O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
-Walt Whitman 1865
It’s May 9 , 2019. It is the day after Belizeans have made our most important decision since our move to independence on September 21, 1981. On May 8, 2019, 96,417 Belizeans went out to the polls to cast their vote on the question, “Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determine finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the Parties?” (Referendum Unit, 2019) The results are in, and 53,388 electors voted yes, while 43,029 voted no, which means that the Belizean people have said they feel it the right move to settle Guatemala’s claim in the halls of the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Democracy must prevail, and so the will of the people must be done.
Even with that, I must say that the day was fraught with happenstances that I think affected the quality of such democracy. Happenstances, like electors being able to vote with or without a voters identification card, which to me was a faulty failsafe by the Elections and Boundaries Department. Persons also walked into the information centers of the polling stations with receipts to find no printed ID; if IDs were found some had misspelt, completely wrong names and/or misplaced photographs. If the elector did have an ID and moved into the voting area, sometimes their names could not be found on any list barring them from participating. The proxy vote system was a story in and of itself.
By hook or crook, Belize got its side of the Special Agreement bargain done, but unlike the packaging of “yes” proponents which said, “Vote yes and mek it done”, the work is not done and in fact, has just now started. Our assertion of our land rights at the most visible place of this dispute, the Sarstoon Island, must be ramped up. Our internationalization of this with the globe must continue at all our consulates and embassies across the globe. We have to test if those resolutions and press releases from the UN, CARICOM, Commonwealth, the United States and the United Kingdom extended beyond just supporting a referendum via finance and rhetoric. We and our children and youth must never forget May 8th, must be reminded of what led us here and must be more than adequately prepared to OWN the history of the YES vote because it is OURS to own. The time for ‘poco tiempo’ Belizeaness was finished at yesterday’s sunset, 6:00 p.m. A renewed discipline and grit is necessary to be bred and actualized by the Belizean people and government up until those 15 judges make their final decision, a discipline that is not marred by the seemingly indelible stain of blue and red.
Even with all that said, I am awaiting the response of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and I have no doubt that my favourite journalists will have questions for a party with a head going one way and a body the next, with appendages that have a mind of their own. I am sure Marisol, Isani and Jules will not disappoint me in that arena.
We trod forward, my people, and remember, stay curious.