Three or four years ago (their website doesn’t say exactly when) a group of Belizean professionals, enraged by the Social Security scandal, decided to take on the PUP government then in power. Believers and cynics alike watched closely as the Association of Concerned Belizeans attacked with vigour, energy, creativity and a great deal of courage. The ACB, as we all came to know them, became a fairly regular discussion topic for the water cooler crowd.
The cynics claimed the ACB was merely a UDP tool, a claim apparently borne out by the forums held in the early days of their existence, which almost exclusively hosted UDP speakers. The believers, defending the ACB, insisted that labeling them UDP was merely a PUP political tactic, and of course all the speakers had to be UDP since the PUP invitees universally refused to attend. That, they said, was the political equivalent of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Regardless of which side they were on, fair-minded observers had to admire ACB’s dedication, though the cynics clung stubbornly to their labels. However, their last, most epic battle involved taking the government to court over the notorious UHS guarantee, an extremely popular move with the freshly enraged public. Many cynics jumped to the believers’ side of the ACB fence, and public opinion swung decisively against the Musa government.
That court battle is not yet won, as far as we know, but in the meantime, an astounding change of government has taken place and subsequent events, some UHS-related, have dimmed the spotlight that originally shone on that dispute. Immediately after the change the pundits and the public alike began to debate whether the ACB will display similar tenacity in pursuing the actions of the new government if and when the need arises.
According to their website, http://www.acb.org.bz/, we can count on the ACB for exactly that: ‘ACB is primarily established to be a watchdog group on government activities and policies, we also question government's accountability and transparency at any time we feel necessary. Our purpose is to take part in the political process of our nation and to function as a non-partisan organization. We are political without being politicians, everyday our association grows in number and support, based on that philosophy.’
However, as the new government moves its chessmen into place on various boards and representations, we are forced to wonder if the cynics were right. Several of the ACB’s most prominent members have been appointed to key positions, once again dividing the believers and the cynics. The believers contend that these appointments give the ACB the chance to ‘put their money where their mouths were.’ The cynics retort that the view changes when you’re looking from the inside out. Their example is the former ACB President and founder turned UDP campaign manager who now appears to have become everything he once condemned.
The bottom line question we need the ACB to answer is: what is left of their non-partisan organization to question the government’s actions? After all, the change of government and the power it holds combined with the narrow-mindedly partisan habits of Belizean politicians suggests certain predictable actions and therefore requires continued strong vigilance.