Friday, March 21, 2008

Ministry of Morality? Count Me Out.

There is a famous political adage that states "Equal justice under law." Aside from representing the supposed egalitarian nature of our court system, this phrase also applies directly to the allegations of criminal offenses committed by former Prime Minister Said Musa and Minister Ralph Fonseca in the now famous, $40 million fiasco - a controversy that looms on our horizon like an approaching storm. Most Belizeans would agree that no one, not even the most honorable politicians should receive special treatment or protection for any alleged criminal activity. As elected representatives of the people, they have been entrusted with a profound responsibility to be stewards of the laws and policies that affect a significant portion of our daily lives. Therefore, when this responsibility is compromised and the trust of the people is breached in a way that breaks a law, they should be reprimanded and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Whether or not this is the case in the above mentioned case remains to be seen; only time (and Mr. Barrow) will tell.

But notice, I have mentioned nothing about the personal lives of both Mr. Musa or Mr. Fonseca. It is no secret, especially in the broth of gossip and heresy that characterizes the Belizean society, that these former high-ranking politicians violated their matrimonial vows in an unabashed and shameless manner. Some argue that these gentlemen, on account of their philandering, adultery and unscrupulous marital behavior, should have been removed from government years ago. However, let me put forward a sure-to-be controversial question here: since when did we have a Ministry of Morality in the House? Yes, I know many say that we elect our Ministers to represent us in an upstanding and dare I say, moralistic manner. As one person I know said, "Belizeans are good people. And we should have good people representing us." I agree. Belizeans ARE indeed good people. But that particular argument falters miserably in the light of my introduction, that political official should be treated in a way that grants them special privileges that puts them on a higher plane than the ordinary citizen. So if we fight to remove Ministers based upon morality, then we will have to fight to remove (using random names) Mr. Smith from his managerial position at BTL, Mrs. Young from being secretary at Social Security, and Mr. and Mrs. X, Y and Z from being teachers, doctors and police officers, all of whom are public officials who serve us. It becomes then, in a twisted, ironical way, that our Ministers ARE indeed representative of a society because they suffer from the very same short-comings that plague everyday individuals.

The main issue for me here is that if we look toward morality as criterion for electability, we will surely run into a dead end. How's this scenario for an example, "I wah vote for Mr. X because he da wah good man." or "Mr. X? Gial me see he with y sweethaat just this weekend, me no wah vote fu he one &%$#!" Personally, I've elected men and women based upon capability and whether I believe they would have a sincere interest of the Belizean people at heart during every decision making process; I have never elected any official to serve as moral guidance or to represent my character. Neither did Americans vote for Clinton (Lewinsky) or Bush (Iraq) for moral reasons. I believe that whether our politicians have children from different wives is inconsequential to their decision making process. The fact that Messrs Musa and Fonseca violated their matrimonial vows is not the reason for the $40 Million fiasco and it is not the reason why Belize is in economic shambles today. If you want to vote based upon morality, you have every right to do so. To me, its the same as voting for a stick painted blue or red in that it plays no role on how their actions affect your life. But I repeat, if they break a law, you must prosecute. If they break a commandment, then we all know who is the judge in that case. As Plato once said of morality, "All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Counting the Murders for 2008

"There has been another murder in the Old Capital"... Ladies and Gentlemen, if only I had a dollar for every time I heard this statement on the nightly newscast!

It's difficult for me to write this blog... I know that crime is bad and that it affects the lifestyle of all denizens of Belize, but it has never personally affected me. **Knock on wood** I don't want to have an elitist "them people vs. me and my people" air as I continue. It is so easy to judge and separate myself. Maybe even this mindset is a part of the problem.

At my own conservative, generalized estimates, I would say that 50% of the murders that occur in Belize are drug related, 25% due to domestic violence, and the other 25% split mainly between robbery and "beef" -- revenge killings for the above mentioned 3 topics. More than ever, the value of life is being lowered. It's a sad, scary reality. What is the worth of Belizean life?

It hurts me to mention that the majority of these murders are occurring in the South side of Belize City. What series of actions, over the years, has turned this area, perhaps the most earliest populated settlement in Belize, after the Mayas, into the most dangerous and crime-afflicted location in the entire country? Another obvious observation about the rash of murders is that the killers and people being murdered are young, black, and uneducated.

There is not one factor affecting the high rate of crime. But I propose that one of the most significant reason is a lack of Belizean culture in Belize. Now, I can't expound as much I would want about this subject, because I'm trying to keep the length of this entry reasonable. But, Belizeans are the greatest chameleons on Earth. We have chosen, by and large, to abandon the wonderful, beautiful Belizean culture that our "naivety" and "isolation" affords us, to embrace and emulate a capitalist American culture. Just as the past administration tried to follow an "international level capitalist economic plan" that failed horribly, we're trying to follow an American "societal plan". Like them, we're failing. These murders are an effect of this intangible cause. We have to start living like Belizean again.

Sure, we were poor. We didn't have bling or cars. But every child was fed, clean, had a fear of God & authority, and went to school. That's a great starting place... and I'm sure that all children in Belize aren't afforded these basic things today.

God Bless all those affected by Arthur.... more to come on this subject with time. As always, I ask you to think, then comment for further discussion.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

PUP Leadership

I'm young. Too young to remember when we sung God Save the Queen to the Union Jack. Too young to remember George Price ever being Prime Minister. And certainly too young to have witnessed the processes that led to the formation of the PUP, UDP, and other political parties. It would seem that the political choices most people make are not based upon current times, but what happened "all the way back when". This antiquated system of voting a certain way "because me granny da mi big UDP" or "Well, back inna the sixties, George mi give me grandpa piece ah land" have led to our debt and might continue leading to our downfall. The opinions I'm sharing are based on reading the Amandala with the great commentary of Evan Hyde and other "I was there" Belizean figures, the biased "13 Chapters in a Belizean History", and the observations of my short political consciousness. This is my personal anaylsis of the PUP and their current leadership crisis.

The PUP to me have been an infallible power. They rule by intimidation. If you don't agree with them, you're not patriotic and you stand against George Price, himself! They present themselves as having the best interest of the Belizean Public at heart, as they take our national resources and public monies to build and fund projects that only enrich themselves. They take advantage of the weak and uneducated and will do anything to enrich themselves. Maybe it's unfair to say ALL PUP are like this, but those in the leadership positions are. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

Now, as I understand it, these corrupt greedy souls, who are so willing to rape the country for their own riches, are a new wave of PUP, shaped by the puppet master, Ralph Fonseca. The "true" PUP and PUP spirit are embodied by people like Philip Goldson, John Smith, UBAD Movement, and lately, as the picture is being painted, Mark Espat, Cordel Hyde, and Johnny Briceno.

Mark and Johnny have both decided not to run for Party leadership, because of inter-party corruption and brow bashing, so Francis Fonseca will be declared as Party Leader at their convention, hands down. Strategically, I believe the PUP are making a mistake. Francis represents manipulation, corruption, and all the bad things that the PUP have done and continue to do. Without playing party politics, I can honestly say that this man is not who I would vote for as my Prime Minister. Let's look at the numbers; he won his division by 18 votes. That's the most narrow PUP victory. And let me speak the truth, the only reason he won is because the UDP candidate running against him is equally someone not suitable to be an elected representative. In good conscience, it was HARD to vote in the Freetown Division in 2008.

It's a battle between the "good" PUP and the "bad" PUP. At the end of the day, it all boils down to money {from where I'm looking}. The "bad" PUP are all about creating economic prosperity for themselves and to hell with everything else. Even if a PUP-inclined person would argue that this is not so, this is the face that they are portraying for all the world to see.

I don't understand why Mark and Johnny continue to be support a party who they see as corrupt. It shows a certain hypocrisy on their part... complacency, cowardice, and endorsement of the PUP and all that they are doing. I wish that they would break away from a franchise that are nothing more then a weight around Belize's neck. Ralph Fonseca and Said Musa are bad men. Not to punch below the belt, but look at their personal lives and the liaisons they've made for all the country to see. If a man can't keep his own marriage vows, that he made before God and man, an oath means nothing to him. They might have sworn to protect Belize, but these words are worthless to men of corrupt character.

To conclude, let me reiterate that I am not a UDP or trying to PUP-bash. I just want, now and always, what is best for Belize. We need to stop this open hand "gimme" attitude that George Price himself instilled in us, and change our societal mindset to "what can I do for myself and my countryman". Let's learn from the Chinese and Mennonites, who have immigrated to our country, found riches, and thrived. Everything we ever needed to succeed lies at our very fingertips. Reach out with me, let us grasp it, and damn to hell any power or person who tries to stop us. Be it PUP, UDP, or the Queen of England herself!

Again, I welcome all opinions and comments. And I encourage you to THINK for yourself.

~The Voice

Monday, March 17, 2008

Defending the $40 Million...(Sort of)

Even as I study abroad, I can still hear the cacophony and smell the intellectual dysentery that often characterizes our socio-political arena. In times of rampant mismanagement of public funds, it is quite easy (and acceptable) for the public to become extremely cynical and pessimistic toward not only those responsible, but toward "politics" in general. I once asked a high-ranking PUP minister how he would describe the general attitude of young Belizeans in regards to politics and he summed it up in one word: "cynical". It's a simple word, but for me, it had a profound impact on how the upper echelons of our political world perceive negative attacks against their (former) regime. At the end of that same conversation, I realized that amidst all the allegations of social and economic mismanagement, the alleged perpetrators truly believed that they did the right thing; this was not a case of ministers "fooling themselves" - they REALLY and TRULY believed that they were helping the country by their secret deals and that the media and the general public on a whole completely exaggerated their supposed wrong-doings. This is why when I first heard about this $40 Million fiasco, I took a step back from my alleged youthful cynicism and tried to view it from a different perspective - from the perspective of Said Musa, or Ralph Fonseca or Fransis Fonseca, since they were the alleged officials who orchestrated the deal. And the results of this pondering was indeed unique and very interesting.

When analyzing any allegation of corruption, I think it is very important to not just look at the end result, but to also recall the very origin of the problem. In this case, i.e. the UHS case, the first problem the former government did was to guarantee the loan that UHS made from the Belize Bank. Simply, UHS was a private company and the government should never serve as the guarantor for any private firm; this practice wreaks favoritism toward the upper class. And really and truly, this is where the proverbial wrench was thrown in my thought process. When the government agreed to guarantee the loan, there was really no turning back. For me, it's like walking through the gates of Hell and asking the devil if you may be excused. We all know the devil's answer. As the guarantor, the government HAD NO CHOICE but to use public funds to bail out UHS. UHS was basically bankrupt and when Belize Bank came calling, who was the one who committed to pay them in case UHS couldn't? And this is the same reason why Belizeans protested in Belmopan almost exactly one year ago. I think the former government did indeed try to find private companies or citizens who could assume their role as guarantor, but they couldn't. So, they are now left with two choices: either use some money from Venezuela and Taiwan (which are not tax-payers money per se) to pay off the loan and settle the deal, OR don't pay the money, shut down the hospital and kick the patients out. The decision was clear. The point for me is, we should have seen this coming from the very day we found out that the government signed on to the loan and UHS became bankrupt. THAT was the REAL mistake and once that is done, then as they say, "it's all down-hill from here". It reminds me of my high school Physics tests. If a problem has 4 steps, and you make a mistake in PART A, then OF COURSE parts B, C and D will be wrong (the teacher used to write ERROR CARRIED FORWARD on the top). And this perfectly describes the former government's actions: ERROR CARRIED FORWARD.

Now my reasoning here may be interpreted as somewhat sympathetic and I may be accused of turning a blind side to other salient aspects of this situation but I honestly think it is a fair analysis. We can only go so far by calling for the guillotine or by demanding their exile to Hattieville. The 40 Million Fiasco was necessary because of an unnecessary move, that being the guaranteed loan note. If we want to dispute anything, we should dispute the simple origin, make the action illegal so it never happens again. That would be the only true reparation. Or, we should dispute the fact that despite the government's involvement, why in Baron Bliss's name do we NOT own the hospital? I can only wonder how much this situation could have been assuaged if the former government believed in transparency. Maybe something like, "We messed up, but we have to do x, y and z." To reemphasize, we need to always look at the entire issue on a whole, not just one aspect and simply react to a spur of the moment headline detail. As Plato once said, "A good decision is based on knowledge and not on [$40 million] numbers." (emphasis added).