“Your life begins to end the moment you start being silent about the things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.
As I put to paper my thoughts, there is a downpour outside as rain washes away the filth over the old capital city and simultaneously washes away accessibility to the roads going west and south of the country. The floods are here, and the multi-million-dollar George Price Highway and Hummingbird Highway are caving in with just one heavy rainfall. The southern part of the country is inaccessible to the northern half from Cotton Tree Village, in the Cayo District, upwards. A culvert at Saint Matthews Village has collapsed and a portion of the road is being washed away. The same situation is taking place in Saint Margaret’s Village, so for now the Cayo district is cut off from the rest of the country. Ironically, this physical separation is only indicative of the deep-rooted party political divide and polarisation that now plagues us as a nation and the reality that Belmopan, the seat of government, is out of touch with the realities of its people!
We cannot stop the forces of nature, but we sure can stop the corruption of a nation, if only the masses would not remain silent and inactive! As a people we can stop the wanton issuance of bloated contracts for roads which do not even last a half-decade and often, in less than twelve months, are riddled with potholes, cracks, sunken areas and in this case, entire sections that are being washed away. This disaster manifested itself today, but the foundation (or lack thereof) took place the moment the government, in its continued trend of corruption and unaccountability, awarded road contracts to not the most qualified persons or firm, but to those with party political connections. Thereafter, all the shortcuts in material, engineering design, and structural reinforcement automatically ensued.
We have an office of Contractor General, yet it is one of the most inefficient oversight entities, for which we are wasting public funding. No matter the political party, it has always been in their interest to appoint to these oversight bodies political lackeys, as we refer to them, and sadly these so-called professionals are not even ashamed to display their inefficiency. Thus, the apathy from the top trickles down to the bottom and we the people, individually, just remain absolutely silent and, worse yet, inactive in advocating and agitating for change. We do not demand accountability and transparency and sit by, barely surviving and in survival mode, not realising our leaders intentionally keep us preoccupied with these survival issues so that we do not organize against their corruption!
The price of apathy towards public affairs, is to be ruled by evil men. Plato
There is an evil prevailing at the moment, and said evil is clothed in all sorts of forms and mediums, and the evildoers smile with us as they justify their conduct and make promises of betterment that are yet to materialize. The UDP’s slogan, “the best is yet to come,” if properly read and understood, was a prophetic sounding of the fact that “the best” is not now… it will come yet, but no timeline is given for when that futuristic “best” will arrive and who will provide it! The UDP did not say they would provide “the best” and would do so during their tenure in office, and neither did they say who will be the beneficiaries of this “best” that is “yet to come”. For all you know, for them in power they are already living the best, and are not concerned that we the masses have not seen nor experienced “the best” that can be. In my view, it is akin to saying “tomorrow, never comes” or to the old adage, “a promise is comfort to a fool”!
It seems that collectively the Belizean society is the most forgiving society I can envisage, since it suffers one trampling after another and is yet to revolt and demand its just due. The governmental decisions that disenfranchise the Belizeans are epic, yet the response by the masses, is so pathetic or non-existent. Those of us who dare speak out are viewed as “chicken little’, who is announcing that the sky is falling, and all others just laugh at him. By the time the sky did fall, it was too late to save the day!
I pray that one day anthropologists and sociologists can do a thorough case study of Belizean society to be able to explain why it is that we do not rise up in arms against an oppressive and unjust system of governance and pathetic system of justice, where justice is seldom served!
Our people just don’t seem to see the evil glaring at them and that both political parties have established themselves to consolidate power, or if they see the evil, they seem to have become paralyzed and unable to fight for a just cause! Stop and think how it could be that within the parties themselves there is no transparency, yet when we elect these same leaders, we expect them to act in a transparent and accountable manner in government? Look at the recent trend of families consolidating power within the political parties they operate.
The influence of the Barrow Dynasty in the UDP is undisputed, as there is absolutely no shame nor transparency in the decision that there would be no convention to elect the next standard bearer of the Queen’s Square division and instead, brother Dean Barrow just handed power to Sista B. She has been his bag lady from day one and silently wields a lot of power on the streets and at many government offices.
Then Shyne, deported from the USA after serving time for felony charges, with said criminal record can now run for political office after having been handed the Mesopotamia division on a silver platter by uncle Finnegan with the blessing of daddy Barrow. And let’s not forget that Finnegan’s wife, Dianne, is now contesting the Lake-I division. One family member connected to another, ensuring they remain in power! Then, the UDP has failed miserably to denounce John Saldivar and remove him from even contemplating running for leader of the UDP! That is a true disgrace and a testimony as to what are the standards of governance accepted within the party, yet we expect better when the party is in power.
The PUP is not any different in this regard. This week the ailing Said Musa made it known that he is now passing his division to his outside son Charles Usher, from the well-connected and powerful Jane Usher clan. This, however, needs to be looked at in light of the fact that one of his sons, Kareem Musa, is already area representative for the Caribbean Shores Division. They too are having internal leadership issues, and we the people must just vote for whomever at the end of the day they support as party leader, even when he is not the best candidate!
And through all these developments the people remain silent and the apathy grows, as if the masses have become resolved that they must remain silent as evil men rule!
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it” – Albert Einstein
If we cannot agree on anything as a people, I would have thought that we could at least agree that our economy is in shambles! Yet, not even on this truth and reality can we get consensus, as the party political tribalism has seen UDP stalwarts and those benefitting from the monies of the people, stand in defence of the financial mismanagement that has plagued us since this UDP government increased Belize’s deficit.
Our people are generally financially illiterate and as such did not understand that press release that was issued on 17th June, by government, announcing PM Dean Barrow’s “intention to seek the consent of holders of Belize’s U.S. Dollar Bonds due 2034 (the “Bonds”) to the capitalization of interest payments falling due on the Bonds through February 20, 2021″. So, for my people who will read this, let me just try to explain what this means. Simply put, what PM Barrow is doing as Minister of Finance, is to increase our deficit (that is, what we already owe) even more; because by this request he is seeking to add the outstanding interest, that the country already CANNOT pay, to the balance of the principal still owed! This has the effect of, firstly, causing the bond to become larger, and secondly, this automatically also increases the interest payments on this larger bond size! My people, we are getting what the duck got!
The government is, however, blaming it on COVID-19, saying that it is caused by that. I beg you all to think for yourself, since this is a lie! Long before COVID-19 our reserves with the Central Bank were non-existent, our loan was increased dramatically by the UDP administration and the borrowing by Dean Oliver Barrow has been incessant — be it for “roads” that are caving in, for sporting complexes that are incomplete, for COVID-19 relief which never reached the people… etc. etc. etc.
Then amidst this, we are being robbed blind by our government, as it refuses to decrease the price of fuel at the pumps, despite drops in world market prices. The only time the price of regular gasoline went down was when we were on lockdown and people could not travel anywhere, anyway! Now, PM Barrow has gone ahead with creating a monopoly on LPG importation, and despite promises that prices will decrease, within a span of one month the price of butane per gallon has drastically increased by sixty-nine (69) cents on the gallon.
Aside from that, let’s look at the many other ills perpetrated against the Belizean people. For one, Social Security has decreased the moneys paid to pensioners, and pensioners are silently suffering, as they cannot balance their budget. After contributing to the Social Security system from its inception, present pensioners now find themselves collecting less.
But wait, there is more to that, since contributions by current employees have increased dramatically, and so has the employer’s portion, forcing many employers to reconsider wages and employment status, as the wage bill for many establishments has gone up by as much as fifteen to twenty-five percent in one blow.
Then, let us never forget that your UDP government forgave 90 MILLION dollars in taxes owed by big land owners, and to date they refuse to release the names of these big wigs across party lines who benefitted. Yet, the small hardworking Belizean is pursued viciously in the collection of taxes and their lands are forfeited or auctioned off, when they are unable to pay.
What else can my people endure? Yet all of these benefits to the rich remain unprotested by the small man, the masses, the oppressed; we turn our eyes to BGYEA and witness first-hand how the might of the state is being brought against Nigel Petillo as he advocates for the right of Belizeans to each own a plot of land. … yet my people remain silent and do NOTHING about it!
“Apathy is the acceptance of the unacceptable” John Stott