The United Democratic Party (UDP) first took control of the Southside of Belize City in the 1979 general election, when they won two of the then three Southside constituencies. Their Philip Goldson won Albert (which he had first won in 1965), and their Curl Thompson won Mesopotamia, for the first time. Mr. Harry Courtenay of the People’s United Party (PUP) held on to Collet.
For the 1984 general election, the number of Southside constituencies was increased to six, and the UDP won all of these in that election. Since that time, the UDP have always won the majority of the Southside seats, with the sole exception of 1998, when the PUP won four of the Southside constituencies.
In the 2012 general election, the UDP won all six of the Southside seats. With the addition a few years ago of a sizeable amount of Southside voters (who were previously in Lake Independence) to the Pickstock constituency, Pickstock may now be described as a Southside constituency. If we did that, it would be the case that the UDP hold seven out of seven Southside seats. But, we’ll just leave it at six. The point is that the Southside represents a political stronghold of the UDP.
I was raised on the Southside, but because my dad is a Roman Catholic, I was sent to primary and high schools on the Northside – Holy Redeemer School and St. John’s College. The Southside was almost all “Creole” when I was growing up, and most of the children went to Southside Anglican and Wesley primary schools. Those who went on to high school did so at St. Michael’s College (Anglican male), St. Hilda’s College (Anglican female), and Wesley College (Methodist co-ed). These were high schools located on the Southside.
There was a healthy Creole population on the Northside, which held a bigger Mestizo population than the Southside did. When I introduced the “Southside model” a couple decades ago, it was resented by some observers, who said such a model was divisive. My intention was to highlight the socio-economic collapse on the Southside, and to pressure the “authorities” to confront the fact that the Southside was where most of the old capital’s violent crime was originating. When I introduced the Southside model, there was a UDP/NABR government in power in Belmopan, but the NABR side of the coalition was being treated like dirt.
The Southside model is no longer important, because in 2014 everybody can see what has taken place and what is going on. I am not a man who gives himself to nostalgia, but the human wreckage on the Southside makes people like me feel sad. This hurts. It is difficult for me to understand how the UDP Southside area representatives can appear so smug and so full of themselves. The facts on the Southside ground are very, very disturbing.
I remember that when the UDP returned to power at the end of June in 1993, the Kremandala organization owned semi-pro basketball and semi-pro football franchises and was a support group for the Princess Royal Youth Hostel Under-17 basketball tournament. The year before, in 1992, the sensational Itza and Tunan murders had brought home the fact that the Crips and Bloods were now waging their gang war in Belize.
There are Southside UDP politicians now in power who allowed UDP Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel to target the Kremandala business and social initiatives for destruction when he returned to power in 1993. I understand why Mr. Esquivel did what he did: there was a personal vendetta between himself and myself which was regrettable, but real. I also understand why the aforementioned UDP Southside politicians participated with their silence in what the then Prime Minister did to Kremandala.
But these men have now been in power for seven years, and Belize City does not have a football field or a basketball auditorium. Semi-pro basketball is dead. The Under-17 tournament is dead. The human carnage continues unabated in the Southside. From afar, you will see view the victims and the perpetrators as cold criminal youth: from inside the Southside, however, people like me can see that there is a system in place which is spitting out the victims and their perpetrators. The people who have power here should be doing something to remove and replace that system. The problem for them is that it is the rulers of that said system who assisted them in coming to power. To reach where they are, they had to collaborate, and that is what they did.
It is not as if the PUP, at the end of the day, have a better record than the UDP. After all, the PUP obey the same invisible rulers of the system, the rulers who give permission for you to come to power. This is not a matter of party politics. It is a matter of serious human tragedy. Where are the Belizean thinkers who should be analyzing and discussing the problem? There are a lot of egos involved here. After all, this is Belize. We are a small place, and we are jealous and suspicious of each other.
This UDP government did create infrastructural jobs, using the Petrocaribe funds, for Southside youth. This indicates that they acknowledge the problem. But their solutions were not sustainable ones. The problem is, as we would say, systemic, and the UDP area representatives cannot do anything to challenge the system at its core, because it is that very same system which blessed their rise to power. They owe their allegiance to the system: they are, beloved, tools of the system.
The point I have tried to make in this essay is this: theoretically, the UDP area representatives have the power to address this problem. They have the loyalty of the Southside voters. This is what makes the situation a pathetic one. Southside voters will continue voting red, and red will continue being the color of the young blood that runs in the streets.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.