Dear Teenage Girls….by: Kiah Pastor


 

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Kiah Pastor

Dear Teenage Girls of Belize,

There are a couple tragedies currently in the media that has hit close to home therefore I’d like to speak on one. There was a situation that occurred where a 13 year old female sent nude photos to a man and he then threatened to expose them if she did not have sex with him. Well she ended up having sex with him twice.

We live in a Society where men glorify women and their bodies but there is a very fine line between being human and appreciating a woman’s natural physique and then just being out right disrespectful. In Belize, most cases it’s being disrespectful. But as a child having your body go through changes, you’re left some what confused. Why should I as a teenager not show off my newly developed breasts if they’re so many older and more developed women on social media also showing off their bodies and getting glorified by not only men but other females as well. Do you see my point? Nudity has become a part of pop culture. Nudity has become art. Nudity has been accepted in every case EXCEPT when it has been shared against your will. The amount of guys I’ve seen preaching about “having self respect” and telling girls to stop sending nudes to young boys are the same guys I recall have asked me to send them a nude when I was between the ages of 12-16.

Almost every male will vow they’ll never associate themselves with younger girls but they’re so many of them who love it! It’s the idea of being with a female who doesn’t have a set of boundaries mostly because they don’t know what the boundaries should be. The idea of not being with a female you need to break all sorts of walls to get through to because she hasn’t been scarred by other men in order to build those walls up in the first place. And lastly it’s the idea of having a body that hasn’t been touched. The inferior feeling of taking it all away. Men love dominance.

Now let me redirect my energy. It’s not solely the men of our society’s fault but also the women. We should work hard as women to be advocates of true self confidence and self love. We should be more willing to reach out to the younger girls around us and be a big sister figure to them and be there to advise them so they don’t need to figure it all out on their own. This is very hard because there’s a lot of adult women themselves who don’t have self respect nor show true value of themselves as women but that’s okay! You don’t need to be in that space forever! You don’t need to be vulnerable to these men. You don’t need to use sex to feel powerful and you don’t need to showcase your body to get attention. You do what you’re confident with not what you feel is pleasing to others. Where do you think promiscuous women are stemmed from? Sexual acts that occur in early stages of life. Let’s make an effort to be the best examples to younger girls and to show them how they should react when put in compromising positions! You’re not alone!

From a young woman building herself back up,
Kiah Lisani Pastor 💓

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The State of Belize- A Design To Fail by: Aria Lightfoot


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Belize is a small country, with a relatively small population and comparatively undeveloped even within the regions of Latin American and Caribbean countries. What Belize lacks in size and development, it makes up in resources and attractions. Belize is abundant in resources such as fertile land, minerals, bountiful sea, waterways, intelligent people, exuberant culture and history. Unfortunately, however, Belize economic state is a casualty of generations of greedy and unconscionable colonizers and politicians who still enjoy little oversight and a “docile” population that genuflects conformity over rebellion.

The country of what is today Belize was once a thriving Maya civilization until the British settlers (pirates) invaded in the early 1600’s. The birth of British influenced Belize was one of bloodshed, piracy, kidnapping subjugation and wars leading to enslavement, divisiveness, colonization and eventual independence. During British rule, the British extracted the rich resources from Belize and transferred the wealth to the British Empire. Today, the privilege few extract wealth from the citizenry through bloated contracts and exclusive deals.

The British evidently had no development plans for Belize. The poor structures, absentee land ownerships and lack of re-settlement of British families to Belize were all evidence of an extraction of wealth policy firmly in place. The British continued to the manipulate the people and divide the nation with centuries of indoctrination and colonization through a British system of formal education, law and politics. The system inherited by Belize was designed to keep British supremacy and British rule enduringly intact even in their absence. Look around in 2016 Belize and you see a second coming of outside landowners and business owners as the Belizean people remain poorly paid workers and consumers .

Unlike the UK and many other neighboring British colonies, Belize is a heterogeneous society, piecemealed into a cultural montage of mostly oppressed cultures where Belize City is still deemed the epicenter of economic activity. That was the structure when independence was first accomplished, but probably not today’s reality. The economy has shifted from an agriculture dependent economy to a service oriented economy. Agriculture and Fishing continues to be sustained by special first world welfare agreements that will eventually evaporate.  Additionally, since Belize was a wealth extraction colony, there was no effort nor foresight to develop a self-sustaining economy independent of the British. The British Empire provided the needed supplies to the colony and local farming and fishing sustained the needed fresh vegetables and meat.

Education and Legal practice in Belize is geared towards conformity and perpetuation. In the legal field for example, there is an abundance of legal minds seemingly impaired to address a collapsing legal system. Belize laws suffer from poor structures and poor enforcement. We have many Economists in Belize who offer little solutions  to a collapsing economy. We  have a plethora of untapped knowledge and expertise in Belize and in the Belizean diaspora,  but unorthodox and independent thinking is strongly discouraged and quickly thwarted and subjugated to censor and alienation.

Many leaders may not know how to examine these failing structures in place. Our leaders would first have to admit they are adhering and promulgating a system that was not designed for Belizeans. George Price, in his noble fight for Belize was not sophisticated enough to reject the new Belize Constitution in 1981, which was nothing but a mere carbon copy of the constitutions shared among other British colonies, contrived by the British. Belize did not chart a new society specific to the realities and history of Belize in 1981, power was simply transferred to a few Belizeans who have been afforded the privilege of the colonizers. Our revolutionists were all too happy to take control of the wheel without examining if the vehicle was designed for development and prosperity of Belize. The Belizean people simply adapted the very laws and practices of its colonizers on Independence Day.

Fast forward to the last 35 years of Belize’s independent history and you find leaders who have perpetuated a system of privilege, piracy and pacification. Belize adhered to an antiquated legal system that keeps looking back for answers instead of promoting progressive thinking;  the  tax laws are ineffective;  land distribution is unproductive; and leaders exhibit a real disdain for expertise outside the crony network. Belize’s economy today is heavily dependent on unsustainable loans and  hand-out generosity of imperial first world countries that dictate mandates which fill Belize’s prisons with productive men, destroy families and hypocritically undermine cash crops like marijuana.

Since the colony of British Honduras was heavily dependent on the British Empire for resources and Independence cut the umbilical cord, Belize has turned to mass importation and borrowing to maintain the economy. Additionally, the economic problems are intensified by porous borders where Belize has taken on substantial burdens of poor people with limited education and limited reciprocity to generate wealth; elected officials with little or no oversight on borrowing and spending; blatant theft of public goods and services; tax avoidance and tax evasion; poor enforcement laws and obliviousness of the population at large. Today’s Belize is still embroiled in bloodshed, piracy and subjugation.The bells are tolling and Belize will need to design a Belize for Belizeans to secure the very survival of Belize. Creditors cannot solve Belize’s problems until Belize recognize and resolve the deficiencies in a system that perpetuates dependency and archaic practices and repels development and economic evolution.

Charting a Path to Self-Determination by: Aria Lightfoot


 

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I was very transparent with my support for the current Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, during the 2015 elections and I continue to support him.  I believe that the current PM is the leader who is poised to put Belize on the right path to self-determination.

Belize is a young democracy compared to many nations in the world and unlike many nations, we did not fight for our Independence; on the contrary, Independence was transitional. Belize was slowly provided decision-making powers through decades of indoctrination after centuries of colonialization- the right to vote, the right to self-government and eventually Independence. Not only did we not fight for Independence, there was significant opposition to the notion of Independence.

On September 21st, 1981, Prince Michael of Kent ceremoniously declared Belize Independent and Belize was re-born, with Stockholm syndrome, celebrating independence, Columbus Day, asking God to save the Queen and idolizing the paper and coins with images of the Royal Family. The Belize legal and political systems were and are orchestrated to perpetuate the British Empire- a class tier structure promulgating elitism. Independent Belize assumed the same political and legal system, the same Queen as head of state and judges with white wigs and black/brown faces. Independence in words only, but quite dependent militarily and financially on England, the US and EU. Belizeans were never given the opportunity to think outside the British box nor develop laws for Belizean cultures. Belize’s history books and constitution were pre-written; our inherited educational system engineers self–hate and brainwashes us to uphold Eurocentric idealism.  Like Pontius Pilate, England washed it hands of Belize on September 21st and kicked us out the proverbial nest.

It is ironic that after the first world perpetuated the worst human rights violation against African and Indigenous races; after they raped countries like Belize of its resources and brain power; after they have burdened Belize with predatory loans and investors; they now create laws to tell countries like Belize what constitutes corruption. Sadly, we live in a world of realities and not necessarily justice. Justice is an abstract concept simply because those who suffer at the hands of injustices never really experience justice. We cannot bring back the dead, we cannot undue the victimization or colonialization; so we create this idealism of justice which are promises to never repeat the sins of our ancestors. We create ceremonies that honor men and women who can no longer breathe; console ourselves that justice will prevail and then ignore the needed fixtures to undo the centuries of derailment.

I know…. I went off the deep end, but I only mention things so that people can understand that corruption does not have one definition nor is it one thing, entity or person; corruption does not exist in a vacuum, corruption has enablers. The government is not the only entity that should be held accountable for corruption as there are too many organizations and individuals in Belize who are corrupted and lack of necessary oversight and accountability…

Political Parties

Medical Profession

Insurance Companies

Legal Profession

Media

Public Officers /Local and Central Government

Religious Organizations

Business Sector

Realtors

Unions

The People of Belize

The cries against corruption have reached fever pitch and I applaud those who have the courage to speak out. People are fearful to speak out and those who decide to openly share their opinions are subjected to ridicule, accusations of ulterior motives, and even bodily threats. Corruption has created a moral decay in Belize. The ill-gained wealth; the rampant drug use and facilitation of drug shipments; the theft of public funds; the lack of a functioning criminal legal system; the media that sensationalizes and misinforms; the business sector that cheats the state of taxes and sells the masses inferior goods at expensive rates; the attorneys who undermine the laws with loopholes; the insurance companies that drop their clients when they make claims; the realtors who facilitate illegal land transactions; the doctors who treat the wealthy and let the poor die; the public officers who accept money to facilitate illegal deals; the police officers who selectively enforce the laws; the churches that allow pedophiles to rip away our children’s innocence; the political parties that field corrupted candidates; and now the teachers using innocent children as pawns…

The Belize National Teachers Union broke away from salary negotiations under the umbrella organization, National Trade Union Congress of Belize, and unilaterally, without consultations of any other affected bodies or citizens outside their membership, decided to take a very shortsighted, non-strategic stab at corruption. The BNTU made eight demands to address corruption. To many the cause is noble, but obviously these eight demands that BNTU is making does not even begin to address what ails Belize. The BNTU’s demands are very simplistic, broad and would be an ineffective solution to corruption. Mr. Elrington, may have been harsh in words, but the truth sometimes is a very bitter pill to swallow. In Belize we don’t like truths, we prefer to hold on to unsubstantiated and poorly examined and ill-informed beliefs. BNTU’s frustration is real, but their demands are knee jerk, emotional and poorly conceived. BNTU’s fight is more passion than reason at the cost of our children’s education.

Without a doubt government requires oversight, limitations and public trust. The problem with Belize legal/political framework is that it is not designed for oversight. When our very Constitution allows “ministerial discretion” with no scope or limitation then our system is greatly flawed and most of the solutions must be at the constitutional level. The solutions must be comprehensive, well researched, formulated, presented and executed.

The opposition has seized on this popular but ill-conceived advocacy because they know that the demands are elementary to a very complex issue. I don’t believe that the opposition, or any entity that has benefited from corruption truly want to activate real change in Belize. It would mean that they would have to start looking inwardly, and start cleaning house. Imagine if every organization would present a plan as to how they would tackle corruption internally, it would be a real step in the right direction.

Belize has devolved into a Trump-like America, where decency and respect is the exception, rather than the norm.   We prefer to accuse, insult and demean rather than dialogue. We prefer noise to solutions and we refuse to listen to reason when it doesn’t align with our stance. You would be lying if you claim you have not contributed to this corruptive environment; simply turning a blind eye or remaining silent are all contributive factors, being disrespectful and undermining are corruptive behavior, ignoring truths are corruptive behavior.

The solutions to corruption have to be a concerted effort involving the sitting government, the opposition, unions, social partners and citizens of Belize. Belize’s evolution to corruption-free self-determination can only be done with a sitting government with the constitutional authority to introduce the legislative changes in the House of Representatives. In the 35 years of Independence, Belizeans have heard many promises from every opposition that they would tackle corruption, only to be ignored once power is gained. Belize is at a crossroad and after 35 years of poor policy decisions and outright theft of public goods, services and funds, this is the first time in Belize’s history that a sitting government is open to systematic changes. I believe that the current Prime Minister will make the right decisions with contribution and dialogue and I challenge Belizeans to offer solutions rather than posturing and rhetoric.

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BNTU- More Passion Less Reason by: Aria Lightfoot


“To promote and advance the highest levels of professional service in the teaching profession, and to represent and advance the just cause of teachers and their collective views of Government and Educational authorities at all levels within Belize and abroad, in order to promote and achieve the best possible standards of education and quality of life for all of our people.” BNTU’s mission statement 

my way or highway

Teaching remains one of the most respected and noble professions in Belize and let’s face it, teachers possess a great deal of influence over our children and spend a great deal of time educating and molding our children and the future of Belize. If the average teacher has twenty children, spending an average of eight hours a day, it means that a teacher is working with about 160 hours of children time per day or 3200 hours per month of children time. If teachers make an average of $1500.00 a month, teachers are being paid about 46 cents an hour per child. When you break down a teacher’s salary, you get a clearer picture of how truly underpaid these professionals are.

While children are an investment for the future of Belize, public schools are not self sustaining because they do not generate real income especially in parts of Belize where families struggle to make ends meet; they struggle to pay school fees and struggle to buy the necessary uniforms, books and equipment. The state uses redistributive taxes from income tax and taxes from products and services to provide income for teachers,  administrators,  build and maintain schools,  pay electricity, water and other bills. Studies show that the more affluent a neighborhood, the better the kids from those schools will perform because parents are then able to subsidize deficiencies that the state is unable to provide.

Belize does not have zoning laws that forces children to be educated in their school districts nor property tax laws that forces neighborhoods to pay for their schools. As it relates to education, Belize has maintained a church-state relationship that has been essentially abused by the churches. The church-state schools pack their schools with their congregations’ children and a few other kids who are able to improve their school standings. Church schools are able to attract the brightest and best teachers and students with alluring scholarships for students and better working conditions for teachers. This current system prevents other schools from developing by leaving behind children with less resources and access. The state has always allowed the churches to create these exclusionary policies, so church schools (mostly Catholic) outperform other schools. Isn’t this a corruptive system of education? At the church’s and congregation’s expense these exclusionary policies would be okay, but every tax payer contributes to this system but not every tax payer is afforded equal access to these schools. This brings me to examine the Belize National Teachers Union.

The Belize National Teachers Union also known as BNTU is a powerful union of teachers with a vision statement that highlights their purpose: To promote and maintain a professional organization of workers in education in Belize. This organization will aspire towards the highest and best in educational standards, services and conditions of work for the development of Belize.

The BNTU mission statement states: To promote and advance the highest levels of professional service in the teaching profession, and to represent and advance the just cause of teachers and their collective views of Government and Educational authorities at all levels within Belize and abroad, in order to promote and achieve the best possible standards of education and quality of life for all of our people.

The BNTU is currently in a labor dispute of sorts with the government of Belize. The teachers are demanding a 3% raise from the government except that when they actually sat at the negotiation table with the government they argued that corruption in Belize contributes to an environment that forces the government to have to break promises to give raises. So instead of demanding anything within their vision or mission statement, the BNTU decided they will take on a broad issue of corruption arguing that the International Labor Organization, a UN agency dealing with international labor standards world wide,  of which Belize is a member state, gives BNTU this authority to take on corruption because it affects their social and economic well being. The BNTU presented the government of Belize with eight demands that they want the government to address forthwith or face a strike.

  1. Urgent Action by GOB to sign the UN Convention Against Corruption.
  2. Take Corrected Measures to improve and ensure compliance with the requirements of our Unjust Enrichment and Integrity in Government Laws
  1. Take Urgent corrective measures including Legislative Action to have and make our Public Accounts Committee work and be effective.
  2. Take immediate and necessary Action to appoint a Special Senate Select Committee to make a full and proper Investigation/Inquiry into the recent Auditor General’s Audit Report into the Immigration and Nationality Departments for the 2011-2013 Period; including recommended, Corrective and Punitive action.
  1. Take immediate and appropriate measures to enact the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill and to formulate a Just and Fair Minimum Living Wage Legislation and Policy.
  2. Take serious and immediate action to restore (Education Rules) and to discuss and implement the unfinished section of our BNTU Special Proposal 22, to ensure the just Right and employment status/tenure and Service Benefits of the Non-teaching Staff of our Secondary and Tertiary Levels Educational Institutions.
  3. Take immediate and long over-due Legislative Measures to reform and update our Social Security Laws and Benefits to expand and broaden the protection and coverage of the workers (Contributors) including the section on to and from work. 1

Transparency International defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power. That abuse can be via manipulation of policy, rules, procedures and allocation of resources to enhance personal wealth, status and power.

These demands from BNTU are definitely what Belize needs, but it is not aligned with BNTU’s vision and mission statement. In fact, the demands are so broad and unlikely to be created and implemented in such a small window that one must reason that the BNTU motives are not transparent and their strike is to destabilize the government of Belize.   Some people argue that the present government had eight years to create these changes and failed to, but why is that argument even being made during the BNTU/GOB discussion? Is this election time? Election was held in November of 2015 and all these arguments were made and the people of Belize reelected the government of Belize. I agree that Belizeans must hold our government accountable as a people and nation of Belize, but BNTU’s unilateral action reeks of abuse.

Corruption is not one thing AND it is not only a government problem, it is a systematic practice that involves everyone. To argue that you want the government to solve corruption is like arguing you want world peace or else. The parameters were created to fail.

Belize is a small developing nation where politics and family are deeply intertwined. Belize is facing increasing international scrutiny because of different acts of corruption and there are urgent issues that the nation and people of Belize must tackle. Those in power must understand they have a responsibility for the positions they hold and they owe their memberships and supporters accountability. Belize laws have not yet evolved to address the ever-present issues that manifest almost daily. Historically, Belize has existed in some form for about 400 years in what use to be a mostly homogeneous society in an extremely small colony (prior to mass emigration to the US and immigration from neighboring countries and most recently US and UK)  . The laws of the colony were there to maintain order and maintain the status quo. Belize has only been independent for 35 years and while George Price may have had an idealistic vision for the future of Belize, he could not foreseen globalization, parasitic investors, tax havens, brutal drug trades, illegal transshipment points with billions of dollars at stake, international criminals and fugitives, terrorism, sex tourism, Internet, porous borders, international interest in developing and moving to Belize. The colonial laws of Belize that were designed to maintain status quo, are not equipped for the tsunami of events that have unfolded since Independence.

As the nations cries for changes these are some to the things that BNTU should consider:

  1. Instead of taking a ‘my way or the highway’ approach, why not partner with the government, businesses and social partners to work on a development plan for Belize? The government has in good faith agreed to your demands but you do not speak for the electorate and therefore holding the government ransom for what is not your mandate is a form of abuse and manipulation of rules.
  2. The current PM, Hon. Dean Barrow,  is the only sitting PM that has consistently agreed to work on improving the system while in power. Belize has seen its share of oppositions make promises to change the system only to ignore the changes while in power however only Mr. Barrow has disciplined misbehaving ministers, allowed audit reports to reveal corruption  and have removed  or diminished some of the most infamous personalities of corruption within his ranks. The current PM may be a shrewd negotiator, as some describe him, but he realizes that the people power is real and has been working to address these issues.
  3. Change can only happen with a sitting government who must create the policy (hopefully in full partnership with stakeholders), present it to the House, and vet it through the Senate. We must work within our system to change our system. Placards and marches bring the necessary attention and pressure, but changes happen with a sitting government. Destabilizing a duly elected government on a unilateral mandate is not for the betterment of teachers.
  4. Work on improving the education system because there is much corruption in the state/church relationship that requires urgent attention. The recent unilateral letter of support by Catholic Public Schools signed by Maria Zabaneh only to be dispelled a day later by Sister Barbara Flores is evidence of how unilateral crusades undermine credibility and leadership
  5. Ask the government to create a property tax system to benefit schools. Do you know that some communities are paying $5.00 a year in property taxes? We must create a comprehensive tax system that does not overburden one sector of society and allows equitable distribution and access.

We will never achieve change with egos. We will achieve change by understanding how the system functions and what creates the opportunities for abuse. Partnering and holding everyone accountable for their positions are the only true way to achieve change. The reality is that all Belizeans will need to get use to the idea of accountability including the BNTU and we should not let our passions overrule our ability to reason.

A storm is brewing …. by: Aria Lightfoot


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Belize is facing an approaching tropical storm, possibly a small hurricane, and one cannot ignore the cosmic correlation of recent events involving Mason. Mason was introduced to the Belizean public as an expert or specialist offering services to aid the National Emergency Management Organization. Two weeks after the murder of Llewelyn Lucas, there have been a plethora of fallouts, accusations, restructuring, investigations with even more pending. In some poetic sense, Belize system is definitely under National Emergency Management Re-Organization of government – courtesy of William Mason.

Mason’s identity is still unknown. He has a Belize birth certificate with the name William Mason and Guyanese passport with the name Ramesh Oulette. My Guyanese friend informs me that Oulette is not a traditional Guyanese last name. A little bit of research on the name Oulette indicates that the name is French Canadian in origin. It is possible his mother could have been French Canadian but Mason’s true identity is essential in getting to the bottom of this mystery.

william mason

Danny Mason’s true identity is extremely important because he may be linked to other crimes in Belize and worldwide. The aliases circulating are Danny Mason, Thomas Tharakan, Jagdeep Chahal (picture does not look like him), Raj Oulette, Ted Oulette, Danny Ferguson, Danny Oulette, Ramesh Oulette and Ramesh Singh. As I browsed RipOff Report online comments, I found it interesting that several people in Belize, as early as 2014, were reporting his presence in Belize. There are reports of Mason in South Africa, Thailand and South America scamming people, using similar tactics he did in Belize, befriending unsuspecting victims and stealing their money. A friend confided that Mason, known to her as Danny Oulette, attempted to extort her aunt. Her aunt had to get the police involved and remove “Danny” from her land. She claims this was a few years ago and they thought he had left Belize and headed back to Canada.

This case has exposed a dangerous weakness in Belize’s identification system (maybe Guyana and Canada too) and a flagrant loophole indicating a lack of necessary checks and balances. Mason operated unfettered because he flashed money, made sizeable donations, was able to obtain fraudulent identity documents, gun licenses, property, status and access. All this with the admitted knowledge of the then Minister of Police and key police officers. The aftershock of this has yet to quantified. Mason’s operations have called every Belizean identity into question. He exposed Belize as a place that facilitates international criminals for the right price and with the knowledge of relevant authorities. The case highlights the ease to wash illicit funds through donations and investments; a revelation that could have dire consequences for Belize. Belize could face international repercussions such as de-risking and heightened security for all Belizean citizens worldwide. Whether or not the P.M. realizes this, there will be keen international monitoring of this case especially since Mason littered the world with victims. Mason could be wanted for serious crimes worldwide, even other murders. How Belize proceeds handling this will be vital.

The Prime Minister has done the necessary initial steps to cure some of the problems but there are so much more to be done. The PM must create the necessary legal checks and balances to ensure this level of abuse never again occurs. Mason may be the most sensational case, but criminals have entered and abused Belize’s lax system too many times. The PM has elevated credible people in the right places, but I urge him to also formulate a bipartisan team to assist those new leaders to correct the deficiencies in the system.

The P.M. must recognize that he represents the last vestiges of politicians whose personal service and reputation is the key to their political life. The new breed of politicians enters public life for personal and financial enrichment. They lack service and empathy for their country and people, they lack purpose and they lack a moral compass. The laws in Belize that originated from the days when handshakes sealed deals, does not align with this new era of politicians and criminals.

Currently, the Belizean people turn to Hon. Dean Barrow to solve problems, to hold his cabinet accountable and to fight on behalf of the nation of Belize. That is a difficult task to ask any one person to do. The current system does not create perpetuity and it is not conducive to promote proper development and not responsive to identify, analyze and eradicate corruption. I have heard many people echo that their support of UDP begins and ends with the current Prime Minister. What will happen to Belize when he retires? Belize system seemed to be designed for strong and principled leadership. A leadership game of Russian Roulette.Write-off

The electorate has grown in sophistication and knowledge due to the unprecedented access to information. People are understanding that leadership defines their identity, success, and generation’s future and they are growing weary of abuse. To forge a prosperous future for our children and children’s children, the laws and constitution must reflect a system of limits and accountability.

And Belize this is not over yet. It has been reported that a prominent CEO of the Government of Belize and former Director of immigration was denied access to the United States and her visa cancelled. Countries battling terrorism are likely very concerned about their own vulnerability when criminals can mask their identities in countries like Belize, Canada and Guyana. A red flag has been raised warning of a storm brewing.

The Sky is not falling, the system is imploding! by: Aria Lightfoot


implosionWhen the United Democratic Party (UDP) won National elections in 2008, they rode in on a promise of accountability and change. The Barrow administration made bold promises to change the system of governance. The Peoples United Party (PUP) was overshadowed with accusations of corruption, squandering of public funds and increased taxation. Barrow differentiated himself, to a populace grown weary of the Musa’s administration, by making a bold statement “As soon as it [corruption] rears its ugly head, I personally will cut it off…”

Fast forward 2016 and Belize is still faced with the exact same systematic deficiencies. Accusations of corruption, squandering of public funds and increased taxation, only now the people of Belize are apathetic and cynical about the political process and government. In fact, most cannot distinguish between political parties and government. The lines have been completely erased. People have absolutely no trust in the government and it shows. Sadly, the PUP lacks the credibility to address many of these issues because eight years later, they have refused to bring new blood into the party and the message is dead on delivery. The UDP continued success at the polls correlates with PUP failing to regroup and distance itself from the personalities that created their demise.

The entire process in Belize is about to implode if Barrow does not use this term to address the deficiencies and shortcomings of the governmental system. Elected officials cannot govern. Most are very popular personalities, with no idea of the intricacies and importance of governing. Their job ought to be representatives of their divisions. They should speak to the needs of the people who elected them and ensure that their respective divisions are duly represented and benefit from the limited resources of the country.  The Cabinet suggests law, the House passes laws, the Public Service administers and implements the laws and the Judiciary examines laws.

Thirty-five years after independence and Belize politicians have eroded the system so much that it is now defunct. One person commented recently “If you need land, you have to see a minister, if you need a scholarship, you have to see a minister, if you need anything, it involves a minister”. Elected officials have created a system where they are involved in every facet of the system, exchanging public goods for political favors- causing a demise in the system.

The government of Belize is riddled with failure at every institutional level.The Belize banking system is facing outside regulatory oversight that could threaten the entire system; Belize seems to have become synonymous with money laundering. The medical system is atrocious to the point of inhumane. The hospitals are dilapidated and those who can afford it seek medical treatment outside of Belize and the unlucky citizens die untimely deaths. Crime and murder is outside the control of the police; the judiciary cannot keep up with the caseloads; people sit unconstitutionally on remand for years and the prosecution success rates are embarrassingly low where injustice prevails. The transportation system in Belize is disgraceful; the roads in Belize lack the necessary markings and structure and has become a weekly death trap. The nepotism and cronyism have skyrocketed- politicians and cronies splurge unapologetically and arrogantly at the expense of the tax payers; immigration is out of control. The borders are porous and there is no ongoing enforcement. The education system has a lot to be desired with focus on the top performers but nothing for the average student. Children lack comprehension skills, mathematical and scientific skills. The average citizen cannot gain access to land ownership;   foreigners with a few dollars more are given more privileges and access than Belizeans. Foreigners move to Belize, dominate the tourist and real estate industry and turn our people into a servant race. One person commented “it is better to be a foreigner or even an illegal alien in Belize, politicians will hook you up with citizenship and land papers”. The foreigners are reaping the benefits of the unregulated and corrupted jewel.

We inherited and perpetuated the British system. The British did not come to develop Belize; they came to Belize to rape it of its natural resources for the benefit of the crown. Our leaders have done the same except now it is for personal gain. It is not a coincidence that the deficiencies are so prominent that that there is a new issue on a regular basis where no serious attention can be given to any one thing. Belize will never be able to address its external threats until we fix what ails us internally. I call on the Barrow administration to end the spoils system, empower the public service; hire professionals at every level, make the system accountable and accessible to all – More than your legacy, the future of Belize depends on it!

Dangerous storms of ignorance by Jerry A. Enriquez


Dangerous storms of ignorance
by Jerry A. Enriquez, Amandala, April 10, 2016

Reprinted with the Permission of Jerry A. Enriquez

Jerry Enriquez

Jerry Enriquez

In 2005 and 2006, when we were both Academic Directors at the Vermont-based School for International Training, Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama, a leading Jamaican social scientist, and I co- organized and co-directed a six-week international summer program entitled, “African Spirituality in the Caribbean”. The aim of the program was to engage U. S. university students in rigorous set of academic and experiential learning activities that would enable them to examine the roots, current practices, challenges, and impact of African-based religions in the context of Caribbean culture.

A broader goal was to bridge cultural gaps, increase cross-cultural understanding through positive human interactions and diminish the dangerous storms of ignorance that have historically divided, controlled, oppressed and destroyed people of color. The course was born from our academic backgrounds and interests in sociology of religion, psychology of religion, U.S. and Caribbean history, culture and development.

During the first three weeks of the course, students were based first at UWI campus in Kingston, Jamaica and then in different rural communities to observe, participate, reflect and analyze their experiences with Rastafarianism, Kumina and other African based spirituality there. In the final three weeks of their course, the student groups (of no more than fifteen each) were based in Dangriga. There each student was very graciously hosted by a Garifuna family to gain firsthand experience of the culture, including the food, music, language and whatever are the daily family expressions of culture. After very special permission was granted by the buyei and the family in whose honor the ritual is performed, the students participated in every aspect of the dĂźgĂź.

In both countries, students were also engaged in top-notched academic presentations that enriched group discussions as they processed their experiences from a Rastafarian nyabinghi, kumina, or the dĂźgĂź. In Jamaica a number of senior lecturers and Professors from the University of the West Indies as well as expert practitioners of the various traditions were involved.

For the Belize portion of the program, I continue to deeply grateful for the dynamic and deeply thought-provoking presentations delivered by Canon Jerris Valentine of the Anglican church, Mr. Roy Cayetano, Dr. Gwen Nunez Gonzalez, Dr. Joseph Iyo, Baba John Mariano (the buyei), Mr. Marion Nolberto among others, as well as the warm welcoming kindness of homestay coordinator Mrs. Phyllis Cayetano and the Dangriga families who so kindly hosted each student.

Invariably, the participants reported that this course was the most thought-provoking, awakening, and insightful that they had ever experienced. The program not only enabled them to gain a deeper appreciation and respect of other cultures but also to critically examine their own cultural beliefs and practices to which they have been socialized.

On a personal level, my engagement in all aspects of the program from its conception, to planning, participation in the activities, facilitating a learning process, discussions with the resource persons, evaluating students’ performance was a great opportunity to delve deeply into the traditions of my culture as well as that of others.

The students were also deeply moved to be among the very few outside group to ever be welcomed to the inner sanctum of spiritualties that have been carefully guarded in both countries after centuries of ethnic, racial and cultural assault and persistent attempts at extermination by dominant Eurocentric interpretations of Christianity.

By the second summer, the program had become increasingly popular. Encouraged by its success and potential opportunities for program growth, Dr. Imani and I envisioned the possibility of later expansion to include learning opportunities in Haiti, Cuba and Brazil.

As the demand for the program grew, however, I began to feel deep concerns about the likely impact of an annual flow of outside participant learners on the sensitivities of the local people and their traditional sacred rituals. Rather than involve a privileged few who could afford the course, I often wished that members of the native cultures and their fellow citizens could afford such dynamic participant learning experiences in order to enrich their own connections and understanding of their common roots across borders. Torn by such internal conflict, my colleague and I immediately closed the program at the end of its second season.

Hopefully someday, such an initiative could be rekindled in order to reconnect people across our borders and region. The depth of unawareness of historical-rooted current forces that continue to batter our nation’s politics, culture, economy, communities and families is staggering. As the saying goes, “When the roots of a tree die, the branches will die, when the branches die there will no flowers; with no flowers there will be no fruits and seeds; no seeds, no more young trees.” Faced with increasing threats by Euroamerican values, might such slow death be the current path of Garifuna, Creole, Mayas and other Belizean cultures. With the onslaught of holy hypocrisy, in religion, politics and economics are we becoming trees with dying roots? Is it too late to water our roots?

One of the greatest absurdity that humanity faces is the egotistic and fanatical delusion that one group of people and one religion, highly divisive in the interpretations of itself, have sole access to a supreme all-knowing all-loving being, and by virtue of that belief, engage in racist and misogynistic behavior, ridicule, oppression, warmongering aggression, enslavement and genocidal slaughtering of others over centuries. Under the notion of “religious freedom”, and convinced that they are vessels of the entire truth, many have sought to forcefully impose their own belief on others. Similar to John Godfrey Saxe’s poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant, in which each of six blind men, touching different parts of an elephant became deluded to passionately argue that he knows the entire elephant.

The relentless attempts by fanatics to ridicule and exterminate the traditional beliefs of Garifuna, indigenous, African and others should come as no surprise. It is born from the European belief in their own moral and cultural superiority. Those who do not profess Christian European ideals were considered inferior and in many cases eliminated. Although they proclaim themselves “Christians”, many Europeans had no qualms about destroying African, indigenous and other beliefs that were not to their image and likeness. The most heinous and cruel crimes have been done under the cover of religion. Such behavior was noted by Mahatma Ghandi who once retorted, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

It is also not surprising that the Africans who were most rooted in their traditional spirituality were the ones who tended to be more confident to rebel against the yoke of marauding European enslavement and domination. The Haitian revolution against the French did not come from the Africans who were indoctrinated to fervently pray to the white deities in a white heaven for relief from the brutal oppression by white “Christian” French masters.

Neither was the rebellion by the Garinagu against the British at St. Vincent, led by those bewitched in delusion that singing to white deities would save them from brutal oppression from white masters. Rebellions for freedom and dignity were led by those confidently rooted in their common traditions, collective vision, unity of purpose, and strength from deep inner spiritual sustenance to change their conditions of life on for the benefit of all.

Perhaps the following letter to Belgian missionaries to the Congo, allegedly by Belgian King Leopold II, who was responsible for the brutal slaughter of near ten million Africans in the Congo, provides a glimpse to the spirit of European colonial assault on others through history:

“The task that is given to fulfill is very delicate and requires much tact. You will go certainly to evangelize, but your evangelization must inspire above all Belgium interests.
Your principal objective in our mission in the Congo is never to teach the niggers to know God, this they know already. .. Your essential role is to … interpret the gospel in the way it will be the best to protect your interests in that part of the world.

For these things, you have to keep watch on disinteresting our savages from the richness that is plenty in their underground… You have to… make them disrespect everything which gives courage to affront us… I make reference to their Mystic System… you must do everything in your power to make it disappear.
You must singularly insist on their total submission and obedience, avoid developing their spirit in the schools, teach students to read and not to reason… Evangelize the niggers so that they stay forever in submission to the white colonialists, so they never revolt against the restraints they are undergoing.”

Sounds familiar? The real witchcraft can be masked in hoods of holy hypocrisy to continue a process of dominating the minds of Belizeans towards a monoculture of their own image and likeness. As Bob Marley said, “We’re sick and tired of the isms schisms game…You can fool some people sometime, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

So now, you see the light numada, amigo, mi fren? Remain vigilant. Remain aware. All a we inna dis togeda. Au bu, amĂźrĂź nu.

 

OPEN LETTER TO MR. BELIZEAN RICE AFLATOXIN EXPERT by: Dr. Bernard Bulwer


BulwerA MESSAGE TO MY FELLOW BELIZEANS … who understand the context of the “rice-aflatoxin” headlines that keep popping up in our local Belize news. Note that some things are best expressed in a language that only Belizeans would understand, i.e. our “social glue” … the Kriol language.

February 15, 2016
Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Mr. conscientious, self-proclaimed philanthropist, public health and nutrition expert;

Your persistent, self-serving, Belizean rice-aflatoxin scaremongering is not in the best interest of the Belizean public. As a Belizean health professional, I feel a sense of responsibility to weigh in on this matter, and put things in perspective.

My fellow Belizeans, the real threat to your health is not, and has never been rice aflatoxin-related (liver) disease. Our biggest food threat is our near wholesale abandonment of many healthy traditional food choices in exchange for the highly-processed foods found in supermarkets.

“Soh I really noh like how you come da my country, mek latta money from my people by profiting from your highly-processed food enterprise, and pan tappa dat, yuh di persist and di try tek my people fi fool.”

The scientific and public health evidence is clear. Highly-processed foods and sweetened drinks, with their toxic trans-fats, artificial additives, and excess sugar are direct causes of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. These are the number 1 food-related killers in Belize.

Belizeans, start eating more natural foods, avoid those foods that have labels on them (especially highly-processed foods).

Start to grow more of your own food, even in the city. Home boys, start organize yourself in the community and start planting, raise your fowl, go fishing, and barter with your neighbours. No shortage of work to do. Who come from country and have land need fi go back da country and plant. Stap di give people who no like unnu unu money. Deh no kay bout unnu. Stop being active participants in your own demise.

Your health is your biggest earthly investment. Remember, “Your Doctor Can’t Make You Healthy.”

Pay or Die: The Crisis facing the Medical Industry in Belize By: Aria Lightfoot


pay or dieLike a recurring nightmare, almost every week in the media, victims of  serious medical problems are asking for donations from the Belizean population to assist with medical care. Many need long term life saving surgeries, cancer treatments, kidney treatments, or some major medical intervention. Treatments can cost upward in hundreds of thousands of dollars to a million dollars for effective lifesaving measures to take effect. It plays out as a desperate last ditch attempt from victims to save their lives; and in reality, the public could never realistically sponsor these cases unless of course there is some major overhaul in how we administer medical care to the public.

I recall my mother’s own plight with the Belize medical system. She initially received medical treatment in Houston and Canada because of help of her sisters but when she returned to Belize, I recall Dr. Pott telling my aunt that he would not “waste his time” to treat her (as he had promised the Canadian doctor he would) because she was going to die anyway. My aunt was devastated and in tears desperate for some medical intervention. It was the Belmopan community, her family, friends, church members and nurse Johnson, who helped my mother transition into the next world.

A few years later, my aunt lost her healthy baby boy at the Belize City Hospital, because she did not use the private hospital system.  Her baby had a healthy heart beat at the doctors office however, he did not practice at the public hospital and when she went into labor,  neglectful nurses were not around when her baby began to crown and the doctor who was expected to be there,  was absent. It was a series of unfortunate events.  The baby was perfectly formed except he was blue.  When I was pregnant, my aunt gave me money so that I did not have my son at the public hospital. She did not want a similar fate and treatment for me…my medical care was excellent.

About three years ago, my cousin Albert who was my age, suffered kidney failure. He was retired early from the Government of Belize with limited money; but he needed $4000.00 a month for kidney treatment. More money was needed for his treatment than what he actually made when he was working fulltime. He needed three dialysis treatment a week but managed maybe one and not weekly. When finances ran its course, he died of kidney failure.

Currently I have another cousin undergoing expensive kidney dialyses; she is no longer working and her finances are depleted;  her health continues to decline as she desperately attempts to save her life. I donated some money to her, however it felt like a symbolic act because it will not realistically cover even one needed treatment; she also needs three a week.

Recently Patrick Jones, journalist and long time media personality, is facing a fate of inadequate finances for life saving medical treatment and so he must turn to the public for intervention…I highlight these cases to demonstrate that we need a major overhaul of our medical system and we need to overhaul how we administer life saving medical treatment for all citizens regardless of their immediate ability to pay.

The private hospitals in Belize have found its cash cow and they are pariahs on society. Medical victims are in crisis and desperately in need of major medical intervention and doing everything to stay alive. They borrow, beg and sell all their assets and when they can no longer maintain financially, they die. The private hospitals with life saving technology will not treat anyone who cannot show cash first and foremost. Even more offensive is that tax payers money have played a major role in educating doctors and sponsoring private hospitals

What has the Ministry of Health in Belize done to curb this crisis? The entire  medical system is shameful. I would argue that the practice of treating a patient to the point of bankruptcy and then no more offends the idea of medical care. Should medical care be a profit driven industry ? 

Doctors in Belize seem to have forgotten their Hippocratic oath:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Months leading up to elections in Belize, the unions showed their strength by demanding pay increases and even Uniform allowances and most were successful in their demands; however none have taken up the task of universal health care or demand that doctors who practice publicly and privately offer the same level of care regardless of ability to pay or place of treatment.