Editorial — 25 January 2006

Although it is pooh-poohed, vilified, ridiculed and summarily dismissed by both the UDP and the PUP, the VIP is seen by sober citizens as the ?thin edge of the wedge? against the corruption and excesses encouraged and protected by the two-party system of government since Independence in 1981.


Belize celebrates ? and we use that word tongue-in-cheek ? its 25thanniversary of Independence this year, and if there is one thing our citizens have learned, over 25 years, it is that when the parties change seats in the House of Representatives, the only thing that really changes is whom the dons pay, and who gets the contracts, necessarily severely bloated.


The value of the VIP is not really in its various personalities who contest the elections, but in the fact that such political rebellion comes from Belmopan, the seat of government.


If we examine the history of Belmopan, some interesting facts come to light. The building of the country?s administrative capital began after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, and by 1970, then Premier George Price began moving, by force, almost all the important arms of government to Belmopan.


Younger citizens would not know what harsh living conditions their parents met in Belmopan. They would not know, for example, that the ?city,? apart from the administrative buildings, was merely a hodge-podge of houses that resembled army barracks joined together by muddy streets, and that their parents migrated there ?on pain of termination of service.?


In those days, Belmopan was Mr. Price?s private domain. His word was law, and independent thinking was a dangerous occupation.


Now, Belmopan has blossomed into perhaps the prettiest city in the nation, and probably the second in importance. If that was Mr. Price?s vision, then, in that respect, he was a visionary.


Beginning in 1971, apart from the construction workers who lived there, Belmopan was, to all intents and purposes, a city of public officers.


Now, education in and of itself does not guarantee intelligence, but the fact is inescapable that public officers, as a body, are educated people, which is to say, the majority have attained a certain level of schooling, and the bureaucrats and technocrats who lead the service are well educated.


We know that there are, in the last category, political flunkies, but these citizens are like roaches and bilge rats ? wherever there are politicians, they will be found.


Even the villages, such as Salvapan and Maya Mopan, peopled by immigrants from the neighbouring republics beginning in the 80s, have an impact on Belmopan politics. The original immigrants may have lacked education, but their sons and daughters have attended the same schools as the children of Belmopan elites. These immigrants? children, therefore, are educated, and some of them, well educated, and they are today?s voters.


The foregoing is by way of saying that Belmopan, with the exception of Belize City, arguably, may well have the greatest concentration of educated citizens per capita in the country, and we do well to remember that the University of Belize is now headquartered there.


It is said that an independent thinker is an enemy of the politician. If this is so, there ought to be many enemies of the ruling administration in Belmopan, even though, we admit, there are also many supporters as well, the strength of whose bank accounts, their major obsession, rests on the success of their party at the polls.


The point we wish to make is that voting in the municipal elections in Belmopan is history in the making. The voters of Belmopan are a force to be reckoned with. Belmopan, the home of the ?intelligentsia,? does not have the crime, poverty and unemployment that the cultural capital, Belize City, has. And the members of VIP have credibility, a commodity in scarce supply in this corrupt administration.


Interestingly, the VIP has published the extent of its campaign financing. It is a pittance, laughable and ridiculous when compared with the massive spending and wholesale bribery of the established politicians, but it is good news, nevertheless.


It means that the local and international businessmen are not their bosses. They have no backsides to kiss, and no favors to dispense if they win, it appears.


We do not say the VIP will win, but because of the aforementioned reasons, the elections will be very interesting. The voters of Belmopan have an opportunity not open to the rest of the country, an opportunity to herald the political winds of change. They will indicate whether, in 25 years of politics, we have progressed, or whether the old mentality still exists ? if not blue, then red; if not red, then blue, but nothing else.


The rest of us, hobbled by poverty and despair and easy prey to bribery, can only observe, and record.


The elections will be very interesting, indeed, and historical.


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