Contributed by G Michael Reid

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Prime Minister Dean Barrow hurriedly called a press conference last Wednesday after news broke about the formation of a new activist group called ROC.  Rod of Correction is an amalgamation of the unions, churches and social activist organizations which include the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) and the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA).  Conspicuously missing from the composite is the business community who themselves have had serious issues with this government. They know all too well however, the vindictive nature of the beast with which they deal.

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The emergence of ROC is reminiscent of the Association of Concerned Belizeans (ACB), whose activism and propaganda helped to bring down the past administration.  A big difference is that ROC is comprised of groups while ACB was comprised of individuals, most of who were handsomely rewarded following the UDP’s ascension to office.  While the ACB fought for a change of government and for the rights of individuals with obvious personal agendas, ROC purports itself to be fighting for a change in the way things are done and for the rights of all the people who are being affected by the unfair policies of this government. Personally, I have serious reservations about Dylan Reneau heading this group; and the fact that Evan Hyde spent an entire editorial promoting his credentials takes not away but adds substance to my suspicions.  Be that as it may, we can only hope and pray that they are more genuine than those hypocrites in the ACB were.

The first part of the PM’s press conference was to announce Darrell Bradley’s mayoral candidacy.  Bradley had missed the deadline for entering his name and Mr. Barrow had informed Belizeans that his ship had sailed.  This is politics however, and no ship ever sails so far that it cannot be recalled to shore.  Bradley then proceeded to blow so much smoke up the PM’s tailpipe that one would have thought that it was the almighty himself sitting beside him there.  The biggest shocker of that part of the conference came when Bradley announced that he was bringing back his disgraced City Councilor Eric Chang.  Chang was accused of being the man who couriered the infamous passport to fugitive Kim while he was sitting in a jail in Taiwan.  Chang was born in Taiwan and still maintains close ties with his country.  Up to that point, no one would have thought that Chang, or any other foreigner for that matter, would have the ghost of a chance of being endorsed much less elected to another public office in this land.  Bradley’s acclamation of Chang is tantamount to Mr. Barrow campaigning in Cayo Northeast to have Penner remain in the House of Representatives.  If ever there were classic examples of “face of brass”!

Mr. Barrow then took center stage and proceeded to put water on one fire after the other.  In fact, he declared ROC a fire not even lit; talk about an ultimate disrespect!  ROC now is comprised of the very unions whose activism put this man in office.  He dared them to try and garner support for their cause, boasting that they “can’t”!  He scoffed at the numbers of the previous Saturday’s BGYEA protest and declared it a joke.  Although admitting that “a number of things have bubbled recently, and that there is a degree of disquiet on the part of several sectors of the society”, Mr. Barrow remained arrogantly confident that he still had a firm grip on things.  Did someone say delusional?

The Prime Minister then, like a marksman in a shooting gallery at the circus, lined up the issues and shot them down one by one.  Roc, said the Prime Minster, is just “rude”.  BGYEA will not plant corn and that is final.  The unions’ demands are unreasonable and will not be met.  Mark King was being honest and the spoils system is here to stay. King should also be allowed to hustle off of NCL, after all, he as Prime Minster, maintains his law firm.   It is the Public Officers who should be prosecuted, not Elvin Penner and the rest of his ministers are clean as a whistle.  Danini Contreras will stay hired whether she has experience or not and he and the Pharmacists Association will have to live with their differences. Recently reappointed Justice Awich will stay and damn be the Bar Association and the Leader of the Opposition; after all, dah who run things? 

The Prime Minister then went on to laud CEO in the Ministry of Health Peter Allen.  According to the PM, “I honestly believe that while C.E.O. Allen has made some mistakes—because we all do—I honestly believe he is a good man and true. I think that he is honest; I think that he has a good handle conceptually on the ministry”.  Is this man serious?  Peter Allen is a dismal failure and has “many public allegations made against him by parties in the Ministry of Health who claim that he is an incompetent and manipulative manager. He’s also been written up in audit reports on the misappropriation and misallocation of public funds in both the Southern and Central Region.” Peter Allen would have to be considered the most disliked public officer and some has gone as far as to accuse him of being racists.  At what point is the “point” Mister Prime Minster?

The Prime Minster thereafter carried his “gush of fury and vitriol” over to Friday’s House Meeting but this time, he might have bitten off a chunk too big.  His target there was Eamon Courtenay, President of the Bar Association.  The Prime Minister is pissed because the Bar dared to join the Leader of the Opposition in opposing the reappointment of Justice Awich.  The Bar described it as “resembling a bias”.  Awich, on the day that his two year tenure expired, delivered a judgment favorable to the Barrow government.  The other judge to side with the government was Manuel Sosa who interestingly enough, also received what looks like bias, gratitude or whatever one might call it.  He was recommended as Knight Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG J).  The third justice, Douglas Mendez – the only non-resident judge and the only dissenting voice against the government, is supposedly on his way out.  You ride with the “team” or you roll!

Barrow accused Courtenay of “sweating fever for Ashcroft” and being “scolded by the CCJ”.  Mr. Courtenay however, is as eloquent and learned as our pompous prime minister.  He minced no words and declared the Prime Minister a “liar”.  To quote Eamon Courtenay, “The Prime Minister needs to stop being personal. He needs to stop attacking people when they disagree with him. As far as I am concerned he is a Penner-loving, Castro-hugging Prime Minister.”  You could almost hear a collective applause and banging on tables from the people of this nation.

The thing is that with all the issues that are “bubbling” and have bubbled since this Prime Minister took office, not once has he humbled himself and made an effort to correct what is wrong.  He apologizes for and explains away the corrupt ways of all the members of his team.  He loves not only Penner, he seems to love corruption.  He hugs not only Castro but Mark King and Gapi Vega and any other member of his Cabinet that is accused of doing wrong.  The Prime Minister loves to laugh in the face of the Belizean people; like he did when asked about the Mark King comments. The moment draweth nigh however, when the people will get tired of this abuse and disrespect to our intelligence. On that day, the Prime Minister will know who will have the last laugh.  GOD bless Belize!