Former UDP Minister, Rev. Derek Aikman, was a fiery orator on the political rostrum and the youngest politician elected to the House of Representatives
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 4, 2019– A massive outpouring of sympathy to his family blanketed social media yesterday after Belizeans at home and in the diaspora learned that the Reverend Derek Aikman, a former United Democratic Party (UDP) Cabinet minister, had passed away on Saturday, March 2, while undergoing treatment at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
Aikman was 59. Information to us is that Aikman died of a heart attack, but this could not be confirmed from family members.
Derek “Mi D”Aikman is best remembered for his fiery oratory skills on the political rostrum when he first entered the political arena as a very young man.
Aikman rapidly rose to popularity and prominence in the United Democratic Party under the leadership of Manuel Esquivel. In the first post-independence elections held in Belize in 1984, Aikman emerged as the “giant killer” when he was elected to the House of Representatives after he defeated the iconic People’s United Party Leader, George Price.
At that time, he was the youngest politician elected to the Belize House of Representatives. He was 24 years old when he defeated Price and was appointed to Hon. Manuel Esquivel’s Cabinet as Minister of Education.
In the ebb and flow that oftentimes typefies Belize politics, Aikman’s meteoric rise to power was short-lived. In the early 1990’s, while he was still an elected area representative, Aikman was declared bankrupt and was forced out of the House of Representatives.
Accusations of complicity in the orchestration of Aikman’s bankruptcy have been laid at the doors of both major political parties, the UDP and the PUP, which sided with Lord Michael Ashcroft’s Belize Bank, which called in loans that Aikman had taken out to finance Belize Airlines Limited (BAL).
By 1992, when the PUP government passed the Maritime Areas Act into law with the bipartisan support of the then-Opposition, the United Democratic Party, a full-fledged war had erupted between the UDP and some of its members who were opposed to the passage of the Maritime Areas Act.
Aikman, along with the late Sam Rhaburn, Hubert Elrington and others ended up resigning from the UDP and joined Philip Goldson’s National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). Goldson, too, had resigned from the UDP and formed NABR.
By 1998, however, Aikman had rejoined the UDP and ran as the party’s standard bearer in the Fort George constituency. He was, however, soundly defeated by the then PUP leader Said Musa.
Following that general election defeat, Aikman drifted away from the political arena and was not heard from for a long while, until 2007, when he claimed that he was kidnapped near Burrell Boom, where he resided.
In 2008 when the UDP was returned to power, Aikman left Belize shortly thereafter and went to live in the United States, where he eventually became ordained as a minister of religion.
He worked in the United States to form a Belizean diaspora organization, Belizeans United For Equal Rights at Home and the Diaspora (BUFFERED) in 2016.
By the following year, 2017, BUFFERED had conducted a simulated election and came away with the conclusion that the much-touted secret ballot in Belizean elections was not so secret, after all.
When it came to the Guatemalan claim against Belize, Derek Aikman was a voice in continuous opposition and was always on the lookout to ensure that the rights of Belize and Belizeans were respected. He was mightily against Belize going to the International Court of Justice to settle the Guatemalan claim.
Aikman was one of the first persons to talk about a legal challenge to the Special Agreement that the Government of Belize and Guatemala signed for taking the claim to the ICJ.
Aikman lent his voice against the government’s Special Agreement, which it signed in 2008 to take the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice for a final and binding resolution.
Aikman was one of the first persons who talked about taking out a constitutional claim against the Special Agreement, long before the Joint Legal Opinion had opened the door to that possibility.
Derek Aikman is survived by his wife, Kim Smiling-Aikman, and children: Inga, Mischa and Anya Aikman.