Editorial: What happened to our moral fabric?

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Last week The San Pedro Sun published an article titled “PM Barrow cleans house following string of scandals.” For Minister Elvin Penner, who profited from the illegal sale of Belizean passports, this meant removal from Cabinet chairs he held and the use of a government vehicle. But legal recourse? Nope, nada. What sort of message does this send to the people of our country? Should we join Penner in getting away with breaking the law? Is there no accountability or recourse for wrong doings? What happened to personal integrity?

Editorial-Logo“Belize reminds me of a country after a civil war,” a professional photographer told me when I recently interviewed him. “Everything is in shambles and the government is less than effective. It’s lawless…I say get the #$^* out of Belize!” I took this comment to a deeper discussion and unearthed the core of the issue at hand, a population where government scandals victimize the people and in turn the people victimize each other. From top to bottom, no apology is even considered, no sense of responsibility or conscience ever demonstrated and no legal action even entertained.

“I was horribly injured in a golf cart accident when the driver ‘lost control’ of his vehicle and practically ran me over,” a wounded woman tells me during an interview. “Do you think the person who hit me once bothered to see how I was doing after the accident? No. It even took the police more than a week just to take my statement, and that was only after [me] contacting them daily to do so.”

From Minister Elvin Penner pocketing thousands of dollars by selling Belizean passports, to criminals who get away with murder and employees who embezzle from their jobs, their actions leave a wake of victims in their path, and they are the ones who suffer the most. It is hard enough to experience the pain of being victimized, but when no effort or concern for righting the wrong is made the salt is poured into the wound. For those who have suffered the most, the ones who have lost a loved one at the hands of another, there is no peace or closure, knowing that the culprit literally got away with murder. For many, the only way of recovering from a crime is justice. Why is there so little of it to be found in our beloved country? Why is it so hard to make them accountable for the wrong they have done?

I’m not one to quote scripture, but the moral content of the Bible is the foundation of our community. Who doesn’t know the passage “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? This saying is one of the oldest notions known to man, in that it is the basis of many of the ethical systems on which societies have been built. Sadly, I am forced to ask…“where did this ethic go, my fellow Belizeans? How is it that we have forgotten such an essential message? Should it not be engraved deeply within our hearts?

Instead many have embraced DO UNTO OTHERS AS THEY HAVE DONE UNTO ME…perpetuating the painful pecking order of wrongdoing from one to the other. But it doesn’t have to be that way….the ideal of wrong CAN STOP with you; two wrongs DO NOT make a right.

This message needs to start with our government, our community leaders and our parents by setting examples, not relishing in “getting away with it” as so many do. And more energy must be put into finding and charging the ones who prey on us. None of this is an easy fix. From corrupt police (I won’t even GO THERE right now) who look the other way for a buck or two, to the people who don’t even bother reporting a crime because they KNOW it won’t make a difference, we have to stand up for what is right and try and fix what is wrong. Over years of being underserved by our leaders and mistreated by our neighbors, we have understandably become complacent and apathetic to the whole situation. So either we hide our heads in the sand and complain quietly to each other or we choose to make a difference in what little way we each can. Together those little efforts can add up to righting a wrong, but as long as we do nothing about demanding justice, crimes against us will continue, weaving its ugly head even deeper into the fabric of our Belizean community.

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