CHI KU – an expression of popular Chinese culture, literally means to “eat bitter,” in order to endure great hardships.
I would suggest that the first place where significant collusion involving high-ranking individuals from the two major political parties here began in the offices of a new law firm established during the latter part of the 1970s. At the time, the ruling party was the People’s United Party (PUP), and the Opposition was the United Democratic Party (UDP). In the old days, it was considered very suspicious for people from the two parties to be too friendly. This began to change amongst the Belizean attorneys in the late 1970s.
Inside the offices of the late Barry Bowen’s Bowen & Bowen on King Street, a major friendship across political lines began a few years later, in the early 1980s. It was a friendship between Michael Finnegan, a confidant of UDP Leaders Lindo and Barrow, and Ralph Fonseca, who had been very close to PUP Leader, Rt. Hon. George Price, from Ralph’s childhood. Nevertheless, inside the UDP Finnegan’s loyalty was considered absolute. At Independence Hall, so was Ralph’s loyalty to the PUP.
In 1992, a sensational conspiracy took place at the highest levels of the ruling PUP and the Opposition UDP. The conspirators wanted to destroy Derek Aikman politically, the PUP mostly for revenge, because Aikman had defeated Mr. Price in Freetown in the 1984 general elections, and the UDP because Aikman had been considered a threat to Dean Barrow from the 1983 Belize City Council elections and because he had sided with the Hon. Philip Goldson when Mr. Goldson formed the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) in 1991.
In 1992, Lord Michael Ashcroft had already “ingratiated” himself with the powerful PUP Cabinet troika of Glenn Godfrey, Ralph Fonseca, and Said Musa, while on the UDP side, Dean Barrow’s law firm was doing the legal work for Ashcroft’s Belize Bank. If one wanted to talk cold, if one wanted to talk street: Dean Barrow was on Lord Ashcroft’s payroll.
Lord Ashcroft’s Belize Bank was the chief instrument used to break Derek Aikman financially and render him legally bankrupt. Another major bank was also used, with which bank Dean Barrow’s younger brother was a leading player, as we would say.
I’m saying to you now that the PUDP work across party lines when they identify and target a common domestic enemy. In 1992, that was Derek Aikman. In March of 2007, after all these years thinking about it, I feel that the ruling PUP and the Opposition UDP colluded in an attack on Kremandala.
It’s difficult to describe the financial and legal package which the PUDP, cum Lord Ashcroft, designed. That March 2007 package originated from the Barrow & Williams law firm. In the case of the PUP, big men on Queen Street wanted revenge for this newspaper’s behavior in 2004 and 2005, specifically. The case of the UDP is more circumspect. Mr. Barrow knew that he would come to power in the 2008 general elections. A major problem for Kremandala would amount to a pre-emptive strike on an institution which had a hostile history: for example, Kremandala had begun to fight the new UDP administration just days after Dr. Esquivel was returned to office in June of 1993. In March of 2007, Lord Michael Ashcroft was again a co-conspirator, as he had been in 1992 against Derek Aikman. His management of BTL was being attacked on a daily basis on the KREM Radio/KREM TV talk show, especially as that BTL management related to the husband-and-wife team of Paul and Christine Perriott. You’ve probably forgotten about Paul and Christine. Let me tell you: these two popular Belizean technicians and union activists ended up being badly damaged in their careers and in their lives.
The nature of the March 2007 attack was weird, even clumsy, and it requires study by an independent group. (But, there are so few of those.) The attack was, in retrospect, somewhat desperate, but it was successful, in that it devastated my personal equilibrium. Two important things for you to understand are that the 1994 KREM Radio operated under my father’s management, and that the Amandala which was attacked operated under my daughter Jacinta’s management. I would say that both my dad and my daughter thought that they were dealing with decent, honorable people at the Belize Bank, and that was not the case. Neither my dad or my daughter had lived in the streets, as I had, and neither had that suspicious street gear in their transmission.
We now know that “Sagis” is Lord Ashcroft, and that he wanted 10 percent of KREM Radio in 1994. In the business world, we on Partridge Street would find out in 2007, 10 percent is a strategic amount which entitles you to interfere in a limited liability company, such as KREM Radio. The paperwork for the transfer of 10 percent of KREM Radio to Sagis had never been completed, and in 2007 the Lord felt he had to have it. Perhaps he was bringing pressure on careless employees.
Given an opportunity in 2007 to keep Lord Ashcroft out of KREM Radio, we decided to fight the case. The Honorable Chief Justice, Abdulai Conteh, ruled in the Supreme Court in 2008 that KREM Radio should give Sagis/Ashcroft back his $25,000, plus interest accrued over 13 years. The Lord immediately refused such an offer: he insisted on the 10 percent of KREM Radio, for which reason he ordered his attorneys to take the case to the Appeals Court. (In the matter of attorneys, the Lord was bringing some of them all the way from London.) At the Appeals Court, two of the three judges ruled in his favor. Had we been liquid at Kremandala, we would have gone to the Caribbean Court of Justice. But liquidity is always a problem back here.
The question fair-minded Belizeans, at home and abroad, should ask themselves, is why was it so important to Lord Ashcroft to own 10 percent of KREM, and why was he assisted in that effort by high-ranking leaders of the PUDP.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.