Saturday, December 22, 2012

World Begins Anew, Caracol Winter Solstice

The World Begins Anew

As part of the 2012 year of activities, the National Institute of Culture and History organized overnight cultural tour experiences of the equinoxes and solstices at the site of Caracol in the Pine Ridge Reserve of Cayo, Belize.

We were given a tour by three of Belize’s senior archaeologists Dr. Alan Moore, Dr. Jaime Awe, and Dr. John Morris.

After a delicious dinner buffet of coco-soup, chaya bollos, chicken and pork pibil, corn tortillas, and tamalitos, we were given an excellent 2-part presentation on the Maya Worldview of 2012 and an overview of the work conducted and knowledge attained thus far of the splendid city-state of Caracol.

At the sound of the drum and flute around 3am on 21 December, the Shamans (spiritual guides), Maya elders, children and youth made their way to the A Structure, more commonly known as the E-Group.

The E-Groups are structures that were designed by the ancient Maya to map the movement of the sun during the yearly equinoxes and solstices. Needlessly to say, this was usually accompanied with great religious significance for the Maya.




Remarks from a Spiritual Elder:

T
...Everything has an owner. It’s like us. We have pets and we are their owners. It’s the same way with the forest. Our Lord and Creator of Earth placed everything on earth for us to manage it. With this said, I give infinite thanks to God and our Ancestors who have had this way of life and have left for us all that we are able to observe. We can see their power and great wisdom that they had and which they have passed on to us. At times many of us humans have been ungrateful and have taken down the forest and rejected this way of life. This wisdom must be passed to our future generations...

Structure A "E-Group" at Caracol
The drowsy guests gradually encircled the altar built at the centre of the plaza to mark the end of the 13 Baktun. The Fire Ceremony was chiefly conducted by four spiritual guides of four Maya ethnic sub-groups:  Mopan, Yucatec, Kekchi, and Itza Maya.







The incense and payers were offered to the Creator, Mother Earth, traditional deities of the Maya, and the ancestors, and our Nahuals (spiritual overseers).

From what I was able to gather, it was mostly prayers of thanksgiving and of supplication for greater wellbeing of the Maya, humanity, and Mother Earth as we entered into a new cycle of life.  

At about 6am, we were shyly greeted by the the presence of Kinich Ahau in the cloudy morning with the playing of the flute. It was not until an hour after that his bright presence was seen above the south of Structure A-6.

Kinich Ahua makes his presence known 
Flute music accompanied Kinich Ahua:



It was truly a magnificent experience, fire ceremonies were conducted at various sacred centres (archaeological sites) throughout the Maya world.





Ticket


Dr. Jaime Awe



Co-Workers ISCR




Women played an important(behind the scene) role in the Ceremony






I’ll be uploading a few more images and video clips in due time. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ambassador Shoman and Fred Martinez talks about going to the ICJ


Belize's former Ambassador and Belizean historian Assad Shoman along with Alfredo Martinez (Ambassador of Belize to Guatemala) render their views on going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a final resolution to end Guatemala's unfounded claim over Belize.

Interestingly, Shoman says the Gov has a copy of an unpublished legal opinion Guat had received which advised them Guatemala did not have a case against Belize. This is unlike Belize legal opinion that is available in the public domain and which argues the same, ie. Guatemala has no case over Belize.

It would be good if we can get a hold of Guatemala's legal opinion.

Shoman also promises to make a publication on Belize-Guat free of charge by Feb 2013.

Belize and Guatemala will hold a referendum in 2013 to decide whether or not to take the case before the ICJ for final resolution.

Video from Open Your Eyes (Shoman segment starts at 45 minutes in):




Video from Lovefm/tv:


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

The National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) through the Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR) recently held a National Workshop on the Implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage from the 5th - 9th November, 2012.  House of Culture, Belize City. 

By ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ we refer to music (punta, brukdown, zapateado, etc), songs (carnival songs, folksongs), dances (jonkunu, deer dance), festivals (San Jose Palmar Festival, Maya Day Festival), games (pitpan race, torrito), storytelling (annansi, Maya animal stories), rituals (nine-nights, marriage), language (Maya, Creole), and masquerades (carnival, cortez dance), among other expressions of culture.

Belize signed the Convention in 2007. Since then, we have submitted only one of our ICH to the International List which is the "Language, dance, and music of the Garifuna" in 2009. This was a result of the Garifuna language having been declared a Garifuna Language, Music and Dance a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Belize along with Trinidad and Tobago are the only two Caribbean states with an item on the international list thus far. 


This does not mean that we have not been involved in safeguarding our cultural traditions. Indeed, it became apparent that many Belizeans (individuals, communities, educators, organizations and groups) have been contributing towards the goals of the convention. The Convenetion nonetheless provides an excellent platform from which current measures of 'safeguarding' can be improved for greater success. 

The workshop was part of regional and global effort organized by UNESCO Cultural Section and funded by the government and people of Japan. The workshop focused on developing the necessary knowledge and research capacity for cultural workers to obtain the maximum benefits of the Convention for our communities and nation.

The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Kris Rampersad, who did a wonderful job. 

The participants were from a cross-section of the Belizean socio-cultural landscape. They were persons who have been engaged in promoting and preserving the major cultural groups in Belize such as the East Indian, Maya, Mestizo, Creole, and Garifuna cultures. They were also representatives from the various Houses of Cultures and educators.  Like myself, they all found the workshop to be a very enlightening experience. 

On the final day of the workshop, an "ICH Declaration for Belize" was drafted and signed by participants. The Declaration recommends key goals that ought to be pursed by the participants and NICH to fulfill the Safeguarding of Belize's Intangible Cultural Heritage. Another workshop is schedueld to take place in 2013 to continue the capacity building of Belizeans necessary for the implementation of the Convention and by extention for the cellebration and preservation of Belize's rich multicultural society and heritage. 

Here is a verbatim rending of the ICH Declaration: 












Photos courtesy of Sylvia Perez and Phylicia Pelayo

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opportunities for Renewable Energy Development in Belize

Opportunities for Renewable Energy Development in Belize


Despite its small size and population, Belize is one of the most culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse countries in Central America. As a member of the Caribbean Community  (CARICOM) as well as the Cent ral American Integration System  (SICA), it is the only Central American country with strong ties to both theCaribbean  and Latin America. In the initial phase of our project in the region , the Worldwatch Institute is assessing the existing barriers to and opportunities for a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable energy system in Belize—an outcome that could connect these two neighboring yet culturally distinct communities and provide tangible benefits to both.
Source: Public Utilities Commission of Belize
With a population of only 350,000 and a national economy of US$1.5 billion in 2011 , Belize does not consume large amounts of energy. Peak electricity demand in 2010 was 80.6 megawatts (MW), well below the U.S. state of Vermont’s peak energy demand of 953 MW in 2011. Belize’s low energy consumption makes it a suitable location for further development of clean, indigenous energy sources.
Currently, Belize depends heavily on foreign energy sources. In 2010, the country imported more than a third of its electricity from the Mexican power provider, Comisión Federal de Electricidad . In addition, Belize spent approximately $129 million, or 18.2 percent of its total import expenditures, on imported fuels. Not only has this raised energy prices for consumers, but if Belize continues to rely largely on imports to meet its energy demand, it will be highly susceptible to fluctuations on the international market. The Belizean government must explore other, local energy resources to strengthen and stabilize the country’s energy sector.
Over the last 20 years, Belize has spent considerable resources developing domestic hydropower. TheMollejon power plant , a 25.2 MW run-of-the-river facility on the Macal River, was completed in 1995 and is owned by Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL), a subsidiary of Belize Electricity Limited . A decade later, BECOL completed the “Chalillo” facility a few miles upstream, to increase the plant’s total output. Many people objected to the Chalillo dam , however, because they believed (and some studies demonstrated) that it would threaten the ecological diversity of the Macal River Valley. Environmental groups, including the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, filed lawsuits  alleging that the project would destroy critical rainforest habitat for the jaguar, scarlet macaw, howler monkey, tapir, and other endangered and threatened species.
Country map of Belize. (Source: CIA World Factbook).
Supporters of the Chalillo project argued that the dam was necessary because it would lessen Belize’s dependence on Mexican power and expand domestic access to electricity. In the end, the dam was built , but the project highlighted the public resistance to large hydroelectric projects and their environmental impacts. The project also illustrated the competing interests in furthering economic development while also safeguarding important natural resources. Moving forward, Belize will need to focus its attention on renewable energy sources with fewer negative environmental consequences.
Like many Central American countries, Belize has a large untapped renewable energy potential; however, the extent of this remains largely unknown, due to the lack of comprehensive assessments. If the Belizean government were to commit to developing domestic solar, wind, and biomass resources—as well as updating the grid system—these renewable sources alone would likely be able to satisfy Belize’s entire energy demand.
Although Belize lacks a national wind energy assessment, known wind resources exist in Baldy Beacon, a region capable of supplying 20 MW of electricity from wind turbines , or almost a quarter of the country’s electricity needs. The Belizean government needs to conduct a comprehensive wind resource assessment to identify other suitable turbine locations. In addition to studying the feasibility of a wind farm in Baldy Beacon, there is significant potential for small-scale, off-grid wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in communities without access to the national grid.
Biomass energy is another option. In 2009, BELCOGEN, a subsidiary of Belize Sugar Industries, completed a waste-to-energy power plant in the district of Orange Walk that is capable of generating 31.5 MW of electricity. The cogeneration facility reportedly uses only 8 percent heavy fuel and relies on 92 percent biomass, burning wet bagasse, or residue from the sugarcane milling process, to generate high-pressure steam. Due to the extent of sugar production in Belize , similar facilities could be established in the future to produce more local, clean energy.
Bagasse, wind power, and solar energy all offer an excellent alternative for a country that to-date has relied heavily on imported electricity, controversial large-scale hydropower, and fossil fuel imports.
Sean Ahearn is a Climate and Energy intern at Worldwatch Institute.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Remarks and applauds to Krem Sunday Review

I have been following up on the Krem Sunday Review hosted by Yaya Marin-Coleman aka “the agitator” and Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn aka the whip for some weeks now.  From what I can gather, Yaya is a down to earth person and with a powerful mind-set that makes her critical of real and at times perceived injustice. Pulu has an extensive knowledge and experience of politics and the behind the scenes stories. The outspokenness may certainly rub off the wrong way with some people, but if one observes closely the Sunday Review has the interest of the Belizean masses at heart.
Niall Gillett (Ex-Co-Host) and Yaya-Marin Coleman Krem Sunday Review
Pulu Lightburn, Krem Sunday Review
I was a bit astounded and much thrilled by Yaya undaunted defiance to question her past co-host Niall Gillett on the most recent show (Oct 28, 2012). Gillett was obviously dancing around her questions. At one point, Gillett was asked to estimate what percentage of the attendants at the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultation was in a position to critically contribute to the discussion. His response was that he was not able to say but he was able to brag about how many people the company had managed to bring out.

Now, like Yaya, I believe this is an important point. This was also the point raised by SATIIM regarding the necessity for the Maya people to have a thorough understanding of the EIA. This is not to suggest that the Maya people are not capable of thinking. No, no, the question was rather to highlight the fact that critical thinking especially concerning an EIA requires a certain level of training and exposure.

In an introductory course at the University of Belize (UB), it became obvious that an EIA is of outmost importance but can be conceptually/scientifically complex. There are several environmental programs at our national university. It’s more than that; the only graduate program at UB is a master’s in Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainable Development. Therefore, I would like to encourage the University (faculty and students) to play a more prominent role in discussing and debating issues of national interest.

Our University needs to do more to make students realize that they are agents of change and leaders of development. We need to do away with the idea that one should pursue higher education simply to increase ones salary – a remark I have heard every so often by students. In place of this philosophy, we must embrace education with a perspective driven by change, equality, and action for the betterment of society.

I strongly believe that most people are not in the best positioned to make a really thorough and critical review of the EIA. This is a reality which capitalists exploit to their benefit. They make us feel that it is us that need them. We need jobs. We need to work for someone. Living by the fruits of mother earth is not the way to live. You must seek to ‘progress’ – to earn more and buy more, is the overriding philosophy of the day. It is the indigenous worldview which is consistently looked down upon by “Them” and even by some of “Us”.

But back to the appraisal, the Sunday Review is a show which I encourage Belizeans to tune in on. Given the way things work in Belize, we will sooner or later see other shows like these popping up. However, the true value of a news review is to incorporate as many viewpoints, seek to rigorously validate the information in the media and to keep it real.

The Sunday Review is taking shape as the media personage that is unafraid to think outside the box and dares to keep characters on their toes. Applauses!

Amandala Online

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Purple Movement General Meeting

On Sunday October 21, 2012, youths from the Purple Movement held a general public meeting to inform the community of their status, structure, and goals. There were about 20 persons in attendance. The small number of turn out is linked to the heavy rains throughout most of the day. 

The Executive consists of about 15-18 members. One or two of them were unable to attend on that day. They have formed several managerial posts such as president, vice president, treasurer, public relations personnel, research committee, and entertainment committee, etc. 

To be honest, my perception is that the group is still in the process of taking shape and identifying it's most strategic goal. But one thing is certain, they want to do their best to make a positive change. I am of the opinion that the community is strongly discontented with the prevalent crime and that we as young people need to be that voice for the masses, and reinforce the idea that we deserve better.   

One central aspect to the executive appears to be to raise funds to contribute towards the establishment of an operational DNA Lab at the Forensic Lab, in Ladyville. At the same time though, this became somewhat unclear when they mentioned that they want to do a survey to ask people if this is something worth pursuing. I believe that this is a noble initiative but believe that Government should fulfill this demand without reaching into the pockets of poor people. Yet, I hope it works out. 


At the meeting, perhaps due to my own undiplomatic way of speaking, I was misunderstood, felt disappointed and decided to leave.They were very much on the defensive of my opinions. I was envisioning revolutionary changes and being mindful of the weakness and strengths of a movement based on my theoretical understandings and interest to drive change. I liked Ms. Ocheata comment which allowed me to better understand their defensiveness. She asked if I was a friend of Suzanne to which I replied no. She then said that the group of young people in the executive were her friends and that in a way  are still grieving, they want to see this pull through. But bygones being bygones, I have encouraged the young people to push on through.

Carmita, president of the executive expressed her desire to invite me to an executive meeting but I feel that it’s in the best interest of the group for them to proceed to strengthen their committee and allow it to take some shape.

I hope that they can capture the common interest of people and lead them to believe that they have the power to make change.

Most young people in our society don’t really care about crime or any social issues. Also, there are only a few genuine politicians who have Belizean interest at heart. Therefore, they are many challenges ahead, but with determination they are all surmountable. 

Always be mindful that our realities depend on our inaction and ACTIONS.

Here are some clips of the meeting. Please forgive the quality, I was taking notes as I recorded. 

by Rolando Cocom


Thursday, October 18, 2012

El Cayo Town

Cayo and Benque Viejo were declared towns on Oct 19, 1904. That's 108 years ago. 

Goverment Gazette


Following Dr. Jaime Awe’s lucid presentation on the Early Hunters of the Pleistocene Age roaming this area, up to the times of the Mayan Empire, I will now cite other important dates and events in our history, which had an impact in our area, leading up to 1950.

1783 - 1803: Woodcutters harvested all the mahogany trees that were close to the riverbank.  Consequently, in 1803 they began to haul the logs with oxen; and in this way they were able to harvest mahogany trees as far as 5 to 10 miles from the riverbank.  Before the introduction of oxen, Baymen labor was employed to haul the logs to the riverbank. The log fellers went to the forest around November/ December each year.  The men camped in the forest until the beginning of the rainy season in the following year – that would be around June/July.  At that time the men would break camps and float all the logs they had harvested up to the Boom.

1835: in April the Superintendent of Belize stated that the most westerly point of occupation by British woodcutters was 26 miles west of Garbutt Falls. Garbutt Falls is located on the Mopan River or the western branch of the Belize River.

1839:  the British woodcutters had established a permanent settlement at Duck Run (just east of present day San Ignacio). This was the beginning of permanent settlements along the upper reaches of the Belize River.

1847: 30 July the Caste War in Yucatan began and many Mayans settled in what is today, Bullet Tree Falls, San Jose Succotz, San Antonio and Chial (Tipú).

1852:  Spanish speaking people from Peten, who came to work as woodcutters, began to settle at Spanish Lookout and by 1866 this place had become a thriving village of about 70 families. One of the settlers, Mr. Roberto Lunas had a sugar making business there. One Jose Maria Lopez from Peten had a distillery going for himself.

1856:  Garbutt Falls became the boundary between Belize and Guatemala.1859: Treaty between Britain and the Republic of Guatemala raises the unfounded Guatemalan claim bringing tension to the bordering towns of El Cayo and Benque Viejo del Carmen.

1862: Belize becomes the colony of “British Honduras’.

1865:  the British woodcutters had consolidated their land rights along all the major rivers of Belize. One of these land rights was located between the Mopan River or western branch and the Macal River or eastern branch of the Belize or Old River and was called The Caye Works or Bank or simply known as The Caye or El Cayo in Spanish .

1865:  a priest by the name of Fr. Eugene Biffi visited the Mahogany camps along the Belize River, and reported baptizing a child at the Caye camp. This priest returned at the camp in 1866 and baptized another child.

1866: Spanish Lookout, Duck Run, Branch Mouth and the Caye (Cayo) had permanent settlers. In that same year hostilities between the British and the Mayas of San Pedro broke out.

1867: the British burned down the village of San Pedro (was located in the Yalbac area) and the surrounding villages including all their crops. The Mayas retaliated by attacking and burning down all the British camps from Society Hall up to Branch Mouth including the Maya villages of Benque Viejo and Succotz. In that year no woodcutting was undertaken. The government surveyor Mr. J.H. Faber visited the area and reported that all the camps were burned, abandoned and in ruins.

1868: the British woodcutters re-established their camps. Early in that year, Fr. Andrew Bavastro, a Catholic priest, visited the “Caye” and baptized a few children. He returned in 1869. 

1870: Fr. Andrew Bavastro established a small chapel at the “Caye” and dedicated it to San Ignacio and so the “Caye” came to be known as the “Caye of St. Ignatius” or “El Cayo de San Ignacio,” and it soon became a thriving village.

1878: Edgar Alexander August became the first and the only Alcalde recorded in the village of El Cayo (Government Gazette).

1881: the area was declared the Cayo District and San
Ignacio became the capital. Thereafter the development of the capital and the district gathered momentum.1882: in September – the first District Commissioner, Benjamin Travers, was appointed; 1882 – In October the Government Pitpan appointed to leave the Cayo for Belize on the 10the and Belize for the Cayo on the 18 the of every month.

1883:  Fr. José María Pinelo was the first Marriage Officer in the village of San Ignacio.

1900: Influx of refugees from Guatemalan bordering towns, Plancha de Piedra, Fallabon and La Polvora due to severe drought in the area. The refugees settled in Benque Viejo del Carmen and El Cayo.

1904: 19 the of October, San Ignacio was declared a town, vide the Government Gazette of British Honduras No. 319, M.P. 1722/1904 dated the 19the of October, 1904 which briefly states: “The Governor in Council has this day declared the Cayo and Benque Viejo to be towns under the provisions of Chapter 98 of the Consolidated Laws.” Signed by Command, H.E.W. Grant for Colonial Secretary.

1905: First Anglican Priest, Rev. C.G. MacArthur,
arrives in El Cayo.1908: The “Cacique” motorboat captained by Facundo Audinett was the first boat to ever blow its whistle at the banks of Benque Viejo del Carmen. A big celebration was held in Benque for this occasion.

1907 to 1914: the chicle industry was very prominent in the growth and development of the town. Sadly, that era also came to be known as the Wild West. Many hard working people including 3 policemen lost their lives due to the extreme violence and lawlessness which prevailed. Fortunately, from then on, peace and progress has prevailed right up to the present.

1914 - 1918: 1st World War brought hardship to El Cayo  and the rest of Belize.

1918: Anglican Church moves to its present location on Burns Avenue. Land donated by John O. Waight.

1921: Pallotine Convent opened on June 2 with Sisters Dominica, Sebastiana, Veronica and Radigundis as the pioneering nuns in El Cayo.

1926:  Catholic Church (with steeples) constructed.

1930: Mr. Federick Bradley, continued to use oxen to haul mahogany logs from the forest around San Antonio to Duffy Bank.
1939 - 1945: 2nd World War brought even more hardship to El Cayo as the UK was suffering from serious economic problems.

1945: mahogany logs were being hauled from the deep forest with “Super White” trucks and trailers to Duffy Bank, Cristo Rey and Monkey Falls.  By that time the workers did not stay in the camps for six months but instead for several weeks during the harvesting.

1947: Western highway (dirt road) was opened from
Belize City to El Cayo thus the adventurous Cayo Boat
Service started to fade out.

1948: St. Martin’s Credit Union opened its doors and
was the first banking service in the area. (Fr. Bernard
C. Zimmerman S.J.)

1949: The Hawkesworth Bridge was constructed making way for increased commerce.

1949: St. Martin’s Credit Union received its
Certificate of Incorporation (licence) on May 20 as the first ‘banking’ institution in the west.

1949: In the month of December, the British Government devalued the Belize Dollar after it had assured the people that it would not do so. This was “the straw that broke the Camel’s back” as that same night  of the announcement, the People’s Committee was formed to protest the actions of the colonial masters.

1950: The new San Ignacio Police Station was constructed. One hundred years ago, it took about 5 days by boat to go to Belize City and as much as 10 days on the return trip.  (Today Belize is only 1 ½ hours away).  There was no telephone; no potable water; no electricity; today at the touch of a button we can talk to anyone, anywhere in the country of Belize or the world.  The comfort and the convenience enjoyed today represent the hard work, sacrifice, resilience, vision and diligence of our ancestors.  May this generation reflect today – that they also have a duty and responsibility to continue the great work for prosperity.

For more info on El Cayo:


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Article on UB Hist Dept

The History and Anthropology program at UB endured many challenges before it was established. 

Many persons in government and in the administration did not want a history program be established. One must ask why? Why did the nationalist leaders and government do more to estalish the teaching of history?  Were they afraid of Belizeans interrogating the past as some have suggested? 

At current, there is some talks that the history program is not economically feasible and some have suggested that it be closed. The students and alumni of the program have submitted a letter to the president of UB requesting clarifications on this matter. 

He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the pastcontrols the future. by George Orwell.

Here's an interesting article on the development of the history program from Amandala



Editorial— 16 August 2007
Seemingly in full campaign mode, the ruling People’s United Party has announced, through Minister of Education, Hon. Francis Fonseca, that they will introduce a history department to the University of Belize. This is a campaign gimmick on the PUP’s part, designed specifically to disarm the Kremandala element. But, campaign gimmick or not, this newspaper has no choice but to support their initiative.
Electoral politics is an art and a science. Electoral politics is not trigonometry or nuclear physics. But there are certain fundamental rules which you must obey in Belizean electoral politics. If you don’t wish to abide by those rules, then you have to withdraw from electoral politics.
All of us rational adults have ideas and opinions. But only the elected politicians, those who get to form Cabinet, get to implement their ideas and opinions. There are political systems other than democracy, wherein one can obtain the power necessary to enforce one’s beliefs and opinions by force of arms, for instance. But in Belize, we have had a parliamentary democracy for all our lives. You must get elected in order to do what you believe is correct.
The individual process of becoming elected begins with being accepted by the ruling PUP or the Opposition UDP as a candidate. Historically, nobody has been elected to the House of Representatives who is not sponsored by one of the two traditional major parties. The two parties screen candidates in order to ensure that the large financiers of the respective party approve such candidates.
The classic example of a major party screening a candidate took place in 1988. Rufus X had been part of the foundation of the UDP in 1973, and his record had been one of loyal UDP militancy for 15 years. But then, he decided he wanted to be a UDP candidate in the 1989 general election. As loyal militant, he was fine. But the UDP leadership believed their large financiers would not tolerate Rufus X’s views. So they conspired to prevent his becoming one of the UDP’s general election candidates.
Rufus X entered Belize’s public life in 1969 when he became a member of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), a cultural organization.
The ruling PUP soon attacked the UBAD leadership with a sedition charge in early 1970. Following the trial, the president of UBAD felt that, as a matter of better self-defense, the organization should become a political party. The UBAD Party was formally established on August 8, 1970.
Rufus X became an officer of the UBAD Party in 1971, and was elected chairman of the party in 1972. The major demands of the UBAD Party were (i) the 18-year-old vote; (ii) radio time; and (iii) the teaching of African and Indian (Mayan) history in the schools of Belize.
A desperate Philip Goldson, Leader of the Opposition NIP, solicited an alliance with the UBAD Party for the December 1971 Belize City Council election. Following that unsuccessful CitCo campaign, Mr. Goldson left to study law in London early in 1972. Effectively, his career as Leader of the Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was over.
The UBAD Party split down the middle early in 1973 over the issue of whether to become the shock troops of the proposed new UDP (established in September of 1973), or to travel an independent road. At that time, Rufus X chose to go with the UDP. (The UBAD Party was dissolved in November of 1974.)
In 1978, the ruling PUP instituted the first of the UBAD Party’s demands – the 18-year-old vote. In 1989, the PUP, then in Opposition, supported the establishment of the first private Belize radio station – KREM Radio. The PUP won, and KREM began broadcasting ten weeks later. And finally, in 2003, the ruling PUP embarked on the final UBAD demand – the teaching of African and Mayan history in the schools.
When the University of Belize was established in August of the year 2000, UB’s first board chairman was the publisher of this newspaper and the chairman of Kremandala – Evan X Hyde. In four years as UB chairman (2000-2004), Hyde was unable to establish a history department. The reason for that was political. The PUP Cabinet did not consider a UB history department to be a priority of any kind.
In August of 2007, they do so consider such a history department to be a priority. They have now adopted a different perspective because they wish to be re-elected to office. The PUP wish to make it clear to Kremandala that they are more progressive than the UDP. The evidence of history confirms this.
The matter of corruption is something else, of course. This is another conversation, and a more important one than a university department. But today, Thursday, August 16, 2007, we who do not possess political power, have no choice but to pay respect and express appreciation, as nationalist and revolutionary Belizeans, to the ruling politicians who have decided that our people should now be taught about our true past. It was a long time coming, but we are grateful for small mercies.
Power to the people.

Monday, October 15, 2012

People on the Move for Justice

Introduction 

Since the recent murders in the Twin Towns, people in the Cayo district, and indeed across the country, have become increasingly vocal about their concerns to reduce, and if possible end, the hideous crimes afflicting our society.

Facebook, Patrick E. Jones
I extend my sincerest sympathies to all Belizeans who have had to experience criminal activity, especially to the families who have lost their loved ones recently in San Ignacio, particularly the Martinez and Lowe families.  No number of demonstrations, no whipping of criminals, no person hanged, will ever be able to heal the void left in the lives. The reason for standing up against crime is really to make sure that more families do not experience the hurt, frustration, suffering, and emptiness such families have had to bear.

Belizeans are on the move advocating for change. This does not constitute a movement. It is an early stage. It can either become something episodic and die off or mature and become effective in its cause. I hope it becomes the latter; and for this reason I shall refer to it as a Movement.

In this entry, I have decided to reflect on the discontent of crime in Cayo. I address concerns against the critics; highlight points left unmentioned in the media and project the challenges and opportunities for a reformist movement to drastically decrease crime.

The Movement

Facebook, Patrick E. Jones
The shut-down and demonstration on Thursday (Oct 11) had a massive turn out. The participation of students added to the great turn out. Some media have stated that it was thousands of people. However, a more accurate figure, in my opinion, was that published by the Star Newspaper which estimated 1,500 persons.

If the movement is to become effective it has got to organize. The eight point petition sent to the Prime Minister on Monday (Oct 8) was signed by the ‘Solidarity Movement forJustice and Peace’. While this term was used to project the unification of various bodies involved, the said group is not organized. Many of its supporters were given opportunities to talk at the demonstration; yet, there was no real talk of unification as the Solidarity Movement.

UB History Students Participate
The “Purple Movement” received most of the attention in the media. This movement is iconic of the discontent given the affiliation with friends and the family members of the late Suzenne Martinez. The demonstration was the culminated effort of various bodies desire to participate in a movement to make a change.

There is a need to establish a Committee which will have representatives from the various bodies of the neighbourhood watches, teacher’s union, and business community and so on. My suggestion is that the Purple Movement leaders take the initiative to develop such Committee, establish a clear vision, plan, execute, and develop means of sustainability. 

By the way, where is the NGO “Belizeans for Justice”? Not that I want Yolanda to push her PUP agenda, but where are Belizeans for Justice? * I understand that it has

The Only Positive Suggestion

At the Wednesday ‘Public Meeting’ with the Attorney General, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, in his response to a series of suggestions, complaints, and questions, the AG said that there was only one positive suggestion that he heard.

Facebook, Patrick E. Jones
That suggestion was to hold a telethon to raise monies for the establishment of an advance forensic lab. This understandably caused great discontent. After one and two attendants decided to leave, a group of youths at the back of the room also decided to march out, inciting others to “walk out”.

Interestingly, the young lady who gave the “only positive suggestion” is the president of the Purple Movement, Carmita Lemus, whose supporters were among the first to walk out. I have argued that this idea, while noble, should not be pursued. A better initiative is to raise funds for the movement to sustain itself.
More than that, according to 7News, the AG has stated that the walk out did not happen: “the reporter who obviously had his own agenda there reported that the people left”. Patrick Jones has made this known on his Facebook page, and most people are bewildered and outraged by such a statement by the AG.

Now, video footage do not lie, the people did walk out. It’s also on YouTube. 







Revenge or Justice

Lady with noose, 7News
As to the request for capital punishment to be implemented immediately, the AG replied "But I can tell you, I can tell you that only the suggestion of hanging a person that is made publicly in Belize, any suggestion that you make, we get all kinds of pressure from the people who keep us surviving". This caused an expected disapproval from the gatherers.

I believe there are many benefits in human rights initiatives. However, capital punishment, particularly by hanging, is one of the cheapest short-term means to create deterrence for the extreme violence in our society. Now, England, through the Privy Council, has blocked capital punishment in Belize and the Caribbean.

Some hope was increased for the penalty to be allowed since the Privy Council was replaced by the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final court of appeal (Amandala). However, with one recent case submitted by Jamaica, it appears that the death penalty will not be supported. Beyond that, as the AG says many international organizations will oppose. 

European powers tell us that it is uncivilize to carry out the death penalty. Paradoxically, these are the same powers who exploited land that were not theirs, enslave millions, colonized us to the point that they became today’s 1st World Countries and us the 3rd World. That's right, these are the same people who developed every possible law to keep indigenous and non-European peoples from being masters of their own destinies. Now, they want to tell us that is uncivilize to create a deterrence by us legally putting to death a few of the horrific criminals in our society. 

Capital Punishment is a desperate attempt to bring justice in the society and to deter others from pursuing a life of crime. I am truly not a big fan of capital punishment but when I learnt that Belize’s prison system is the most humane amongst the countries of USA, Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia, I realize that it is one of the reasons we have so many repeat offenders coming in and out of Hattieville (Gayle Report, 2010).

On the day of the demonstration, I reasoned that it was absurd that most of us were hungry as we stood out there calling for justice while prisoners at Hattieville were enjoying their lunch. Shouldn’t the politicians and human rights group have supported the people with a meal or at least a snack?


Now, criminal activity is a multifaceted problem and therefore requires a multi-layered plan of action to be effective. This means that present structures of political authority, education, economic planning, religion, and social institutions must be reformed. This should also be part of the goals behind the Purple Movement. 

DNA Lab and the Telethon

While at the Meeting, one lady cautioned me that it would be better to establish the DNA Lab before carrying out capital punishment. In the US there are persons who have faced death innocently. Therefore, in Belize, there is a need to establish an advance forensics lab. The government has sent out a press release that it will do so. However, the Movement must push for this.

The AG told attendants at the meeting that this will require one million dollars. I say that Government should make it a pressing issue to get this by whatever means. Some people even suggested selling ministers vehicles, decrease their salaries etc. Why not?

The government can also start by incorporating forensic fields in the nation’s scholarship priority list. The listing should also include areas of research – history, sociology, psychology, criminology to increase the potential for Belizeans to become research based problem solvers. 

Cautions against Fundamentalism

There is a danger in allowing Christian fundamentalists too much voice in this movement for justice. The problem, for me, generally lies in the fact that they will be able to push their own agenda afterwards.

Also, for many fundamentalists, they generally believe that behind the criminal is the devil or some evil spirit.
Behind the criminals, however, is a major fault in the system and social structure, in which the church-state system is both a participant and product.

Some of the remarks I heard at the demonstration were unquestionably fundamentalist, such as the FECTAB’s President Tom Greenwood persuading the people that their voice represent the voice of God and that the government should take heed.

Also, members from Plus TV agitate for change but do so in a very zealous, confrontational and fundamentalist manner.  I predict that in a few years, their members will be candidates at both municipal and general elections. (**Patrick Andrew's has now joined the PUP). 

It is a scary thing when people begin to believe that God’s is on their side to fight. This was so in ancient times, the crusades, colonization, in the Middle East, and hopefully not in Belize. Therefore, the movement should by all means incorporate the support by religious groups, but must be sure to keep the movement on the issue at hand. 

Ignite the Peace Initiative


Torch Run, 7News
The Ignite the Peace Initiative was collaborative effort between the student bodies of Galen University, Sacred Heart College Junior College and University of Belize. The UB students had the greatest turn out. About 5 buses filled with UB students participated. Galen and SHCJC each had less than a hundred students representing.

The students, however, were not vocally active. They were mainly there in numbers. Most of them awaited the torch runners, and then proceeded to head on home after their arrival. Hope Amadi, president of the UB student Government, had to inform students that the buses would be departing about 30 minutes after the torch runners had arrived.

Jason Andrews, from Plus TV, challenged the students to realize that they are adults. He clamoured that they have the final say in whether they must attend classes or remain at the demonstration. However, by this time most students had already proceeded to make their way to the buses near Hodes Place.

Additionally, the two speakers being used were not effective and most of the people were hungry. There was no food to be purchased because of the shutdown. This is why the Movement needs to get funds, sustainability. High powered speakers were needed and food should have been made available.

I am encouraged by the increase in number of students who turned out. Last year, the University of Belize through the Student Government had managed to cancel classes to carry out a peace march in the central streets of Belize City. Only one bus departed from Belmopan, which was more empty than full. The number of UB students who participated in Belize City was extremely low. We were joined by the St. John’s students. UB students aren’t active. It’s sad, very sad.

Some students say that nothing happens by marching; I say a march can foster unity and propel us to challenge the status quo. Most students take occasions like these for leisure. Oh, and their lack of participation is not because they are too serious, academics not wanting to lose a day of class.

Partisan Politics

In the Gayle Report (2010), of 92 children of age 6-13,  51% knew precisely which political party their parents support. Some children even suggested that they already support their parent’s political party. These numbers increase as they get older. Belizeans are socialized to remain committed to their family’s political party affiliation. 

Also, according to the Gayle Report, the shift from paternalistic blind eye voting rates is directly related to the level of literacy and education level in the population. In 2010, only 7400 persons were enrolled at the tertiary level (2010 Census).

Torch run, Pandy Show
Some people have said that the Movement is primarily made up of supporters of the People’s United Party (PUP). This view is particularly recurrent on the Wave’s Radio talk show, whose speakers believe that everyone else except themselves have a partisan agenda. The reality of the matter is that on the day of the demonstration Hon. Elivin Penner (UDP) pledged to be a member of the Purple Movement. Also, several UDP councillors of the Twin Towns have been active spokesperson and organizers of the cause.

Yet, it cannot go unmentioned that PUP supporters will find their way speaking more often than others. This is because partisan politics is so influential in people’s behavior  Known UDP supporters have a higher chance of being victimized if they speak out. Community members and politicians will assume that they are UDP betrayers.

More than that, the young people if they speak out, will be confronted by their families who will warn them the dangers of victimization. Plus, the young people are yet to become conscious that they can be powerful agents of change. Young people rather go to parties and get high, failing to realize that so many of our brothers and sisters are falling to crime and that one of us could be next.

My hope is that, this movement can begin to challenge the general Belizean psyche that we are not entitled to question our representatives and keep them on their toes. We, the people have the power; power to the people.

The Purple Movement Committee, I am proposing be established, must establish rules about this. For example, if any member agitates for explicit UDP/PUP interest, he/she should be renounced publicly from being part of the movement. And also prohibit certain type of activities such as the musical presentation by the Mendez duo at the demonstration. Overall I like the composition and I have publicly told them this on YouTube comments. But “was George Price for us - Yes in God he trust” and those sort of phrases will give the PUP the upper hand. Let it be a movement for social reform. That song was good for the September celebrations. As much as possible, be bipartisan. If the movement will advocate for a particular party, let it do so for a new revolutionist party comprised of revolutionary non-conformist youth.

Thankfully, the Purple Movement has already made a press release with this similar goal. See the Purple Movement Facebook Page. 

Attack the System

Attack the system! Attack the System! – Both political parties have allowed the system to remain relatively intact. Our high criminal rates are the result of both Red and Blue. If you are going to attack the Hon. Prime Minister of Belize Dean Borrow, please remind Hon. Said Musa and his fellow companions that their actions have also led us to where we are. Don’t be fooled. Don’t run their campaigns.

Let me give to example of our faulty system. In education, 1/3 of our children are excluded from primary school; 60% are excluded from the secondary level; 2008 data stated that there is a 4% tertiary enrollment which gives Belize one of the worse rates in Central America and the Caribbean (Gayle 2010, p. 110-114). The 2010 Census informed us that only 2.4% of the population were enrolled at the tertiary level.  These are among other factors such as underpayment for teachers, overcrowded classrooms, lack of qualified teachers, complicated management of schools, and the colonial education structure which are interrelated issues which contribute to criminal activity.

Criminals must be laughing when they see peace-marches, shut downs, and protests. They may even become more agitated. These initiatives then must be directed against the system. Politicians who are the principal policy makers must be advised and pressured to make the necessary reforms to create a more inclusive and stable society.

Voice your Concerns and Challenge the System. Evan X Hyde recently questioned if Belize has achieved a better of quality of life since independence (Amandala). When one inspects that there was little change in many of the core intuitions established during colonization, one realize that very little was achieved. We are in a state where a real revolution movement must take place to challenge the neo-colonial order that is not benefiting the public.

Belizeans, Belizeans, my dear Belizeans, think, think, think, and then act. Oh yes, act, we have got to realize that our realities depends on our inactions and ACTIONS. 

Preliminary Success

  • One added police patrol vehicle to the Twin Towns
  • The Ballistic System donated by the Canadian government was inaugurated Friday (Oct 12). This however was not as a direct result of the protest. I mean com’on, this certainly was the result at least of several months of diplomacy. It is off course a much needed and well received donation. Thanks Canada.
  • Press Release, Belmopan, October 11, 2012

Press Release, Belmopan, October 11, 2012

The Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon. Dean Barrow, has offered his congratulations and thanks to the thousands of Belizeans from the Cayo District and across the country who participated in the San Ignacio/Santa Elena peaceful protest against crime. The Prime Minister views this latest mass action against the greatest scourge in our country, as a continuation of the same Cayo spirit and resolve that he highlighted in his Independence Day Address.

The Prime Minister also acknowledges that it remains Government’s primary responsibility to safeguard citizens in Cayo and all of Belize. He therefore reiterates the commitments he made in his meeting with the leaders of the Solidarity Movement for Justice and Peace. Accordingly, the Government of Belize will:

1. Immediately provide additional resources (including vehicles) to the Cayo Formation of the Belize Police Department;
2. Implement a sexual offenders registry and monitoring system;
3. Operationalize immediately after the official handover of the technology and equipment by the Canadian Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this Friday, the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS);
4. Ensure, together with the Magistracy and Judiciary, the proper enforcement of the laws governing denial of bail in cases of sexual and other serious offences;
5. Fast-track the efforts with the Government of the United States to finalize arrangements for an expert in DNA Science to be attached to Belize’s National Forensic Science Service to mentor our local analysts as well as to act as a professional witness for cases having to do with forensic evidence.
6. Strengthen the Police Prosecution branch and institute greater coordination between the Police and the Office of the Director of the Public Prosecution to ensure more effectiveness in the investigation and preparation of cases for prosecution.
In ending, the Prime Minister reassures the Cayo communities and the entire Nation that the war on crime will not slacken but be heightened by increased human and material resource allocation.

*Also see the post on the Purple Movement's first general public meeting. 

Key References:

Census Summary: Main results of 2010 population and housing census. Belize. Statistical Institute of Belize. Available at: http://www.statisticsbelize.org.bz/dms20uc/dynamicdata/docs/20110511165337_2.pdf

Gayle, Herbert and et. al. Male Social Participation and Violence in Urban Belize: An Examination of Their Experience with Goals, Guns, Gangs, Gender, God, and Governance. Belize. Available at: http://dbzchild.org/uploads/docs/complete_pgmale_social_participation_and_violence_in_urban_belize_grand.pdf