Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Belize Recieves Leadership Training for Social and Environmental Justice

The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) held its first Leadership Training for Social and Environmental Justice for young adults from August 15-17, 2014. 

BELPO partnered with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) and the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) to create a leadership program to act as a beginning for a non-partisan and non-sectarian way forward for striving for social justice and protecting the natural resources of Belize for present and future generations.



The training program sought to encourage 15 future leaders to work for social and environmental justice issues by helping them see their own potential for change in Belize.  This involved demonstrating that they can choose to make a difference based upon their own ideas and plans. 

These dedicated young adults spent 2½ days at duPlooys Jungle Lodge and Resort (Cayo) increasing their leadership capacity by developing more self-awareness, creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills.

One participant said “When one thinks of a Social and Environmental Justice Leadership Training what tends to pop into mind is hours upon hours of boring power point lectures that seem to ramble on; however, nothing was further from the truth”.

Another said, “I woke up Friday morning not all too excited about the days ahead.... Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for being accepted to participate in the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy's Leadership training for Environmental and Social Justice but it was a lot different than what I had expected...”

They experienced a different approach to learning and leadership.  Through thought provoking discussions and activities they deepened their awareness of themselves, other participants and the environmental and social justice challenges we are facing.

One participant echoes the feelings of many:  “Fast forward the next two and a half days - the interactive, frustrating and thought provoking games; the sleepless and fun nights socializing (Which surprisingly contributed a lot to what we had learnt during the formal day sessions); the finding of one's self and how to channel that as young leaders; the surprising realization of one's core values, their strengths and weaknesses...

We all emerged as the same group of people working to change Belize and the world but with rekindled fire, fueled by solidified passion, wisdom and friendship... This certainly wasn't the lectured session I had expected… feeling of being surrounded by some of the most insightful BELIZEAN young people I've ever met.”

And another:  “What started out as a group full of strangers from all walks of life ended with a deep inner sense of community, connectivity and inspiration.”

BELPO seeks to create a model that will establish a new standard for leadership development for young adults that will be duplicated across Belize. 

The traditional view of leadership is about accumulating money and material things.  We aim to change that view, to move away from practicing individual leadership to practicing collaborative leadership that transcends religious and political party affiliation.

This is a path forward for a better Belize and a better world.

Press Release by:
The Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO)
P.O. Box 105, San Ignacio Town, Cayo District, Belize
Phone: +501- 824-2476   | email:  belpo.belize(at)gmail.com
Website:  https://www.belpo.org/    

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fiji’s Elections 2014: From “Fiji for Fijians” to “We are all Fijians”

Introduction

The use of the term “Fijian” as a label for national identification remains a significant ideological frame in the run up for elections to be held on September 17, 2014.

By ideological frame, I refer to the fact that phrase “We are all Fijians” is represented by an array of inter-related set of stories, symbols, images, as well as rhetoric in an attempt  to define and provide reasons as to why the public should or should not vote for a political party. This ideology is represented as the highest maxim of social equality. It is used to justify, maintain, and increase popular support for the Fiji First Party.

This is visible in the media, where political candidates are often asked to take a position on this issue. The premise is that if we know the candidate’s position on this, we will know their core political values and vision for Fiji. Those who are hesitant to support ‘Fijian’ as a common-term or ‘national identity’ are explicitly and implicitly cued to be proponents of disunity and inequality.

Fiji or Viti

It is said that when the Europeans had asked the Tongans for the name of islands we now know as Fiji, they provided them with the term Viti. It follows that the terms ‘Fiji’ and ‘Fijian’ arose out of a mispronunciation of the word Viti. Colonialism inaugurated the emergence of a collective ‘Fijian race’ or the Taukei Kei Viti or Kai Viti, which loosely translates into ‘the owners of Fiji land’ and ‘persons from Fiji’ respectively. Prior to this, identification was primarily based on one’s birth and kinship connections in a vanua or mataqali among distinct communities/confederacies and not as a collective ‘Fijian race’.

There were diverse pronunciations and spellings of Fiji such as “Beetee, Fegee, Fejee, Fidjee, Fidje, Fidgee, Fidschi, Fiji, Feigee, Vihi, Viji, and Viti” (Williams & Calvert, 1859, p. 1). However, Fiji and Fijian became commonly used in the colonial state to refer to the land and the ‘natives’.

Coups and Fiji for Fijians

These labels “Fiji/Fijian” are not in themselves the problem or the solution to ethnic-relations in Fiji. The problem is the actions of elitist alliances and the practice of racial ethno-nationalism which have instilled divisive values and practices to these classifications. Colonial policy and the coup makers through their use of these categories have established the social boundaries between the two ‘races’.  To the Fijians, the Indians were to be known as the vulagi (foreigner). To the Indians, the Fijians were to be known as the jungalis (jungle people). This is not to say that there are no cultural differences between the two but that the state plays a crucial role in how these differences are viewed, expressed, and lived.

Support for the 1987 and 2000 coup was summoned precisely on a form of oppositional categorization from the colonial period. It featured arguments to ‘protect’ the taukei (owners of the land), lotu (Christian religious beliefs), and the vanua (land and groupings), which were supposedly endangered. The mobilizing theme was the protection of Fijian interests with “Fiji for Fijians” as a rallying motto.

We Are All Fijians

Unlike the previous coups in 1987 and 2000 which were executed under the ideological banner of “Fiji for Fijians”, Bainimarama has been able to popularize the idea that his governance represents true democracy with the motto “We are all Fijians” and “Fiji for all Fijians”.  Bainimarama, who was the commander of the Fijian army at the time, accused the Quarse government of election fraud and took control of government in 2006.

Since then, Bainimarama has conducted a widespread media campaign that emphasizes “We are all Fijians”. In 2010, he issued a decree stating that the indigenous peoples should be officially known as the iTaukei and that all other citizens should be known as Fijians. He also issued many other decrees proclaiming that his actions are in the best interest of all citizens, such as dismantling the Great Council of Chiefs. The “We are all Fijians” has become the common-sense lens from which to positively interpret and justify past and future actions of the Bainimarama regime.    

The issue of a common-name is linked to the efforts of the National Federation Party (NFP) which was the first party to advocate for a common-roll and a common name for citizens prior to Fiji’s independence. However, at the time, Fijian politicians and intellectuals argued that such actions would be disastrous for Fijian identity and culture. Therefore, such proposals were never approved.
Bainimarama has been able to re-articulate this ideology at a time when no other message would have worked in his favor. He could not rely on the ideology of Fijian paramountcy (‘Fiji for Fijians’) because this was what the Quarse government was employing. Quarse was implementing policies which were designed to establish the dominance of Fijians in areas such as the economy, education, and the public service. Bainimarama employed the ideology of ‘ending racism’ and of ‘moving Fiji forward’ to gain local and international support for his dismissal of Quarse, whom he had originally appointed after the 2000 coup.  

Through this re-articulated ideology, Bainimarama has sought to downplay the fact that he came to power illegally, that he has violated the constitution, and that he has been unaccountable over the years (e.g. why will the Auditor General Reports be issued until after the elections?). He has been able to do this because he commanded the military and because he is phenotypically Fijian. The ideology of “We are all Fijians” is the emotional and symbolic glue which holds the Bainimarama regime together. It has resounded with approval among some segments of populace including key public figures as it represents the idea of civic equality and nationality unity.

In March of this year, Bainimarama announced the formation of his political party called the “Fiji First Party”, a name which was designed to promote this ideological theme. His initial 2006 promise to have returned to the barracks after establishing mechanisms for a stable democracy has now been pushed aside. He now aims to gain official support for his governance in the run up for elections. He has exercised several key social reforms and media campaigns to this end: free education policy; reform of scholarship scheme to be based on merit; rural development projects; creation of a new constitution, and appears to have de-facto control of Fiji’s mainstream media.

We Are All Fijians, But Who Are You

The counter ideological frames of the other parties contesting election are based on human rights and liberal democratic discourses. They argue that the Bainimarama regime has proven to be unaccountable, unjust, and undemocratic.

For instance, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) argues that Bainimarama’s imposition of a common-name is against the indigenous rights and culture. They hold that ‘Fijian’ must be the official name for the indigenous peoples. This argument bears the traces of the ‘Fiji for Fijians’ ideology as it merges past members and support from the pro-indigenous campaign of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party, founded by Quarse in 2001. It supplements its ideological power by calling on the international convention of indigenous rights which asserts the right of indigenous people to protect their ‘identity’. Their ideological goal is to ‘reclaim’ Fijian cultural institutions and democracy. In this regard, this ideological frame is geared towards gaining massive Fijian support.  

Another major party contesting the elections is the National Federation Party (NFP). And while it is likely that the NFP remains committed to idea that ‘Fijian’ is the best common name for civic unity, given the political situation, they have chosen to inform the public that this should be done through democratic process and not by a military regime. They argue that the regime had no legal democratic authority to employ this term for the citizenry. They prefer to take the matter up for public consultation which demonstrates its respect for law in a democracy and their empathy to dialogue with the indigenous peoples. This underscores NFP ideological frame of liberal democracy, equality and respect to all the citizens and in so doing encourage voters to support them and not Fiji First which has been a dictatorship.

The NFP in my opinion is the best of the political parties. Their track record shows that they have always argued for equal representation, respect and compromise with the indigenous community, and would properly lead Fiji towards democratic stability and sound economic growth.

However, there is a need for the NFP to insert themselves more radically in the “We are Fijians” ideology. “We are Fijians” must be dis-articulated and re-articulated in ways which demonstrate their commitment to equality, national unity, and gain popular support. They should emphasize the fact that by and large the populace continues to use the terms like Indians and Fijians in the everyday life, and that it is okay to use Fijian as a marker of national collectivity as well as a marker to refer to the indigenous people. They should also devise strategies which can build on the desire for national unity in more creative ways. For example, they may pledge to have a day of national inter-cultural festivities, which will exhibit shared and unique cultural practices from all of Fiji cultures not just Indian and Fijian cultures. They should organize a group of singers or actors from diverse ethnic backgrounds to create songs and dramas for their campaign. They may also consider a proposition to modify the constitution to insert a clause which declares Fiji a multi-religious state versus a secular state. In order words, they must present themselves with a more impressive strategy and symbols of national unity than the Bainimarama’s “We are Fijians” campaign.

Conclusion

It would appear that Bainimarama has been successful in the public sphere as far as this ideological device of “We are all Fijians” is concerned. Journalists and the media in general have consistently disapproved of any politician who disagrees with the use of Fijian as a common label. Those who disagree with Bainimarama’s “We are all Fijians” are casted as promoters of racial division and ‘returning Fiji to the politics of old times’.  

There are no guarantees that the policies of the Bainimarama government which one may interpret as progressive will in effect create a stable multicultural Fiji. The regime’s hegemonic governance has come at the cost of media censorship, unaccounted economic practices, political corruption, and human rights violations as documented by the alternative media and civil society reports. The illegal actions of Bainimarama are overlooked by Fiji First supporters who encourage the public to realize that the nation has finally achieved a ‘national identity’ and to observe the infrastructure development taking place (never mind its unsustainability).

For some of the populace, the ideology of “We are all Fijians” is a positive step towards national unity. For others, it is as a threat to Fijian identity.  And still for others, it is an illegal change with no material rewards. Going into the election, political mobilization will depend on which party can create a positive and dominant ideological representation of their party. So far Fiji First appears to have the upper hand because it has dominated the public sphere and has complemented this ideology with recent infrastructure development. For better or for worse, the “We are all Fijians” motto has a wide appeal and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bainimarama wins the election. But I also wouldn’t be happy; … maybe I’ll be content, but not happy.

By Rolando Cocom

Also follow the discussion at: 

Croz Walsh's Blog, Fiji: The way it was, is and can be

Fiji Today Blog 

References

Derrick, R. A. (1950). A history of Fiji (Vol. 1). Suva: Stationery Department.
Kelly, J. D. (1995). Threats to Difference in Colonial Fiji. Cultural Anthropology, 10(1), 64-84. doi: 10.2307/656231
Lal, B. V. (Ed.). (2004). Bittersweet: The Indo-Fijian experience. Australia: Pandanus Books.
Lal, B. V. (2013). The strange career of Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s 2006 Fiji coup. Paper presented at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia, Australia. Retrieved Sep 8, 2014, from http://ips.cap.anu.edu.au/publications/strange-career-commodore-frank-bainimaramas-2006-fiji-coup
Naidu, V. (2013). Fiji: the challenges and opportunities of diversity. Suva: Minority Rights Group International.
Narsey, W. (2012). Fijians, I-Taukei, Indians and Indo-Fijians: Name changes by military decree. Pacific Media Centre.  Retrieved Nov 8, 2013, from http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/articles/fijians-i-taukei-indians-and-indo-fijians-name-changes-military-decree
Narsey, W. (2012). Choosing between the Military and the Rule of Law. Wadan Narsey on Fiji.  Retrieved Sep 8, 2014, from http://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/choosing-between-the-military-and-the-rule-of-law-part-i-21-august-2014/
Rakuita, T. (2007). Living by bread alone: Contemporary challenges associated with Identity and belongingness in Fiji. Suva: Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy.
Ratuva, S. (2002). Participation for Peace: A study of inter-ethnic and inter-religious perception in Fiji. Suva: Ecumenical Centre for Research Education and Advocacy.
Robertson, R. T. (1998). Multiculturalism & Reconciliation in an Indulgent Republic: Fiji After the Coups, 1987-1998. Suva: Fiji Institute of Applied Studies.
Seemann, B. (1862). Viti: An account of a government mission to the Vitian or Fijian Islands, in the years 1860-61. London: Macmillan.
Williams, T., & Calvert, J. (1859). Fiji and the Fijians: D. Appleton and Company.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stop the genocide of the Palestinians: Breaking the silence in Belize

By George and Candy Gonzalez

The editorial entitled Israel, Palestine; Guatemala, Belize (Amandala, 20 July 2014) covered many important issues.  It highlighted the fact that the subject has not been given the attention it needs but failed to point out that most of the information we, in Belize, receive about Palestine and Israel comes from the United States propaganda machine that takes it cue from Israel which has been pumping out lies for so long that many people assume it is true.

As you read this, be assured that we are not anti-Semitic but we are anti-Zionists; Palestinians and Jews are both Semitic people.  We are against Zionism because it is a racist ideology and is the only accepted apartheid system in the world, due to the US (which has become the United States of Israel).

Our support of the struggle of the Palestinian people is not new; we have had this position since the 1960s.  In the early 1980s, we started the Maine Palestine Solidarity Committee.  We spoke out and wrote articles to inform people about the truth as to what was happening in Palestine and Israel’s involvement in Guatemala and El Salvador and opposing the invasion of Lebanon.

Candy was in Egypt during the 6-day war in 1967 when Israel claimed that President Nasser started the war and they, the Israelis, only attacked military targets.  She saw, first hand, the sneak attack by the Israeli air force and the bombing of neighborhoods in Cairo.  She can attest to the lies the western press fed the world as we can attest to the lies being told now.

For instance, the country of Palestine was not an empty, barren land.  The Zionists would have you believe that Palestine was a land without a people for a people without land.  It was inhabited with a developed cultured society.  The Jews and Muslims have not been fighting each other for thousands of years.  In fact, Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived and worshipped in peace until the Zionists moved in with the goal of “jewifying” Palestine or, in other words, “ethnic cleansing”.  

In 1937, Jews were 17% of the population. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, said, “the Arabs have to go.”  The Zionists stepped up their campaign to bring Jews to Palestine and drive the Palestinians out.  When the U.N. partitioned Palestine, in 1947 the Palestinians owned 92% of the land and the Jews owned less than 8% of the land yet they gave the Jewish state 57% of the land and the Palestinians 43%, though, by then, they were 2/3 of the population.  The systematic expulsion of the Palestinians continued. 

Ariel Sharon, who directed the invasion of Lebanon, stood by as the right wing Lebanese slaughtered women and children in the Palestinian refugee camps.  International outcry forced Israel to remove him as head of the military yet later he became Prime Minister.  When he became ill, he was replaced by Netanyahu who says that the bombing, death and destruction in Gaza will not stop until Hamas is destroyed but what he really means is that it will not stop until all Palestinians are dead or gone.

Whenever Israeli atrocities are criticized, they try to excuse themselves as victims of the holocaust.  How many people realize that 13 million died in the Nazi concentration camps? But we are only told about the 6 million Jews.  The rest were Gypsies, union organizers, political activists and others that Hitler didn’t like but their deaths don’t seem to matter.

The strongest support, in Belize, for Israel comes from the U.S. Evangelicals who call themselves “Christian Zionists”.  Zionism is based on a vindictive, racist ideology; those victimized in Nazi Germany are now the victimizers in Israel.  They have assumed the position, the vocabulary and the actions of the Nazis.  Instead of hearing, “the only good Jew is a dead Jew” we now hear “the only good Arab is a dead Arab”. 

This is too short a space to write everything we want to say.  So we offer to be available to anyone who wants to hear what we have to say or who wants to challenge us.  We would be happy to debate, discuss, speak on radio, television, at groups. 

George and Candy Gonzalez, Cayo


George and Candy Gonzalez have made Belize their homeland. They have been struggling for global justice for over 50 years.

Contact: geocanbz[at]gmail.com


For another article on this topic, consider: The Unholy Alliance between Belize and Israel: A Commentary for Freedom

Friday, July 18, 2014

Belize: A Nation of God or A Nation of Laws?

We find ourselves in a dilemma in Belize today: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws? The answer is not as easy as some would believe. Belize is in a transitional time warp that can be better understood if we saw our collective consciousness in two parts: pre-independence and post-independence.

If the same question was posed fifty years ago the answer would be resound: we are a nation of God! While we were never a theocracy by any means, the Christian religious values which underpinned our collective value system made it no question that the majority of us acknowledged the supremacy of God in our personal and collective lives. Thus, it is not surprising that that God consciousness forms a part of the first principle in the preamble of our constitution. During those days none would have dared challenge the constitutionality of that fundamental principle, out of reverence, or out of fear of being ostracized by this powerful collective consciousness. Questioning God was evidence of blasphemy.

Ask the same question today, however, and the answer is less convicted. Post independent Belize has evolved a new set of values that challenges some of the old values that were taken for granted in pre-independent Belize. One such conflict is in the answer to this simple, yet complex question: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws?

Clearly the politically correct answer is we are a nation of laws governed by the principles of our constitution and all the conventions and declarations we have signed. So while the acknowledgement of God remains the first principle of the document the definition of supremacy is intrinsically challenged by other principles contained in the body of the document itself, especially those which says that every citizen has equal human rights under the law.

The reason there was no challenge to the legal definition of supremacy in pre-independent Belize was because supremacy meant that God’s moral code, as outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible, underpinned all our laws and the preservation of public morality was based on those religious principles. While the principle of privacy was respected in pre-independent Belize, if there was evidence of any display of public immorality there was an immediate reaction from the public and the law.

This is not the case in post-independent Belize. Our social rules are no longer governed by strict adherence to the old definition of public morality as defined in Judo-Christian ethics. In an era where soft and sometimes hard core pornography can be seen by 24 hours cable channels; where graphic dancehall lyrics coupled with hard-core sexually suggestive videos can be consumed on public media without censorship; where women and children continue to be victims of sexual assault, Belize, as far as public morality, now find itself at a place where the question again arises: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws?

The gauge for public display of immorality has been so totally blurred today that the definition of what is morally right or wrong is now reduced to personal opinion and protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of conscience. And if you want to extend your peculiar definition of morality to a group of like minds, you are protected by the constitutional principle of freedom of association.

While these constitutional protections are enshrined within our constitution our exercise of those freedoms was different in pre independent Belize. There would have never been a UNIBAM challenge in a Supreme Court of pre independent Belize. Same people, same country, but different times. While there were the cross-dressing “Carmen Mirandas and Shirleys” in pre-independent Belize there was no perceived threat from their lifestyle as there now appears to be in post-independent Belize with the mob attack on “Vanessa Champagne Paris”.

This mob attack was indicative of this underlying clash of old values versus new values. The mob, and the spectators who did nothing to intervene, felt the victim deserved his ‘punishment’ for breaking “God’s law” which condemns men wearing women’s attire. The mob’s attack was spontaneous and irrational but fueled by an innate sense of rightness and justice in their action. So despite church leaders later distancing themselves from the actions of the mob it was clear that the root justification for this mob attack was religious.

The law on the other hand takes the view that there is never justification for assault on a person regardless to your personal or collective disagreement with them. So despite the moral indignation of the mob and onlookers at the behavior of ‘Vanessa’ and their Old Testament instinct to punish him, the law protects ‘Vanessa’ and condemns the actions of the mob.

It was said by one esteemed Jurist that you cannot legislate morality. By this I think he meant you cannot set out laws governing how individuals will choose to act or not act on a particular moral question since moral conscience is the preview of the individual and no one has a right to direct a persons’ conscience – each is personally responsible; this is a principle in law.

Following this reasoning then, the proponents for repealing S53 say that, “to legislate that a certain kind of moral behavior is illegal, based on “God’s law”, is unconstitutional. The state cannot legislate a person's moral behavior or prevent a person from behaving in a certain way as long as those ways do not affect the rights of others or disrupt the public good”.

While the proponents for keeping S53 as is say, “But isn’t it equally true that if you can’t legislate morality, you also cannot legislate the acceptance of a behavior that a sizeable part of the population finds repugnant and therefore, immoral? Can the state legislate that my child be taught certain material I find immoral; does the state have the right to legislate a morally offensive agenda? Isn’t this the same principle in reverse?”

This is an example of the conundrum that Caribbean Jurist faces today. The legal traditions of the West are based on Judo-Christian ethical foundations and have always had moral and ethical excellence as the goals of good governance. However, as western societies have evolved over the last century they have moved drastically away from a God centered society to a man centered paradigm with a result that “God”, as perceived in the traditional Judo-Christian ethical frame, is no longer the source of law: this has been replaced by a UN system of declarations and conventions called ‘human rights’ which are enshrined in the constitutions of most former colonial states in the region.

What does this all mean for us in Belize, in 2014, and how do we answer the question: Are we a nation of God or a nation of laws today? Clearly our recent history shows that we lean more to the latter definition, but are the two mutually exclusive or is it possible to be both? The dynamics surrounding the UNIBAM case brings that question into sharp focus. The battle lines are drawn and the long awaited decision of the Chief Justice will be interpreted as an affirmation of one or the other.


  By Nuri Muhammad













Monday, July 14, 2014

The Unholy Alliance between Belize and Israel: A Commentary for Freedom


The unholy alliance between the Belizean governments both past and present with the occupiers of Palestinian land, the so-called State of Israel, is one of the biggest failures in Belize's foreign policy. It will surely go down as the disgraceful use of elitist power which defies our socio-historical experience, morality, and diplomacy strategies.

Most Belizeans both at home and abroad are likely not aware that before the land of the Palestinians was considered by the imperialist’s powers of Britain and the United States as a 'Homeland' for the so-called Jews of Europe, Belize was also on the top of their list. 

Indeed, this was acknowledged by an Israeli Ambassador in a recent visit to Belize:

“In the beginning of the century there were a few ideas about where to build the new Jewish state. We were talking about Uganda in Africa, we were talking about Belize and other places” - Mattanya Cohen, Israel Ambassador (2009)

It was known that the region of Central America was far too hot for these Europeans.  It was the mild Mediterranean climate of Palestine which became the selected location of the unjust invasion and establishment of an Israeli state. The people of Palestine were driven from their land, pushed behind the barb wires in concentration camps which are now the bombarded Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Guat-Israeli Alliance
Belizeans must realize that the Israeli apartheid regime, which holds our brothers and sisters hostage in their own lands, has been the greatest supporter of the genocidal military oligarchy in Guatemala. And Guatemala, as we are well aware, is a sworn enemy to the Belizean people with an unfounded territorial claim over Belize.

When Belize campaigned for the international support from the United Nations (UN) to achieve self-independence, Israel was not Belize’s ally. In fact, Israel was one of the main suppliers of arms and ammunitions to Guatemala. This created a mood of war during the 1970s (see Shoman 2010, pp. 107, 137, 146).

Israel consistently abstained from voting in the resolutions that were introduced to secure Belize’s independence (see Shoman, 2010). This was done in order for Israel to remain an ally of Guatemala. The power elites of Israel would have benefited if Belize and Guatemala had entered a war because they were going to be the main suppliers of arms and ammunitions. 

In the past, the George Price PUP government did recognize the legality of the state of Israel (perhaps they were compelled to do so). But when the Esquivel UDP administration came to power in 1984, Belize's became a pronounced supporter of Israel. The Esquivel UDP administration declared its Pro-United States Pro-Liberalism policy to the international community. And concern Belizeans, like members from BREDDA and the UBAD Foundation, knew that the Belizean people were heading towards greater international dependency.

Then during the Musa PUP administration in 1998, there was a slight turn away from diplomatic support of Israel. But since gaining power in 2004, the Barrow UDP administration's with its diehard Pro-West Foreign Minister, Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington, has gone to great lengths to accommodate Israel within Belize's body politic. As noted by 7 News:

Israel and Belize have long had an uneasy relationship... But today [November, 16, 2009] in a surprise diplomatic move – Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington boldly cemented relations with Israel allowing a visa waiver and a technical assistance programme. We suspect that it is the kind of thing that could not have happened during the last government when Said Musa who is of Palestinian descent was the Prime Minister. But things change and Elrington today said the new pact will help Belize with knowledge.

Belize now has official diplomatic relations with one of the most loyal military ally of Guatemala. This is despite the fact that Israel refused to vote in our favor during the independence campaign. We are now showing affection to the state which provided arms and ammunitions that could have led to our dissolution as nation. As Evan X Hyde said the “This makes no sense. The friend of my enemy cannot possibly be my friend” (The Publisher, 2014).

As the bombs fall on innocent Palestinians, it becomes obvious that our previous and current governments have wedded an unholy alliance with the occupiers of Palestine. By failing to break our current diplomatic relations with Israel, we are signaling our acceptance to the actions of Israel in our struggle for independence and in the genocide that is unfolding before the eyes of the world.

We must not remain silent while Israel unleashes hell on unarmed civilians. Due to our historical experience we should be the most sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. We could have been the ones to experience the present state of terrorism of the Palestinian people. This is a call for civil society organizations, civil servants, educators, and academics to insist that Belize breaks its diplomatic relations with Israel.

By Bilal Morris* and Rolando Cocom


*Bilal Morris is a Belizean Journalist residing in Los Angeles. He has authored many articles on Islam in the Caribbean and Central America and on Belize.

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