Editorial — 09 January 2019
UDP has been dominant  party since 1984

The way UDP leaders talk sometimes, you’d think that this party which has controlled the reins of government since 2008 is ruling the roost in this country for the first time. Honorable Sedi Elrington still cannot make a presentation in the House of Representatives without regurgitating some story about Honorable George Price, the first prime minister of Belize.

It is 34 years since the UDP first formed a government in Belize. In 1984, that party had a resounding victory at the polls. The simple math shows that 34 years have passed since 1984, and for more than 20 of those years the UDP has held sway. It is not only ridiculous for the UDP to persist in misrepresenting the facts, it is unfair to Belize. They are the main authors, architects of the Belize we live in. The Belize we live in has one of the worst crime and violence problems in the world.

We hear people saying that this type of violence is all around us, which might suggest that they feel we should be more accepting of our terrible lot. The suggestion is that it doesn’t matter who leads, it’s the time and the area where we live. It may be that we shouldn’t do the election thing every five years. Maybe we should just call for names and place them in a hat and pull, instead of putting on our thinking hat and making our mark beside a name.

In the 1980’s, a group with some senior leadership got together under the umbrella of a “Crimes Commission” and put forward some recommendations to save our youth from what they saw was a coming storm. Our political leaders decided that it was too expensive to implement the programs the Crimes Commission recommended. Many thought that it was too expensive to NOT implement the programs.

Leadership doesn’t come without constraints. And some situations are damn nigh impossible. A mariner whose boat loses its mast and sails in a storm is up the creek without a paddle. A coach who takes over a team in the building phase is limited in what they and their team can achieve in the short run. Political leaders sometimes also have high hurdles to get over. But serious questions must be asked when crime and violence gets worse every year, for 34 years!

In his New Year’s Day address, Prime Minister Barrow listed “Belizean exceptionalism” as one of our prized attributes. We want to know where this “exceptionalism” is in our leadership, when our murder rates are as bad as or worse than any in our region.

We have the report and it says that on the matter of respect for life there is nothing exceptional in our political leaders. The report says their stewardship in that area is lacking.

A flaw in the defense

We heard quite an extensive part of a conversation between Hon. Finnegan and the hosts of Wave Radio’s morning show, Mr. Joe Bradley and Mr. Alfonso Novelo, on Friday morning. Hon Finnegan had called in, apparently to defend his wife, most men will do that, and also to protect political turf, all politicians will do that.

The main subject of their ire was former PUP senator and foreign minister, Ms. Lisa Shoman, who had written a very tough commentary condemning some comments made by the UDP aspirant for leadership in Lake Independence, Mrs. Diane Finnegan.

Ms. Shoman, a lawyer who has also been an aspirant for political leadership, and who hasn’t announced retirement from political life, wrote (in a January 3rd Facebook post) that the relationship between some politicians and gang leaders is “parasitic in nature”, and that like “the yellow choking ‘matapalo’ vines that grow on beautiful mango and citrus trees, they starve sunlight and the life out of each other.”

Mrs. Finnegan, speaking (to a reporter of a local television station, Channel Seven) on the tragic death of a young man who was a purported gang leader, had said that  he was one of the first persons she sought out when she decided to make a run in politics. Mrs. Finnegan described the young man as “instrumental” to her campaign, and said that when she fell back, the young man “would quickly text or call me” and tell her “you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Hon. Finnegan and friends declared Ms. Shoman elitist, and even suggested that she was racist. The first defense is arguable. The second defense is flat out worrying.

Politics makes strange bedfellows. We are pretty sure that all politicians in Belize have relationships with individuals who shouldn’t be prominent in the church. And we have to allow that a gang leader (a leader of a group that is involved in unwholesome activities) might just be waiting for a savior. Saul of Tarsus was one of the worst enemies of the Christ’s followers. He not only became the greatest believer; he gave his life in the service of the Christ he had persecuted.

Malcolm X was a petty criminal who actually spent time in prison. He was rescued by Elijah Muhammad and became one of the great men of his generation.

No one will argue with Mrs. Finnegan the community activist getting close to gang leaders. And no one will argue with the lady as politician lending an ear to gang leaders. But one must seriously pause when we are talking about embracing them at the top level of political leadership. That’s what the lady said.

Remember, Malcolm X had to “clean up” before Elijah Muhammad exalted him to a leadership position in his organization/faith, and Saul had to be transformed on the road to Damascus, before he could become a soldier for the Christ.

It might be good spin to declare that Ms. Shoman’s comment is elitist, but we should not allow turf protection to take away the rights of Belizeans to comment on any matter they consider of national concern. Worse, there should be no suggestion of racism in any Belizean for commenting on matters of national concern. Ms. Shoman has lived in Jamaica. She has seen things that many of us haven’t seen.

Belize is a nation, and gang violence is a national problem. Therefore we are all called to weigh in with our ideas/solutions. Ms. Shoman did not question the sincerity of Mrs. Finnegan. She said she was disturbed by what the lady had expressed about her political leadership.

Of course, there wouldn’t be this conversation if there were jobs in this country for our young men. When there are no jobs, young men turn to unwholesome activities to sustain themselves.

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Deshawn Swasey

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