Money don’t matter tonight
It sure didn’t matter yesterday
Just when you think you got more than enough
That’s when it all ups and flies away
That’s when you find out that you’re better off
Making sure your soul’s all right
– PRINCE, in “Money don’t matter tonight”
“In his evidence, Sir Hunter said, among other things, that Mr. Sylvestre was asked to resign from the Cabinet in 1963. He said that the resignation was discussed between himself; Mr. George Price, who was then First Minister; and Sir Wilson MacMillan, then a Minister of Government.
“When asked about Mr. Sylvestre’s reputation, Sir Hunter said that Mr. Sylvestre’s reputation was most unenviable.”
– from the headline story in AMANDALA No. 733, Friday, July 29, 1983.
Belize’s first ever Ministerial Cabinet was sworn in after the March 1961 general election. The People’s United Party (PUP), under the leadership of Hon. George Cadle Price, had won all 18 of the 18 seats contested for the House of Representatives. Mr. Price became First Minister. He named his Ministers. Albert Cattouse. Alexander “Sandy” Hunter. Gwendolyn Lizarraga. Wilson MacMillan. C. L. B. “Lindy” Rogers. Louis Sylvestre. Fred Hunter. Hector Silva. Santiago Perdomo. David McKoy. All have returned to the dust from which we all come, except for Fred Hunter and Hector Silva.
Along with longevity comes responsibility. That responsibility involves the passing on of valuable historical information to Belize’s younger generations. Fred Hunter and Hector Silva call Belize’s talk shows from time to time, and their counsel is appreciated and respected. They have been doing this for years, but they have never, ever mentioned 1963, Louis Sylvestre, Emilio Awe, $750, and a contract for a feeder road in the Sibun area.
All over the world, the mainstream media of the rich countries are always running stories about the corruption in the leadership of poor countries. Why can’t they get it right, the rich countries ask. Why are their leaders so greedy and corrupt, their media want to know. The mainstream media very seldom explain that it is the corporations of the rich countries which are largely responsible for corruption in poor countries. They make offers to such leaders which the leaders cannot refuse, you understand. And if the leaders are principled, nationalistic, and actually reject their bribes and kickbacks, then such leaders are branded communist, and the rich countries seek to undermine their governments and/or overthrow them violently. Can you say Fidel Castro? Can you say Hugo Chavez? Can you say Maurice Bishop?
In so-called democracies, leaders come to power through the machinery of political parties. Political parties in Belize are large organizations of citizens who campaign to win power so as to gain benefits for their party faithful, in the first instance. Clausewitz said that war is an extension of politics by other means. Politics is similar to war. It is generally antecedent to war. In war, defeat is not an option. In electoral politics, there is a desperation involved with the campaign. The difference between winning and losing is enormous.
We have still not mentioned the welfare of the nation-state where the motivation of these political parties is concerned. That is because the nation-state’s welfare often appears to be an afterthought of our ruling political parties. The nation-state’s welfare may, then, be the second instance. Party before country. The party faithful are hungry, and they must be fed. They are the soldiers of the revolution. Without them, the political party cannot win power. And without the political party, the pretty faces and talking heads cannot form Cabinets and play with public finances.
Playing with public finances. Ruling parties in Belize every now and then have lucrative contracts to award, for infrastructure mostly. These contracts are sometimes worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It is expected that the technocrat who is in charge of the specific contract award process, and the Cabinet Minister within whose portfolio he operates, will be richly rewarded for their roles in the process which involves these large sums of money. The political party will also be the beneficiary of a “commission.” That is why, when Ministers or technocrats are caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, the political party rushes to their defence and rescue. Corruption, dear readers, is built into your “democracy.”
Because of the corruption, the people of Belize never get real value for their money. The classic illustrative example took place in the 1989-1993 government when Atlantic Bank built a much superior building next to a Government of Belize building which was vastly inferior and yet cost much more. The political party has to feed. The political party is hungry. The welfare of the nation-state and its citizens is secondary. This is “democracy” in the Third World. And, according to the local preachers, all this is blessed by God.
In 1982, flush with the increased power of political independence in 1981, Cabinet Minister Louis Sylvestre sued Amandala for libel. A former Cabinet Minister who had sat in Cabinet at the time of Emilio Awe and the Sibun road contract, Alexander “Sandy” Hunter, testified for the defendant. Someday you must read Justice George Moe’s decision when he awarded the plaintiff $6,500.00. It was cases like these that made this newspaper’s reputation amongst the people of Belize. And it was the people of Belize who stood with us in these critical times. They wanted for us to speak truth to power.
We have been saying to you that this PUDP nonsense can’t change anything. There is a game being played with the money the people of Belize work so hard to earn. There is a system in place here which is bogus. It is a modern version of colonialism in which white supremacy uses and enriches elite natives in order for them to rob their own people. When these robberies are contractually completed, the ill-gotten gains are deposited in white supremacy’s banks.
The nature of the Coast Guard building contract at Hunting Caye requires your close analysis. This was American taxpayers’ money, at the time of the award of the Binarq contract. The process was tight. In the United States, you go to jail when you tamper with American taxpayers’ moneys. In Belize, if you do the same thing with Belizean taxpayers’ money, tamper with it, you are invited to cocktail parties. The question about the Binarq contract is this: who knew what, and when, inside the Belize Cabinet? After who, what and when, the question is then, why, or, more pointedly, in return for what?
Power to the people.