By: Wellington C. Ramos
In my country of birth Belize and many other so called democratic countries in the world, the citizens of these nations continue to experience intimidation, fear and victimization by their current governments. This is despite the fact that most of these countries pride themselves as democratic nations. The people that are affected mostly by these types of infractions, are the poor and the working class citizens who are dependent on the government for employment and programs.
When the constitutions of these nations were written, there are clauses written in them guaranteeing their citizens full fundamental rights. In addition to these rights being spelled out, the representatives who are elected to serve take an oath of office to abide and execute these rights to their citizens. However, some of these representatives after they swear to their oaths, tend to forget or ignore the reasons why they were elected to serve. I witnessed many Belizeans losing their jobs when they said something against a governing political party or one of their political representative. There were times when it was not only the person but members of his or her family as well. It also did not matter if they were performing exceptionally well or had passed their probationary period. There was a time in Belize’s political history when people were retrenched and the lack of money to pay them was used as the reason to terminate their employment.
The two main political parties in Belize namely the; United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP) are both guilty of this unlawful act. Most of the Belizeans who were terminated for their political activities in Belize, came to live in the United States of America. These Belizeans may qualify for political asylum in the United States but none of them took the initiative to file for it. If they were to file for political asylum in the United States, the State Department would investigate the validity of their claims and if valid recommend some action against Belize. Some of these Belizeans are not only afraid of vindictive acts coming against them by the government but also their relatives who continue to live in Belize. Many people in Belize have always been dissatisfied with their governments but were afraid to speak out because of reprisals that will come if they had spoken.
The Belizeans and foreigners who live in the United States have the opportunity to speak on behalf of their people living in Belize who are afraid to speak. Yet, many Belizeans who have had their political rights being violated continue to remain silent and say nothing. This is not only happening in Belize but other countries in the world. In the city of New York, I have met people from all over the world and they share the same experiences with me. Citizens have a fundamental right to be in any political party they choose. They also have the right to vote for any candidate of their choice. I have many relatives who are members of the People’s United Party (PUP). I cannot comprehend why they choose that party but they are still my relatives and that is their right. This is the way it should always be in a democracy throughout the world.
Some Belizeans have told me that Belize will not change and will remain this way forever but I refuse to accept this. Recently in Belize the Minister of Labor Godwin Hulse granted Civil Service status to employees of our municipal governments. This is an issue that I wrote about years ago because members of our City Council were always terminated from their jobs when a new political party took over the municipality. There should be a law that if a person is employed by the City Council, Town Board or Village Council for more than six months, he or she automatically becomes a civil service employee.
I am even in support of an initiative, where the government of Belize will sponsor and Unemployment Insurance Bill for our citizens. People who do not have a job to provide for themselves and their families, should be a government’s top priority at all times. Government and their representatives have an obligation to their citizens who elected them to serve on their behalf. If the representatives do not know the main reasons why they were elected, then the people should remove them from office. The citizens should not come to them every day to beg for money as if they are their Dads or Moms. Their representatives also should not only come to them when elections, to get their votes, pay them a few dollars and then disappear for five years neglecting them. How can we continue to build an independent nation, when most of our people are living in a state of perpetual dependency? Then we ask ourselves; Why are our people committing crimes? There is a relationship between crime and poverty and all Social Scientist will attest to this fact. I now call on all Belizeans to ask our political parties to commit themselves against the politics of; intimidation, fear and victimization.