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Oct 23, 1998

G. Michael Reid on political pitfalls

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In tonight’s edition of the Last Word G. Michael Reid comments on the inevitable changing of the guard after elections and the sometimes unpleasant side effects of wearing your political heart on your sleeve.

“The 1993 General Elections was the first in which I was privileged to cast a vote. The four previous elections caught me running to and fro across the good ole “U.S. of A.” in chase of the elusive American dream. After two decades in fruitless pursuit, I decided to abandon chase and returned to the humbler yet friendly and more carefree environs of home.

Back in Belize, I secured employment with the Belize National Building Society, started a family and settled into my newfound role as a responsible family man. The future looked bright and all was going well until for some inexplicable reason, the P.U.P. decided to call early elections. The outcome of that ill advised stratagem is now history of course, and unfortunately, so was soon to be, my job at B.N.B.S. Seems the Managing Director of the society, Mr. Ray Fuller had made some powerful enemies within the U.D.P. camp and the ax, which was ground well sharp, fell. What the then new U.D.P. government did not take into consideration, was the fact that apart from a fully staffed office, working under Fuller were also about twenty contractors, and some with as many as forty workmen. Within just a matter of weeks after the baton-changed hands, all were unemployed and G. Mike was headed for the Family Court. Now before you start jumping to conclusions, let me assure you that this one is not about the Family Court.

What is interesting, is that the same U.D.P.s who in one fell swoop, pulled the rug from beneath the feet of hundreds of working Belizeans in 1993, are the very ones, who now at the top of their voices, are screaming victimization. And don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that victimization is okay, or even that it is not happening; for one would have to be incredibly naive to believe that. Neither am I suggesting that what happened in 1993 might in anyway justify what is happening today, but it just seems the U.D.P. might not be the appropriate ones to champion this cause.

I would, however, echo the sentiments of former Minister of Works Melvin Hulse, who in an appearance on the FM 2000 breakfast show this week, cited the conspicuous silence of the unions, the church groups and the various N.G.O.s who were all quite vocal during the past administration. And how about the media, so called independents who promised that regardless of who was is power, equal pressure would be put on them to quote unquote, do the right thing. Unless of course we are to believe, that everything is honky dorey?

Now as far as victimization is concerned, I am not convinced that the majority of electorates on either side of the party line condones this policy but who among us are willing to refuse a share of the spoils when our party is in power. And while victimization is indeed wrong regardless of which party is doing it, there are still, what might be considered extenuating circumstances. Political appointments for instance, where a person is given a job solely on the basis of party affiliation has got to be looked at differently. The former Minister of Works, hinted in his interview, that while dismissals in these instances are in no way acceptable, they are certainly understandable. It would seem prudent of course, that regardless of the circumstances surrounding an appointment, if after five years on a job, a person proves to be the best man for the job, and notwithstanding the fact that the best man could sometimes be a woman, then full consideration should be given toward leaving such a person in that job. Now if while on the job, that person chooses to campaign for the incumbents who lose, then he or she should not even wait to be fired. A certain gentleman at the Sports Council and a stalwart supporter of the U.D.P., was seen cleaning out his desk early the morning of August twenty-eight, knowing full well what the impending scenario would be.

In 1993, the P.U.P. had an ambitious housing program going whereby many people who were never before able to afford homes, were moving into comfortable and modestly priced low and middle-income houses. B.N.B.S. under Ray Fuller had secured loans from Social Security with which they were building homes and the mortgages from which, would then pay back these loans. In my time of working for Fuller, I found him to be an agreeable and considerate boss and one who would give jobs to just about anyone, regardless of political preference. Because of this, many of those who lost their jobs as a result of the B.N.B.S. shakeup, were in fact U.D.P.s who probably found it very difficult to put their X beside the red square in these bygone elections. By the same token, and as was made evident by the overwhelming margin of defeat, many of those who are now losing jobs, probably voted blue.

The situation is that at some point, victimization will have to stop. The P.U.P. has promised to be a party of reform and a party for all the people and hopefully, that meant regardless of what color ballot was cast. What has to happen of course, is that people will have to keep their political preferences a secret, and after all, is that not the way it is supposed to be? Is that not why we go privately in a box and why we fold our ballots? Now if you wish to run down the street waving a blue and white or a red and white flag, then that is a gamble that you take. Hopefully though, we can one day rise above all this, and hire and fire, based strictly on performance and productivity and true qualifications.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Viewer comments are welcome.

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