A friend of mine saw something yesterday that made her angry, unreasonably so, I thought at first. She saw a government vehicle with red license plates, front and back, bearing the word ‘MINISTER’ in white letters. “It’s only a small law, I know, but then lawbreaking usually starts with the small ones” she observed. For those of you unfamiliar with these things, Belize government vehicles should have blue ‘B’ plates with numbers on them, not words. Those of you familiar with party politics here will understand why lesser men of the current government would have a problem with blue plates, though I shouldn’t have thought the numbers would be offensive.
Why, I asked myself, was my friend so upset? Against the backdrop of $40 million being given to someone who cares not one jot for the welfare of Belize and her people, why would a license plate costing less than $100 in taxpayer funds matter?
Of course, there’s the practical consideration that if twenty or so of these vehicles are distributed throughout the country, and one of them is in an accident or used in the commission of a crime, the usual method of identification is no longer viable for that vehicle.
But that’s not what had my friend so upset. Even she might not understand the basis for her fury, but I think it’s this: if you are a true leader and interested in the welfare of your people, if you have within you the kind of humility seen in the greatest of world leaders, you require no labels to be recognized in your greatness. Conversely, if you do require labels, your insistence on them indicates an inability to demonstrate the sort of leadership this country requires in order to survive its upcoming trials. It shows weakness of purpose. I think my friend was reacting from a subconscious fear that this kind of trivial thinking leads us down a dangerous road.
Here’s the deal MINISTERS, we need you to pay attention to what matters. Get our $40 million back (and all the other millions), put the thieves in jail, stop the killings, deal with the AIDS and drug epidemics, lock the pedophiles away from our children, make the tax evaders pay, and reduce our cost of living. The time you spend being preoccupied with the colour of a license plate and the newness of the vehicle it’s posted on distracts you from all of that. You want my respect? Make my life and lives of the rest of my countrymen better, and try your damndest to stick to the laws of Belize while you’re at it. That’s the only way to show me that you’re better than the last bunch.
In the meantime, you want to improve the appearance of your nice, new, shiny vehicles? Put Belize flags on them. These might serve as reminders to you of who paid for them.