full sense of the truth.
Cutting to the beef with Brother Canul Luna, my, how unfair he is with the tool he uses to judge Brother Samuel Haynes. Oh, judge we must. We human beings don’t judge souls, because that’s not our prerogative, but when it comes to the actions of the flesh, we have a right and a duty to use the yardstick.
Brother Canul Luna says he doesn’t recognize that history judges Haynes to be referring to our Mayan ancestors when he penned the poem, “Land of the Gods”. All the facts are staring the gentleman in the face. The problem, it appears, is it doesn’t suit his purpose.