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Moral Courage

Moral Courage
August 09
20:18 2019

“Moral courage is the ability to exhibit fortitude and a constant determination to exert professional scepticism. This includes challenging others who are behaving inappropriately, and to resist the exploitation of [political] opportunity for private benefit rather than the public interest”.

— Comer, D. R., & Schwartz, M. (2015). Highlighting Moral Courage in the Business Ethics Course. Journal of Business Ethics,146(3), 703-723.

Looking back on our journey since independence, it becomes abundantly clear that one of the major deficiencies in public life has been the lack of moral courage. If one wishes to be fair, moral courage has also been severely lacking in the private sector as well.

Belize’s development has been severely stagnated, not so much by a lack of resources but by a series of missteps by our post-independence political leadership. Sometime after March of 2003, seven members of Belize’s Cabinet fell into such deep moral distress that, in August of 2004 they resigned in revolt. It is safe to say that Ralph Fonseca was the source of the G-7’s moral distress. Mr. Fonseca had been the master of Belize’s public finance and perhaps, motivated by some measure of jealousy the G-7 emerged (that is if you listen to the Musa/Fonseca side of the story of course).

There remains to this day varied accounts about who really led that revolt and why? John Briceño who was Deputy Prime Minister and Cordel Hyde (a powerful Cabinet member at the time) have gotten much of the credit for the G-7 but Joe Coye insists that the rebellion was his brainchild. He was the chief architect, but history does not so record! Joe should tell his story and soon.

Since 2008 it is Mr. Barrow who has been firmly in control of Belize’s public finances, nobody else. Mr. Barrow likes to boast that his handling of Belize’s public purse does not mirror Mr. Fonseca’s handling of the public purse. Mr. Barrow prides himself to be a man above reproach when it comes to corruption. Now comes Sanctuary Bay threatening to obliterate Mr. Barrow’s legacy.

A part of Mr. Barrow’s early propaganda strategy was to lambaste Mr. Musa for his secret deals and his reckless handling of taxpayers’ money. UHS, SSB, DFC, the Novelo’s loan, have all been etched into the minds of the Belizean people due to an effectively executed propaganda campaign.

So effective was this propaganda campaign that Mr. Barrow, upon coming to office, was able to do things with our public finances that dwarfs the deeds of Ralph and Said. Mr. Barrow has been able to get away with it because Mr. Barrow did it in broad daylight. He was quick to tell the Belizean people that his deeds were holy because he was not hiding anything. But if a man rapes a woman at night and one does so in the daytime, which one is the worst rapist?

One of Mr. Barrow’s daylight deeds has been the payment of legal fees, related to the BTL nationalization, to some members of his family. Mr. Barrow explained it away without even having to use much of his vast political capital at the time.

Then there was the BTL settlement which by media accounts was done in a hotel room in Miami without any public official around to record the people’s business. That deal cost the Belizean people more than half a billion dollars.

In 2004 there were some people in Said Musa’s PUP with at least a modicum of moral courage who came out and said enough is enough. Since 2008, despite the many acts of corruption in the Barrow administration there has been nobody with any measure of moral courage who has come forward and said enough is enough.

Just what is the moral DNA of the UDP that not a single person of any standing has stood up to condemn the blatant corruption of the Barrow administration? And there is plenty that has gone wrong under Mr. Barrow: Penner, Gapi, Immigration, Sanctuary Bay, etc. There is and was plenty that required a demonstration of moral courage by our UDP friends, but yet nada!

To repeat – between 1998 and 2004 it was Ralph who was responsible for Belize’s public finances but Ralph was not the Prime Minister. Since 2008 it is Mr. Barrow who has been responsible for our affairs and Mr. Barrow is no Ralph Fonseca. Mr. Barrow is the maximum leader of the UDP!

Early on in his administration Mr. Barrow set the tone for how things will be done. He will be maximum leader and no one should dare challenge him. Stay in your lane and you can feast. Step outside and you will be demolished.

Marcel Cardona was the first example; then came Zenaida and then Flippin’. The cane farmers also got a taste of how things were to be and they lost a comrade in that skirmish. The battle at the Toll Bridge set the tone for the Unions and would be protesters. It took almost eight years after the loss of Atanacio Gutierrez at the Toll Bridge for the teachers to march against Mr. Barrow. Even so the Teachers marched alone: no NTUCB, no PSU, no backative!

The Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was famous for his “plato or plomo” way of doing business. It took great moral courage on the part of many Colombians to bring down Pablo.

Since our independence our politicians have been walking around with plums and sweets in one hand and a sword in the next. It will take a great deal of moral courage to fix this too but in 2019 moral courage is a scarce commodity in Belize.

“There are no heroes among us,” it is plain to be seen!

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