Since my childhood days in Belize, the country has retained a special place in my life. One day in the early 1980s, I was sorting through some of my old papers when I came across a letter from John Waight, an old schoolfriend, dated 1957 – the year after we had left Belize. I decided to trace John and wrote back to him, thereby discovering that he had become a surgeon in Belize.
I received a swift and friendly reply from John, who insisted that I come back for a visit, and on one weekend in 1982, after a business trip to Miami, I flew down to Belize. I checked in at the Fort George Hotel (now the Radisson Fort George) in Belize City, having already arranged to have dinner with John and his wife. We had a delightful evening and reminisced about old times. Then I rang another old schoolfriend, Barry Bowen, who is one of Belize’s leading businessmen, owning the local beer company and many other entities. I got Barry’s secretary on the line and she said she was sorry he was not there, but could she take a message. I said, “Well, he may not remember me. It’s someone from his schooldays: Michael Ashcroft.” The secretary, Mags Jones, replied, “Michael, I never thought I would hear our voice again.” Within two hours, she was round at my hotel with photographs of us as young children – she had been at my school all those years before. So, within hours of arriving back in Belize, I felt that I had returned home. I knew from that moment that Belize was going to play a prominent role in my life thereafter. I did not know how, but I did know that I was just so happy to be back. Once I started to spend time in Belize, I began to enjoy it more and more. I felt at ease in the country. If home is where the heart is, then Belize is my home. Today I own a colonial-style house on the seafront in Belize City, just a few hundred yards from where I lived as a boy. I like the pace of life and the warmth of the Belizean people. Belize is a convenient two-hour flight from America and, furthermore, I enjoy a sense of belonging to the country. I am a rootless individual, but when I land in Belize I have that feeling of comfort that I am returning home. That sentiment was reinforced when Said Musa, the Prime Minister of Belize, appointed me the Belizean Ambassador to the United Nations in 1998 – an honorary position of which I was fiercely proud. I was able to carry out the role because I had an able deputy, Stuart Leslie, who conducted the routine workload and stepped in for me when necessary; he eventually succeeded me as Ambassador.
My business interests in Belize began in 1987 when I bought the troubled Belize operations of the Royal Bank of Canada for $1, a venture that I soon renamed the Belize Bank. Over the next decade, I built up an extensive business portfolio in Belize with interests in fruit growing, hotels, power, telecommunications and commercial and residential property, to name a few. As with my interests in Britain and America, I own, or partly own, both public and private companies.
– pgs. 50, 51, DIRTY POLITICS, DIRTY TIMES, by Michael Ashcroft, MAA Publishing Limited, 2005.
Publisher’s NOTE: One of our employees said to me Thursday morning: why would you put an article in the newspaper which makes it seem that the Lord loves us Belizeans so? I was amazed. My response was, there is such a thing as sarcasm.
Many, many years ago I was listening to a public meeting during a City Council campaign. This was on Pickstock Street, near Lovely Lane, thereabouts. One of the speakers from the ruling party, which was holding the public meeting, remarked on how much he loved Belize City. A lady in the crowd who was a supporter of the Opposition party, remarked bitterly, “Yes, like how alligator love dog.”