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June 21
13:24 2019

“It was the most difficult decision that I’ve made in the last 15 years. I would have been justified to defend myself, but I had too much to lose. I saw everything flash before me and I felt that was the test. That was my test right there. I’ve always said that I’ve changed. I’ve always said that I am rehabilitated. Well that was the test and when he did that I stopped and I thought about 20 years ago when I felt threatened and I handled things differently. I handled things like a 19 year old, a 20 year old would and I reacted and it was the worst mistake that I’ve ever made and had I repeated that mistake would have been worse than anything that is happening now. I had to make a decision that night. Am I Shyne that everyone likes to run me down and say that something that happened 20 years ago still defines me? I had to make that decision. Am I still that young man that reacts and allows his anger to take control?”

— Shyne Barrow, 7 News, May 31, 2019

They say everybody deserves a second chance but apparently not when you enter politics and not when you are the son of the sitting Prime Minister.

Shyne Barrow’s decision to enter electoral politics has ignited a heated debate about who exactly should be allowed to sit in the House of Representatives. The Constitution of course is quite clear and so, from a constitutional footing, Shyne is not barred from holding a seat in the House because he is a Belizean and he has resided in Belize for more than a year.

The Constitution does provide some disqualifications – one of which speaks to imprisonment. Section 58(1) (d) of the Constitution prohibits a person from holding a seat in the House if the person is under a death sentence or is serving a term of imprisonment exceeding twelve months.

Almost twenty years ago Shyne served about 9 years in prison in the United States for his youthful indiscretions. He has paid the dues owed to the American people but even if he had served that sentence in Belize, Shyne would not have been disqualified from now seeking a seat in the House.

Lawful roadblocks aside, the only other hindrance that can circumvent Shyne’s political ambitions is the collective values of the voters of Mesopotamia. Collective values are good because, for the most part, they constrain us when the laws do not. Laws often lag behind public sentiments and so it is public mores and collective values which give life and force to the general sentiments of the voter.

By way of example, voters acting on collective values might say that they will not vote for a man who has been accused of molesting a child. If those mores are known then political parties would ensure that they do not field candidates who have been arrested and charged for molesting children, even if the person was not “convicted.” Collective values are therefore powerful currents that can shape political outcomes.

Collective values do not necessarily mean collective righteousness. In fact if collective values are left unchecked they can lead to eternal punishment for those who run afoul of those said collective values. Perhaps this is where Shyne is today; should he be given a second chance to reach his full potential [even as a politician] or should he be punished ad infinitum?

To be real, some people attack Shyne only because he is a UDP; others support him only because he is a UDP. Those people we can discount because they are blinded by the hypocrisy of politics. If Shyne was a PUP some of the people attacking him would be supporting him and some of those who now support him would be attacking him.

The other persons though – they are faced with a legitimate dilemma about whether Shyne should be give a second chance or not.

One’s view about second chances is often predicated on who we are being asked to give a second chance to. If Shyne was our brother, cousin, friend, chances are we would support him and say yes he deserves a second chance. Because he is not, we get all high and mighty and in the process destroy any chance of us being measured, pragmatic and forgiving.

Belize is supposed to be a Christian nation. So what happened to the teachings of Jesus when in the book of Matthew he spoke of forgiveness?

In some ways one can understand why some people feel that a man who spent time for gun crimes should never ascend to the House. Crime has gotten out of control in Belize, especially gun violence. So much so that when people like Dianne Finnegan, Nuri Muhammad and Chester Williams say to us that engagement, not condemnation, is the cure, some of us curse! But there is nothing more dangerous than a youth with nothing to live for. If our wish is to reduce crime and violence we must give the youths a chance to become better. We must give them second chances.

Recently the Barrow administration made provisions to expunge the records of hundreds if not thousands of Belizeans who had been struggling to make an honest living because of a police record blemished by decades-old convictions for the possession of marijuana. Was it really fair to perpetually punish a man who in his youthful indiscretion experimented with marijuana? Understanding that nobody is perfect, aren’t we a people of second chances?

The Shyne-ignited debate has caused some of us to ask ourselves just what the role of an Area Representative is. Outside of Shyne’s youthful indiscretions, does he have what it takes to be a good Area Representative? If the answer to that question is yes, then the next question that we have to ask ourselves is – should we throw out all of Shyne’s good because of the little that is/was bad? What about second chances?

No matter how you feel about Shyne, you can’t take away the fact that he is articulate, charismatic and cogent in thought. He also has legit credentials in the global music industry. Gary Ayuso, Dr. Candice Pitts and the other challenger [whose name cannot be revealed at this time] would do well to tell the people of Mesopotamia why they are the better candidate and not allow themselves to be misled into dwelling on the events of December 27, 1999.

Murderers and child molesters are the only people whose sins should follow them eternally; the rest of us all deserve second chances! Jesus himself said seventy times seven. As it is written….

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