I listened to the Rt. Hon. Said Musa discuss the process leading up to Belize’s 1981 independence on the PUP radio station on Tuesday morning. I would say I heard perhaps 60 or 70 percent of his discourse.
I first met Said after returning home from Dartmouth in 1968, and later that year I worked with him and Assad Shoman on preparations for a demonstration against the Vietnam War. The two Belizeans, of Palestinian paternity, had studied law in England. The choice of a demonstration target was theirs, not mine. I was following them, but I believed that the Vietnam War was an abomination. So.
The demonstrations, which began on New Year’s night 1969 against the John Wayne film called The Green Berets, were the first time any university graduates of Belize had ever made this kind of militant, public statement. University graduates who demonstrated included Assad, Said, myself, Derek Courtenay, and the late Lionel del Valle.
As I have said before on these pages, I personally only demonstrated the first night, but the demonstrations lasted three or four nights, I believe. That first night I was approached by one Robert Livingston while I was carrying my placard in front of the Eden Theater on North Front Street. He said to me that I should “leave those Arabs alone” and begin lecturing at the Liberty Hall. Livingston, who five weeks later became one of the founding officers of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), was the secretary-general of what was left in Belize of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). (The president of the Belize UNIA was Percy Innis, a shoemaker of George Street, and members included Nurse Vivian Seay, Nurse Cleopatra White, and Elfreda Reyes.)
Assad Shoman and Said Musa were both three or so years older than I, and they were much more sophisticated where political theory was concerned. They had a good idea of where they wanted to go. In 1969, they had been travelling magistrates in the employ of the Government of British Honduras from 1967. I believe there was some point in 1969 when their government service was terminated because of their political activities in the People’s Action Committee (PAC), whereupon they entered private law practice, which is where they were when they successfully defended Ismail Shabazz and me in the July 1970 Supreme Court seditious conspiracy trial.
Between 1971 and 1975, I basically lost track of these guys, except that I know that it was Assad who first began working closely with Premier George Price’s PUP government, and replaced Hector Silva as the PUP candidate for Cayo North in the October 1974 general election. As I understand it, Said was a last minute replacement for Sandy Hunter as the PUP candidate for Fort George in the said October 1974 general election.
In early 1975, after a series of meetings with Deputy Premier C. L. B. Rogers, I entered a working relationship with the PUP government. I think Assad and Said had already been appointed Senators following their election defeats by Joe Andrews and Dean Lindo, respectively. They were, then, at a much higher level in the PUP than I was. I was pretty much running the streets of Belize City with Ray Lightburn between 1975 and 1977. I was slowly putting my life back in order, I guess.
Said and four other PUP officials and associates invested in offset printing equipment for this newspaper sometime in 1977, following which I was asked to be a PUP candidate for the December 1977 Belize City Council election. Having retired from electoral politics after running as the only UBAD Party candidate in the 1974 general election and being fully convinced that I was not electable, I was quite reluctant to accept candidacy, but eventually yielded to pressure.
Immediately following the landslide defeat of the PUP’s “Dynamic Nine” slate in that CitCo election, I realized that top PUP leadership had a problem with what they saw as the stubborn independence of Amandala. I was removed from sports broadcasting on Radio Belize. Remember now, Said and Assad were still only appointed Senators, and established PUP Cabinet Ministers, led by Louis Sylvestre and Fred Hunter, were very much opposed to their views. When the Deputy Premier leaned on me in early 1978, Said was in no position to assist me.
Well, I remained in the PUP as part of Said’s team, and when the PUP won the 1979 general election, which climaxed the PUP’s electoral push for Belize’s independence, Assad and Said finally became elected area representatives and Cabinet Ministers. They took their seats around the table, as we would say. They were now really big men. Yours truly was still struggling with Amandala.
In October of 1980, a U.S. State Department official by the name of Oliver Bushnell came to Belize to say that the American government was now prepared to support Belize’s quest for political independence. I asked Said at that point to have the PUP buy out myself and two of my family members who had invested in Amandala. A matter of $25,000 was involved. I did this because my experiences in early 1978 with the Deputy Premier had convinced me that I would be in danger in an independent Belize. The PUP offered to buy $6,000 of my family’s shares. All this would have done was give the ruling party majority ownership. This was not acceptable. It was only four months or so later that the Heads of Agreement arrived, in March of 1981. Hell broke loose.
Independence for Belize on September 21 of 1981 was a triumphant moment for Assad and Said. They welcomed and toasted various regional and international leaders and dignitaries in Belize, including revolutionary Grenada’s Maurice Bishop and Sandinista leaders from revolutionary Nicaragua. During all the festivities, I was hanging out with neighborhood kids on the All Saints School verandah on First Street, where I was living with my family. We played a lot of basketball at the St. John’s College gymnasium in the afternoons.
Soon after that, the attacks came – two massive libel suits by Cabinet Ministers of the newly independent PUP government. This is what I want to hear Mr. Fred Hunter talk about today. He was a PUP Cabinet Minister in 1981. I am not really interested in the 1670 Treaty of Godolphin. Thank you very much.
Power to the people.