REPORT #154 Jan 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust


The case of Cynthia Ellis has been in the national news now for over two weeks since the termination of her services the ANRI (Lynam) Board of Directors on December 9, 1999 with one-month service pay.

The Public Service Union has responded by clearly pointing out that the reasons given for dismissal were not substantial nor valid, and more importantly, that due process was not followed.

That the political newspapers have taken sides on the issue arises mainly from the stated reason in the dismissal, that Ms Ellis is "seeking political office while still a Public Service/Teacher". She was recently a candidate for Deputy Leader of the United Democratic Party, the Opposition. As one would expect in Belize politics today, the Opposition newspaper, the Guardian, condemned the termination while the newspaper of the People's United Party, the Belize Times came out with an article, " No SimpatEDa for Cynthia".

This case must be viewed within the context of a Government that is ostensibly taking measures to uphold the principles of social justice; the Attorney General's recent publication, Delivering Justice, an example; then there is the appointment of the Ombudsman to address human rights violations, and the establishment of a portfolio for Civil Society in a Government Ministry. These initiatives by the Government have given hope to Belizeans that our governance is rising to a higher level.

Many Belizeans from both political camps have applauded the direction that this new Government is taking in gaining their confidence. And even some Belizeans abroad are talking about returning home and to invest. But now, the reaction of the Government newspaper shows a case of double standards and brings about confusion and mistrust in the minds of the people. Fifteen months into a five year term of Government is still considered a period of transition and trial. More time is needed for doubts to be eliminated and confidence to be crystallized.

The use of political patronage in Belize is a common tool for making an elector bury his conscience and to look the other way. Over the years since Self-Government, Belizeans have been held at ransom through one form of political patronage or the other. It may be the promise of a job here, a political position there, or a trade concession. These are dangling enticements used by our political leaders and turn later into puppet strings. It is the instinct of survival that impels us to seek political patronage, now a way of life in Belize. A culture of poverty and dependency blinds us and prevents us from breaking away. Persons engulfed in this culture would be afraid to speak out against an injustice perpetrated by their political bosses. SOLIDARITY? The Belizean society looks to see our political leaders demonstrate some maturity by respecting human rights and social justice, essential ingredients of good governance.

Belize now stands at the crossroads to good governance or continued political hoodwinking. The international community signals its commitment to eliminate poverty, poverty in its basic sense. Paved streets, impressive buildings and other symbols of progress do not put food on the table nor enable the breadwinner to pay for medical or educational services. The question therefore is whether or not the political leadership intentionally keeps away programs that will capacitate Belizeans for self-reliance. NOT. Such a policy would surely go against the rewarding practice of political patronage.

The case of Cynthia Ellis is one that can be put on the crossroads at this point in time.

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