Posted: Saturday, January 15, 2022. 9:54 pm CST.
Тhе vіеwѕ ехрrеѕѕеd іn this аrtісlе аrе those оf the writer аnd nоt nесеѕѕаrіlу those оf Вrеаkіng Веlіzе Nеwѕ.
Writer’s note: This piece was adapted from a Facebook post I made in October of 2011.
By Aaron Humes: In a country as small as Belize, where even the highest of the high and mighty are forced, even briefly, to tangle with the low and meek, one is apt to run into just about anyone on one’s travels.
I first encountered the Right Honorable Said Musa as a student at Wesley College. I was in the downstairs portion of the Turton Library, reading something or the other, and Mr. Musa was at an event elsewhere in the building. He approached me, and in an obvious effort to make conversation, inquired about which school I attended. He explained that from a distance he couldn’t tell if the patch on my shoulder was for Wesley (the Wesley logo on red and blue stripes side by side, red in front; Anglican Cathedral College’s (ACC) logo is a white cross on a purple patch). I answered and we probably chatted for a few seconds afterward before he left. I have of course met him many times since in both legal and political circles, but I doubt if he remembers that particular meeting.
I first met Right Honorable Sir Manuel Esquivel personally at the UDP’s national convention in Orange Walk Town in August 2011. He was on his way into the People’s Stadium, looking for a seat; I was a reporter for the Amandala, waiting for the convention to start. A few brief words, and I took a photo of him for future reference, now hidden somewhere deep in the bowels of Partridge Street’s (or Amandala Drive’s) computer archives.
My first encounter with Right Honorable Dean Barrow was his visit to Amandala headquarters after the 2008 elections. Of our five Prime Ministers I have probably had the most contact with him, in terms of interviews and other meetings, but our encounters have been largely formal and to a certain extent, scripted – me the reporter, him the interviewee.
Which brings me to the late Right Honorable George Price. I first came to Amandala in December of 2007, and within a month of that, Mr. Musa called the general elections. I tagged along with then-acting assistant editor, Colin “bh” Hyde (Adele Ramos was on maternity leave), to Independence Hall for the announcement. I think it was Colin who made the introductions with Mr. Price outside of Independence Hall that afternoon. Mr. Price was still hale and hearty and we exchanged brief greetings. (I probably also first met current Prime Minister Johnny Briceño that afternoon as well, but am not sure).
My second encounter with him came at the 2009 municipal elections. I was posted in the Fort George division for the KREM/Channel 7 team, and met him along with Methodist minister Reverend C. David Goff near Holy Redeemer Primary on North Front Street. We spoke, a formal interview, and I recall him saying how pleased he was to have lived to see this particular day.
I don’t believe I ever saw him again afterward save for a run-in or two in the same area, at the Holy Redeemer Credit Union (HRCU).
His passing led me to reflect on the humanity and commonality of our existence. We often pooh-pooh those who run to their area representative at every opportunity for handouts, but fail to realize that in a society that has become increasingly isolated in itself, encounters like these are often among the few times we get to make contact with our elected leaders. Perhaps we have taken those “Wednesday clinics” like Mr. Price popularized for granted; come to depend on them.
I am by nature skeptical of anything and everything that tends to too much glorify an individual, whether or not they deserve it. I am reminded of the phrase the priests whisper to the penitents on Ash Wednesday, modified on the verse in Genesis, “for dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return,” and the reproof by the apostle Peter to Cornelius who tried to kiss his feet in welcome: “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
Mr. Price fully deserves all the accolades heaped upon him, no question. He took a disjointed society and tried to mold it in his austere, almost mystical image. But one thing Belizeans are, if nothing else, is independent, and I think Mr. Price accepted that too, eventually.
I think the tributes paid by Belizeans then, whether by those who visited the casket, attended the funeral, sent condolences, etcetera, etcetera, was no less than what he was due and deserved.
But ten years on, and with a holiday now established in his honor, what happens next? The legacy of George Price is secure, but when comes such another? Who will rise to be the leader of the next generation of Belizeans?
Please, we do not need another George Price, nor another Said Musa or Dean Barrow or even Manuel Esquivel. We need John Briceños, Cordel Hydes, Patrick Fabers, Shyne Barrows, John Saldivars, Michael Peyrefittes. We need Julius Espats, Mike Espats, heck, all the Espats we can find! Oscar Requeñas, Jose Mais, Wil Maheias, Paul Morgans, Patrick Rogers, the list goes on. This is a new generation, that can produce a new set of leaders with their own vision for Belize. Circumstances have changed from 1950, even from 1981. There is no question we have the talent and the resources. But do we have the guts? Can we bring forth change we can believe in?
I think George Price would say, with apologies to Barack Obama, yes, we can.
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