By Lisa Shoman:While it is a myth that ostriches bury their head in the sand to avoid predators, nevertheless the “ostrich syndrome” is still used to describe those who would rather deny and avoid harsh facts rather than face them squarely. Belizeans have, over centuries of hardship, perhaps out of necessity, developed the ostrich syndrome into a national pastime, and some have finely honed it into an art. And what we cannot successfully deny, we ridicule with retorts both witty and puerile. At any rate, what we don’t want to accept, we dismiss.
Case in point -the Prime Minister of Belize. Faced with the accusations of the latest US TIP report that “The Government of Belize does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.” and that “Trafficking-related complicity by government officials, including those at high levels.” ; the Right Hon Barrow was dismissive.
Questioned by about the TIP report, Prime Minister Dean Barrow stated : “I wasn’t aware of the report, and I have no doubt that what you are saying is accurate. I certainly reject that. I don’t know that the report offers any evidence to substantiate that claim, but that is not something that I would accept.” Just like that, any sense of prime ministerial concern was summarily rejected. And I hear the sound of the PM’s much vaunted sense of justice crumbling. And he is not alone. Boots, or to give him his correct designation, the Hon. Anthony Martinez, Minister of Human Development, under whose line ministry responsibility for modern slavery aka human trafficking falls, has been absolutely silent on the damning 2017 TIP report. I’d like to believe that this is because Boots is seriously examining the problem and coming up with a plan, but I’m not going to hold my breath or strain my lack of credulity on that one. Slavery is a part of our shameful past. It was imposed on us as a nation. Our forebears suffered under its inexorable grip for centuries.
And yet, some of us prefer denial, instead, prepared to glorify and whitewash with proposals like a National Colonial Museum and instead of facing the reality that they were slave owners, continue to believe that the glory of the Baymen will never fade. Commentary on my White Swan article shows that there are numbers of us who are not in the least bit concerned by the specter of human trafficking or slavery in our midst.
After all, as one poster commented, “no Belizeans” are there- and as another observed, they are not “disturbing” anyone. And so we heedlessly head towards the next Thirsty Thursday and the weekend, beer in hand. We love to proclaim ourselves a “Christian” nation – so where is the sense that we are our sisters’ keepers? Or are we just more interested in minding each other’s sexual orientation? No doubt I will be challenged by the armchair cognoscenti about what I (or lawyers) have done about this, what I will do, and why don’t I go back to defending LGBT citizens.
But if I have caused only a few Jewelizeans to thinks critically about this issue, I will be satisfied, and we will be ready to take the next step – what to do about the existing forms of slavery in our nation and the sense of impunity that traffickers enjoy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
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