Features — 10 October 2018
THE REALITY ON THE STREETS & ISSUES

I sometimes don’t want to write any more, say any more, or participate any more, because I see a vicious cycle of destruction and self-hate in a little country that does not even have half of a million people. The issues are so many and the discourses are so divisive that it becomes too much negative energy to deal with, at a time when I seek a peace of mind and want to measure life in terms of positive steps. There are those positive steps I can celebrate, but the wave of problems and madness has increased to the point that the ratio of positive versus negative is diminishing by sheer increase in the negative.

I will address two key issues just to show the nature of what we are dealing with and to hopefully spark a desire by the collective masses to try and change this culture of violence and abuse we have now considered the norm.

THE STREET CRIMINALS

I have purposefully been vocal against the proclamation of the state of public emergency (herein SoPE) for several solid reasons. My reasons go beyond raw emotions and reactionary response, but in a society where we intentionally don’t educate our masses about rights and responsibilities and issues, but yet we seek their support on Election Day by bribes, we cannot expect a different reaction. However, in an attempt to do my little part to get people thinking I will list some of my reasons:

1. We have many solid laws to properly investigate, gather evidence, arrest and charge anyone involved in criminal activities. As a matter of fact, we have amended so many laws to not only make it easier to bring charges but to even make it easier for missing witnesses to have their statements entered as evidence in their absence, just to secure a conviction. And in cases of murder, we no longer use juries to determine the verdict, so the judge alone looks at the evidence and law and makes the decision, yet murderers still walk away because judges see botched cases that the police seem to have no intention of correcting. The evidence is so flawed that even a judge has to say “NOT GUILTY”!

2. I could not support the SoPE because I knew the Constitution was only being abused to implement Preventative Detention, which this government had already tried to put in the Constitution under the 8th Amendment, and which we vehemently fought because it does not solve crimes: it only seeks to unlawfully put away persons it must eventually still release without conviction, as has happened with these sixty-four (64) males over the past 30 days!

3. Also, it had to be an unequitable SoPE, if we have eleven (11) known gangs yet only two (2) are being targeted. My view is that if we really want to cut down on gangs and their activities, then we have to go to the heart of the cells of all of them and dismantle them, not just two.

4. Further, how could I support something where I know that at the end of the day these men will be released and put right back on the street feeling more resentful, knowing that the authorities are as criminal as them and that justice has not been served?

5. Then how could I support SoPE, when the police high command state they met and talked with two of the guys involved in the shooting of Humes, yet warned them and released them and thereafter the spate of shooting escalated. Then the police high command turns around and makes claims that businesses are being extorted, yet they do not set up a sting. To add insult to injury, the police high command then claims they know every shot fired and who did it, yet no arrest and charge and no conviction? If that is so, it’s not a SoPE we need: what we need is proper investigation, charges and a properly executed prosecution to put the criminals away fair and square.

6. Further, I suspected the Constitutional provisions would be violated and wished it would not be so, simply because our law enforcement authorities should lead by example.  However, when their example is their violation of the highest law of our country, then are they saying that they are above the law? And that they do not have to comply with the provisions of the Constitution? Then how can they expect the criminals to respect them, when they are as much lawbreakers as the criminals?

I could explain more, but I think I made my point. At the end of the day, I, like any reasonable person, want tangible long term and short term solutions. I want that we invest now in making the meaningful changes in the younger generations, since our children’s developmental years will determine their conduct in society in their adolescent years. We have failed to encourage better childhood development programs and their constant exposure to guns and military presence and police raids in their neighbourhood is not conducive to their development. Further, their constant exposure to vulgar, abusive, violent music and lyrics, as well as TV shows, cannot stimulate the brain for anything other than a culture of violence and disrespect.

 Add to this exposure the reality of childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological abuse. The criminal mentality we now see in the “criminals” did not develop when these men became adults: they were sowed from they were just kids. Twenty-five years of BDF on the Southside, today has given us full-fledged gangster mentality from our men, who grew up seeing guns on the streets instead of playgrounds in their backyard. Think about it, my people!

The ICJ DEBACLE

Now amidst all the local issues and the crime crisis, there is a true discussion to be had regarding the failure of leadership and the fact that their deeds have come back to haunt them.  Through my lens what I see is a country with failed leadership, as our leaders enter positions of governmental power simply for self-enrichment, self-gratification and surely with a major streak of narcissism, to the point that they believe that once in power they cannot be questioned. They have been so effective at mass manipulation that we actually have developed a culture of money for votes, a culture of hand-outs, a culture of exploitation, a culture of political cronyism to the point that it is almost impossible to have sober discussions on any issue without resorting to a strict political stance or sheer personal attacks and name-calling when there are opposing views.

In my estimation, collectively we have failed to teach and encourage our people to think critically, to express themselves eloquently without vulgarity and to participate in mature discourse with a high level of decorum. And if I had any doubt about what I am saying, we need only look at the level of debates, attacks and “shittery” that takes place at the National Assembly, and then we can appreciate that the leadership at the top is a reflection of the national behaviour and psyche of the society at all levels. The few exceptions in between are truly the ones out of the box. It has been so bad that the level of mental corruption and the level of skulduggery, permeates even amongst the so-called professionals, as we see them singing for their supper, refusing to adhere to proper hiring procedures and process and operating under the notion of political entitlement to land themselves a job. If the so-called educated and enlightened and supposedly more civilized and cultured members of society stoop to such levels of conduct, what then are we to expect from the masses living below the poverty line and struggling to just meet the most basic of needs? Even in the realm of business there is a cut-throat mentality coupled with political favoritism, which, sadly does not allow for true free enterprise with certainty of rules and regulations. Thus, to survive and reel in the government contracts, lots of illegality and irregularity takes place, and our politicians know they do it and participate in it, yet lose no sleep over their unconscionable conduct! Reality check!

Now I put this reality on paper to get to the point at hand on the debate concerning the ICJ and the call for us to go to referendum on whether or not we should agree with Guatemala to submit their claim against us to the ICJ! This issue is now a last straw issue because it goes to the core of our pride in believing we are an intact territory which we have been able to successfully occupy and define to the exclusion of Guatemala. However, Belizeans at all levels are now seeing this issue from their own stance and, strangely or oddly, there is a groundswell amongst the grassroots that totally shows defiance against the position taken by the government on this issue, that goes beyond political lines. To me it’s a strange phenomenon, since the masses have shown great distrust against the government on this issue and have developed their own conspiracy theory that the government is undermining us. This of course becomes more easily believable when the Foreign Minister makes some of the most uncouth remarks and dares tell those opposing going to the ICJ that they are crazy. His most recent claim is that they will become refugees in their own country, if they vote no.

I opine that there is massive distrust because firstly the government was not supposed to take a position of “yes” or “no” on whether Belize should submit itself to the jurisdiction of the ICJ.  However, the party in power has taken a “yes ICJ” position and thus has said it will advocate for such position. By extension this is seen as the position of the government, and when certain leaders of the Opposition also took said stance, then the masses became even more convinced there is a collusion against the people because the two parties can never agree on anything, yet they agree, per the thinking of the layman, to give up our sovereignty and territory to a foreign court filled with people distant from our reality.

In recent weeks, the situation became even more critical, when leaderships of the Belize Defence Force, Belize Coast Guard and the Police made media rounds launching their own campaign calling for a Yes vote in conformity with the party and government. That definitely sounded the death knell of neutrality they were supposed to have and they are now seen as cowards, not willing to stand for country as pledged in their allegiance. NEVER before had the law enforcement agencies of their country taken an outright political stance or taken a position on a matter which they will be called upon to uphold no matter which way it goes. These are specially, constitutionally constituted entities, free from political participation and position, yet they showed how partisan they had become. They should be so neutral that their leaderships are appointed under power outlined in our Constitution. They have special laws that govern them and are some of the most essential services for a country and comprise men and women that are supposed to maintain a high level of discipline and stand for country at ALL times. It was a sad day when these agencies stepped down from their high pedestal of non-partisanship and yielded to the political will of men hungry for power, tainting their uniforms.

After all is said and done, after years of deceiving the people and playing on their emotions at election time… and after refusing to discuss the issues that need to be discussed, especially at election time, but instead attacking opponents, suddenly the government wants the masses to vote on facts. They want the masses to be schooled on long legal opinions and extensive research, when all they have ever encouraged prior to this is the riling up of people to vote on emotions.  So the people’s emotions are of distrust of a government and anyone wanting to go to the ICJ, so you just reaping the vote culture you sowed! No to the ICJ!

“I alone cannot change Belize, but I can open many minds so they free themselves from this mental slavery… join me!” Audrey

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Deshawn Swasey

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