Isn’t it funny how time slips away? It appears like just yesterday that the young and ambitious political student activist, Derek Aikman, at the tender age of 19, came home to Belize from school in Florida in the United States in the early 1980s, and began to pursue a very ambitious career in politics in Belize.
His youthful age never seemed to matter as Belizean young people of all colors and creed began to identify with his message of political change in a People’s United Party (PUP) dominance of political power in Belize since the 1950s under the charismatic leadership of the late George Cadle Price. But Derek Aikman, who may have never really envisioned that he would come to defeat the most popular Belizean politician in history, George Price, in the historical 1984 general elections, surged into Belize’s political arena and made history for himself.
Aikman’s alliance with Belize’s Opposition party at that time, United Democratic Party (UDP) that appeared to have connected him traditionally through the political leanings of his parents, immediately embraced his astute political ambitions to enlarge their cadre of talented Belizean politicians that included Belize’s present Prime Minister, Dean Oliver Barrow. Barrow appeared to have not only become a serious competitor and challenger to the ambitious Aikman, but he had already established himself within the party’s hierarchy, and would later pose some serious challenges to the upward mobility of Belize’s most fast-rising politician, Derek Aikman.
The two promising UDP politicians became the prize of the UDP party and paralleled each other in oratory skills to the envy of most of the veteran politicians at the time. Their only match from across Belize’s vibrant political spectrum were the PUP’s Assad Shoman and Said Musa. The stage for the 1984 general elections battle was set, and the Belizean people had begun to become disgruntled and frustrated with the PUPs failed electoral promises, and change could be felt to the point of absolute certainty.
In the first ever United Democratic Party (UDP) political victory since their disappointing loss in 1979, and the first ever People’s United Party (PUP) loss in history, Aikman beat the incumbent and long-standing Prime Minister, George Price, in Belize City’s Freetown Division in the 1984 general elections.
He went on to become Belize’s Minister of Education, capitalizing on much earned political capital to spend, and spent it he did with his ambitious plans in the initiating of Belize’s first ever university called, “University College of Belize (UCB)”, that copied the U.S. Ferris State University curriculum and design almost completely. Minister Aikman had made his first political move as a young and ambitious Belizean politician who was coming of age under the watchful eyes of international political observers.
After a long absence from politics in Belize enduring some painful political and financial losses in the 1980s, and 90s, the formidable and former UDP politician, Derek Aikman, made a sudden resurgence back into Belize’s political arena with his recent and newly found “Belizeans United for Equal Rights at Home & Abroad” or (BUFERHD). It appeared that the political and civic organization was championing the constitutional rights of the Belizean electorate that have been trampled by past and present governments of Belize, including Aikman’s once aligned UDP party that has won three consecutive elections already since 2008, added to the two times before that in 1984 and 1993. BUFERHD’s new and recent political stint and bombshell was the revelation that the Belize electoral ballot is not, and was not really “secret” at all.
In a special meeting called by the political organization’s head himself, the resistant Derek Aikman surprised many a Belizean political pundit that the two Belize political parties in the country’s two-party political system had appeared to have been cheating the Belizean electorate all the while through what should have been a “secret ballot” that was supposed to have kept confidential the people’s vote casting patterns as a means of protecting the Belizean electorate from fraudulent elections over the years.
Through Minister Aikman’s assertions, it was not necessarily so. Did most Belizean politicians and campaign managers of Belize’s political parties know such a thing was going on in Belize’s proud electoral system that those like U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, had held up to high standards to the rest of the Western world as a beacon of light symbolic of free and fair elections?
In editing this feature written more than a year ago, the sad news of the death of the dynamic Belizean politician, Derek Aikman reached me with much sadness of his loss and the passing of a revolutionary era of illuminating Belizean politics that was energized by a young St. Michael’s College graduate who had pursued his educational dreams and endeavors abroad in the United States and returned politically armed to serve his country and people.
We here at “Belizean Legends” honor Derek Aikman today in his passing and hope that more young Belizean students of politics may soon take on the mantle of political leadership in Belize in the way of the honorable gentleman, Minister Derek Aikman. He will be surely missed by many of his family and friends. From God we come and to Him is all our return, my dear brother Derek. Go in peace and meet your Maker, you Belizean political warrior. Your journey has ended and it’s good to be home.