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Mar 21, 2012

Belize at 30 Symposium

Symposiums do not always attract large audiences, but there was a full house of students today at the Belize at Thirty event.  The handout politics and the history of broadcasting were two of the more interesting topics presented in the afternoon session of the symposium organized by NICH. Isani Cayetano reports from the Fordyce Chapel at Saint John’s College.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Belize at Thirty is the fitting title of a three-day symposium organized by the Institute of Culture and Social Research to discuss the growth and development of the nation since achieving independence in 1981.  The conference was launched on Tuesday night with an opening lecture delivered by Dr. Anne Macpherson on the role of women in the struggle for Belize’s independence.  Among the highlights of the ongoing discussions were two lectures this afternoon, delivered by Dylan Vernon and Stewart Krohn on the impact of handout politics and the broadcast news media, respectively.  Coordinating the event is Nigel Encalada of the Institute of Culture & Social Research.

Nigel Encalada, Dir., Institute of Culture & Social Research

Nigel Encalada

“This afternoon we have two lectures.  One is on right now and this is a paper being done by soon to be doctor Dylan Vernon and looking at handout politics in Belize.  He is looking at the evolution of that as well and so far he has identified three phases; what he calls the innocent phase, the bridging phase and the rampant phase in terms of what has emerged as a culture of handout politics.  This lecture will be followed by a lecture by Stewart Krohn on the broadcast news media over the last thirty years.  And then we transition into tomorrow where we are looking at a different set of themes.  We’ll be looking at the Guatemala Claim, Belize’s foreign policy, the issue of multiculturalism in Belize and national identity and of course we’ll be looking at the economy, one of the crucial sectors.  It’s all about reflecting on Belize experience with independence in the context of the development sectors over the last thirty years.”

In Vernon’s address he highlighted the fact that a great deal of what has become the norm within Belize’s political culture, as it pertains to the dependency of the electorate on the major parties, stems from the patriarchal manner in which the late Right Honorable George Price led the country.

Dylan Vernon

Dylan Vernon, Guest Speaker, Belize at Thirty

“How did handout politics emerge and expand in Belize?  I divide the trajectory, the growth of handout politics in Belize in three distinct phases: an innocent or a rooting phase which I placed from 1956 to 1981, a bridging or a transition phase 1982-1989 and a rampant or the entrenchment phase which we’re in today from 1990 to 2012.  In terms of the innocent or the rooting phase which, in the case of 1954, marks the beginning of Universal Adult Suffrage and in a sense the launch of Belize’s elective politics.  It is characterized by the emergence of handouts during the nascent period of political parties and the entrance into national elections.  In the phase handout politics was centered around the populist and the paternalistic leadership style of our Father of the Nation, George Price.”

For his part veteran broadcaster Stewart Krohn spoke on the evolution of the local television media in Belize post-independence, particularly after the closing down of Radio Belize.

Stewart Krohn, Guest Speaker, Belize at Thirty

Stewart Krohn

“Early TV was very tame.  It tended to focus on feature reporting, it was really kind of an extension of that same Belize All Over show.  It wasn’t quite saying “Oh everything is wonderful in Belize” like Radio Belize was saying.  It covered interesting topics but it tended to cover more human interest stories rather than the hardball of politics.  This would gradually change however.  We were very conscious of our role as the only local TV station.  For a number of years you can walk through the south side of Belize at 6:30 but these days unless you live there you don’t really go walking through the south side of Belize City for no reason but if you did you would hear out of every small house, you would hear every TV was tuned into the local news.  This was something new, you couldn’t miss it.”

Thursday’s event will feature guest speakers Alexis Rosado, Ambassador Alfredo Martinez, Dr. Philip Castillo and Dr. Joseph Palacio in a series of discussions on foreign policy, the Guatemalan Claim and multiculturalism in Belize. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The symposium wraps up the celebrations of the thirtieth anniversary of Belize’s independence that have been taking place since last year.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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