Someone, and it might as well be Partridge, needs to remind those of the UDP who are predators, that just five years ago they hardly thought they would be in this position today. Not only that, someone needs to say to them, listen, the people of Belize are stronger, more informed and less patient than they were five years ago.
It was in July of 2004 that the Social Security Board scandal began to unravel. Five months earlier, in February, the then Opposition UDP had attempted a public demonstration against PUP this and that, but that demonstration hadn’t been much.
Once the SSB scandal unraveled, it was a so-called G-7 challenge from within the PUP Cabinet which alerted the nation of Belize to the real magnitude of the problem within the handling of Belize’s public finances. The Musa administration managed to patch things together temporarily, but then the trade unions and civil society came together under the UDP umbrella to stage a massive Belize City demonstration in late August of 2004.
That ad hoc coalition – UDP, trade unions and civil society, pressured Prime Minister Said Musa to hold public Senate hearings on the goings on at the SSB. When P.M. Musa then expelled Tourism Minister Mark Espat from Cabinet at the end of 2004, in effect thumbing his nose at Kremandala, Mr. Musa was essentially going down into a bunker and awaiting the shelling.
That shelling came the following month, January 2005, in front of the House of Representatives in Belmopan. By early February, the Government of Belize was, in a sense, at the mercy of the trade unions of Belize. In desperation, Mr. Musa summoned his longtime sidekick, Assad Shoman, to defuse the union dynamite, which he did. Mr. Shoman’s largest concession was a commission of inquiry into the Development Finance Corporation.
By the following year, the Musa government was in crisis again. This time, the workers at BTL had pulled the plug on telecommunications in the nation, and the Government of Belize could do nothing about it.
Our intent is not to belittle the role of the UDP in the street political charge of the people which began in August of 2004. All we want to do is say to those who are ripping off the national patrimony, that the trade unions could pull the plug on you if they ever really felt the need to do so.
Appearances notwithstanding, the UDP is not that strong in absolute terms. It is divided, to begin with, by Lord Ashcroft’s millions. But, more than that, the UDP looks so strong because the PUP is so weak. The PUP is weak because two of its three factions are known to be controlled by Lord Ashcroft’s millions, and the trade unions and civil society of Belize have no intention of returning to the greedy clutches of the Lord of Chichester.
Ashcroft (banking, telecommunications and construction) is the most politically involved and aggressive of a corporate troika which includes BEL (electricity) and BNE (petroleum). From the standpoint of the trade unions, then, and the more politically educated of the Belizean people, the real issue is not red UDP and blue PUP. The issue is how do the people of Belize survive the greed of the transnational corporations and the voracity of Belize’s present political predators.
What Prime Minister Dean Barrow has done is separate himself from the corporate greed and the political corruption. In other words, in real political terms he has appealed to the union base which removed the PUP from power and gave him the Golden Fleece. So far, Mr. Barrow himself appears to remember when. But almost everyday, it seems, more and more of his political executives do not. They forget from whence they came at their own peril. They forget on whose shoulders they stand to their own detriment.
All power to the people.