For some ten years public sector workers have not benefited for a salaries increase. Despite rising cost of living in Belize.
In 2004 and 2005 the trade unions played an important role in paving the way for the then opposition UDP to gain electoral victory. In 2008 the UDP became the government on a promise of accountability, transparency and all the rest of broken electoral pledges. They held out an open window and door that they would be a workers government. Another broken promise.
From 2008 to 2013 the Unions played along with “their” government. No raise came. When they could no longer hold back the frustration of their members, and in particular the teachers, negotiation started. Based on facts and figures the Unions placed their cards on the negotiating table. Oh, no, said the Prime Minister, we just don’t have money for a raise. The Unions said they wouldn’t budge. They were asking for ten percent.
Eventually, to head off unrest in the workplace, the Prime Minister said okay you’ll get something. That something was six percent, yea six. Just cannot afford more, said he.
The six percent took effect two months ago. Inflation, cost of living and the very high price of petrol gobbled it up in one month.
But from 2012 the government has been raking in an unexpected bonanza of millions of extra dollars from the Hugo Chavez/Venezuela oil initiative called Petro Caribe.
So that even as the Prime Minister had been pushing around the teachers, public officers, Police, soldiers and nurses with his “we have no money for a raise” excuse; he was secretly storing up millions of dollars. By the end of 2013 he had in excess of 200 million dollars.
Finally the truth got out. The wanton, harum, scarum spending alerted the nation that something was amiss. The Prime Minister was secretly using the Petro Caribe monies to finance his dream of a third term in government.
As it further turned out, the Prime Minister was doing all this in violation of the laws requiring him to get National Assembly approval, table estimates of spending and follow legal requirements to have public tenders for all works on streets, bridges, roads, sports facilities etc. So the Prime Minister grudgingly asked the National Assembly to approve what he had already been doing-using millions since 2012. By the way what he was doing was illegal and some lawyers say also criminal.
With his slim majority in the House of Representatives the illegality was “confirmed and validated” in the words of his Resolution to the House.
Then came the Senate meeting last week and the unbelievable behavior of the nominee Senator representing the Unions of Belize. He voted in favor of the government illegal actions. His vote “confirms and validates” the very principles the Unions fought so hard to uphold- accountability, transparency an end to waste, and misuse of public funds. The lies and deceits of the Prime Minister since 2012 up to the present were endorsed by the Union representative.
This is incredible.
The teachers, public officers, police, soldiers and nurses have no housing programs. They have no healthcare benefits for themselves and families. Their children who are students pay high prices for internet and use of computers when such services should be free for all students in Belize. There is no free education to colleges and Sixth Forms. There are no agricultural programs for people to get out of dependency and poverty.
And in the face of these and many other ills the Union representative betrays the workers of our land.
If Senator Shoman, Sylvester and Andrews did not call for individual votes on the Resolution we never would have known what serious games the Union leaders and their Senate rep are playing.
JESUS GET JACKED
Belize is a Christian country. We may not be very devoted Christians but we doing okay, especially given the never-ceasing busy body called Satan and his demons.
Christmas is the biggest time of the year for Christians in Belize. It is a day set aside to celebrate the birth of the son of God, who brought the message of love.
The commercialization of Christmas represents a challenge to Christians and their pastors, priests, bishops and preachers. For too long in Belize the demons of the devil have been allowed to take Jesus’s birthday to push their pagan activities.
The Christmas hype has started from the third week in November. Some local radio and television stations have started to push the agenda. That agenda is one of materialism- buy, buy, buy. In a society in which fifty percent of our people are poor, how do we justify promoting such a concept?
Christians in Belize need to push back.
There is a need to put Christ back in Christmas.
To hell with Santa Claus and all that he represents.
A foreigner visited the prison a few times earlier this year. He is just part of a project out of the United Kingdom. He produced a Report. The Report is a stinging criticism of the lawyers, the Magistrate Courts, Supreme Courts, the Ministry of National Security and the government.
It is written that you can tell what type of society you have by the way it treats its mentally ill, its elderly and its prisoners. Look around.
In the case of the prison it is hidden from public view. The Report highlights the awesome abuse of mentally ill persons who are thrown in the prison rather than in a hospital where they can receive some minimum treatment and humane attention.
The Report highlights the hundreds of young people remanded without a second thought. Hundreds more are languishing in jail for years awaiting trials.
Nothing in the Report is new to the various personnel and institutions mentioned above. In a practical sense there is no Minister responsible for the prison. There is no Chief Executive Officer whose duty it is to see that what is happening in the prison does not happen. There is no Cabinet oversight of this unacceptable situation that has befallen those who are sent to prison. It is a curse and a sin-what is happening.
Brutal as the white colonial masters were, they conducted themselves with a degree of responsibility and sense of duty over their colonial subjects in Belize. Look what has happened under the watch of our own people. The unfortunate prisoners are treated like animals.
And the Report did not even touch the dark, hidden issue of prison rape and sexual abuse.
WOMAN BEATER IS MAIN SPEAKER
Galen University is holding its graduation ceremonies this weekend. Somebody slipped down and invited the Minister of Education as the main speaker.
The Minister of Education was recently the center of public attention when an allegation surfaced that he had beaten a young lady.
No need to rehash the allegation but the young lady did make a report to the police and is said to have a witness. The matter got squashed at the Police level. It must be mentioned that the young lady is vulnerable as she is employed in the Ministry of Education.
A Minister cannot be accused of such a horrible behavior and still keep high public position. Except, of course, if he is in the UDP government. The Minister’s public response was to blame female activist Rhenae Nunez for striving up public sentiment via social media and Facebook. He even went as far as calling Miss Nunez “that crazy woman”. Showing just how he thinks about strong, independent, outspoken females who cannot be intimidated by him and his colleagues.
Were students and graduates of Galen University touched with a little sense of moral outrage at a woman beater, the Minister would not be allowed to face them on graduation day.
If the Minister had any sense of moral decorum he never would have gotten into such a national scandal in the first place. Ten days of activism? Could we at least have a few hours of walk out?
BODY CAMERAS FOR COPS
The U.S.A, one of the world’s most vibrant democracies, is reeling from a series of protests following the riots and outrage out of Ferguson County with the Police shooting of an unarmed black teenager-Michael Brown.
Black Americans, who have consistently been the overwhelming victims of racist police abuse, seem to be reaching a point of ‘we will take no more of this’.
The suggestion that Police must be forced to wear body camera in order to reign in their unlawful behavior is gaining momentum in America.
In Belize, the rising incidents of police brutality and plain chancyness against citizens have been met with stony silence from those in authority.
In MAY 2010, in a place called Tivoli in Jamaica, the Police and army conducted a joint operation. They were seeking to find and arrest Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Dudus was wanted for extradition to the USA on charges he was a major drug trafficker.
Dudus was well liked and appreciated by the residence of Tivoli whom we financially supported through sports, art and various community programs. He was a Don, a Don Gorgon.
Expecting resistance and perhaps even a shoot-out with staunch supporters and street soldiers of Dudus, the security forces entered with maximum force, including carriers and helicopter(most likely not second hand ones).
After days of rage the security forces subdued the residence and quieted down the area. When the media entered there was widespread evidence of Police and soldiers excesses. Many residents were brutalized and enough got shot.
Now, four and a half years later, with government having changed, a public Commission of Inquiry is hearing evidence of abuses and violation of the rights of citizens.
There is a lesson for the opposition, the government and in particular the Hon. John Saldivar, his CEO George Lovell, Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police, and every G.S.U, rogue cop and chancy senior officer who is involved in any way in what is being done to people in this country.
BOOKS FOR THE SEASON
With Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year’s holiday around the corner, books are as good a gift as any.
The Bible would have to be on top of any list, with a note to the receiver to read it on a regular basis.
There is a small gift shop and book store on North Front Street, Belize City, downstairs the Law Firm of Musa and Balderamos. They have a variety of excellent reading materials including many children books.
There are a few copies left of an important book for our region “Open Veins of Latin America” by Eduardo Galeans.
There are books on Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley and Che Guevara. There are some local books and poetry by Carrie Fairweather, Karl Tillett and others.
Reading is food for the soul.