I have not written this column for months. The main reason for this is that there has been only one subject to write about, and that is the International Court of Justice (ICJ) referendum slated for April 10, 2019. This is a subject which began stressing me out a long time ago.
Early on after a quarter of the Guatemalan people had voted in April of last year to take their claim for Belize to the ICJ for final and binding arbitration, I realized that this was a very, very big deal. My feeling was that the burden of proof, moving forward, lay on the two major political parties, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), and their leaderships. The issue was an existential one, and it involved establishing a legitimate majority opinion from the Belizean people.
On April 10, 2019, God willing, I will vote “no” to ICJ arbitration, but I have not campaigned for a “no” vote. I have felt, and feel, that the issue is too big for me personally, and I do not believe I can take on the responsibility of “yes” or “no” from the standpoint of a Belizean opinion.
I will not get into the opposing arguments, because we are all tired of hearing them. Many of our people do not understand the arguments, mind you, because the arguments can be technical, historical, legal, and other things. The British kept us in ignorance for centuries, and their native successors as rulers did nothing to enlighten us, the Belizean people.
I am struck by the lavish amount of financing which is behind the “yes” vote, relative to the scanty resources of the “no” people. So that, one must marvel at the dedication, tenacity, and sincerity of the “no” Belizeans. They have not been supported financially. On the other hand, there is so much money for “yes” that one is tempted to speculate insofar as some possibly mercenary motives in sections of that camp.
Anyway, I need to stress that the ICJ referendum is much larger in importance than a general election, or at least that is how it appears to your humble servant. I became involved in party politics (a Belize City municipal election) in 1971 because of a personal request from the late, great Hon. Philip Goldson. In 1974, I ran as a single candidate for the UBAD Party, which had split down the middle early in 1973. My single candidacy in October of 1974 was intended to convince my loyalists that UBAD, unfortunately, had come to an end, whereupon I retired from electoral politics.
Electoral politics had never been my goal as a young, would-be revolutionary: my intention was to make a career as a professional, creative writer. But, Belize is not as simple a place as it appears: things became complicated in my life. The white supremacy here is subtle, sophisticated, and it beat me down in the streets. I was young, rebellious, perhaps arrogant.
Looking back, I can say that I was getting nowhere fast when the then ruling PUP, under pressure from the surging UDP, decided that there was a political role I could play for them, because of a small group of supporters who had remained loyal to me because of my service in UBAD. Having retired from electoral politics in 1974, survival realities forced me to return in 1977. Since that time, there have been general elections, most prominently 1979, 1984, and 1998, in which this newspaper and myself chose sides with one of the two major parties (PUP in 1979 and 1998, and UDP in 1984).
But, to repeat, the ICJ referendum is absolutely like nothing I have experienced in my fifty years of public life. I do not consider myself worthy to lead Belizeans in any specific direction here.
I should emphasize that Belize has changed remarkably since my entry into public life in 1969. I led a black-conscious movement at that time, when Belizeans of African descent were clearly the majority of our population. That is no longer the case.
The Mennonites, Chinese, Indians, and Americans were not the investment, production, commercial, and tourism forces in 1969 that they are today. Belizeans, we have no idea of how much of our land has been alienated since the time of UBAD, so we have no idea of how marginalized our realities have become, not only in real time, but where our potential and future are concerned.
I have been disappointed by how determined we native Belizeans are to be as disunified as we can be. In fact, the situation amongst our young people, as you know, has been far more traumatic than a case of mild disunity over the last three decades. Our young people have been murdering each other at civil war rates. We have been decimated by HIV/AIDS. Alcohol and drugs are critical problems. In 1969, when we UBADers believed that we black people could do much better than we were doing, we were in better shape than now, by far, because we were definitely not genocidal/suicidal.
Based on the significant work of the British Honduras Freedom Committee, an organization of diaspora Belizeans based in New York City in the 1960s, I had expected a much more robust involvement in the ICJ referendum process coming out of Belizeans living and working in the United States. But, it was not to be. It is what it is.
I want to dedicate my column today to Derek Aikman, because, for whatever it’s worth, I believe he died of a broken heart with respect to the ICJ referendum process. Derek and I held dramatically opposed views on most matters, but I believe he was a sincere nationalist. I respect sincerity, and therefore I respect the late Derek.
In closing, I will say that sincerity is what we Belizeans are hoping for from our leaders. Needless to say, most of us really miss Mr. Goldson. Somehow, he always seemed to know what was right for Belize.
As always, power to the people.