It has been almost a month since Special Constable Danny Conorquie was murdered by civilian invaders from just across the border with Guatemala, acting out of retaliation against Belizean law enforcement measures that had been taken against them. The stark reality is that exploiters and predators of our natural resources from over the border insist on illegally entering Belize and exploiting our forestry wealth including the precious Xate plant, mahogany, rosewood and other trees and on poisoning our rivers in panning for gold. These people refuse to respect our border, our laws,and our desire to preserve for posterity the treasures nature has given us.
Our people have been outraged, led in their reaction by the family, tourism and protected areas stakeholders and the media. The desire to punish the criminals has been consuming and there has been a clamouring demand that the nation of Belize must do something.
Is this reaction to be taken as Belizean nationalism emergent or resurgent? It is no self-criticism to recognize that our characteristic is not aggressive nationalism. Examples readily come to mind of some of our Caribbean and Central American brothers and sisters who are far more assertive of their national pride than we are. There is no judgment to be made as to whose way is better; many historical factors account for the different ethos. But it is good to know that when our circumstances require it, we Belizeans are capable of being as vigorous in our assertions as there is need to be.
In situations like the present, popular sentiment is stirred and led by a range of commentators representing a variety of interests and agendas. There are the genuine public interest groups and individuals, NGOs, journalists, commentators, intellectuals and, inevitably,the party political interests. The ferment that is produced by these contributions is to be appreciated. The greater the range and volume of ideas, the richer the discourse and choice of workable solutions to what is now popularly recognized as a serious, national problem.The heightened awareness across the nation of the seriousness of the problem is, in itself, a valuable contribution to the national interest.
We hope that after the abatement of the initial outrage there will endure an active interest and engagement in the matter of what measures Belize must adopt to end the rape of our resources. We hope that broad, nation-wide support for the necessary efforts both by Government as well as non-government bodies will continue.
As a people we must recognize that our collective responsibility begins with our individual commitment to help in finding and pushing for solutions. It is right that we should expect Government to find solutions, because we elect our representatives to lead us. Although not noisily proclaimed, the efforts by Government to protect our resources from intruders (local and foreign), in place well before the recent outrage, have been appropriate and credible. These include significant funding for Non-Government Organizations like Ya’axche Conservation Trust, Friends for Conservation and Development, Belize Audubon Society, Programme for Belize and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The efforts by Government to obtain international support, financial and otherwise, for our national conservation programmes, have been increasingly productive.
But ultimately, the well spring of our national effort to conserve our national resources flows from the nation as a whole. Nationalism does not come from governments; it comes from a people.