Said Wilbert Musa was born in 1944 in San Ignacio in the Cayo District of what was then British Honduras. He was the fourth of eight children by Aurora Musa, née Gibbs, and Hamid Musa of Palestinian descent. Hamid Musa was also involved in politics, running for the British Honduras Legislative Assembly as a National Party candidate in the 1957 general elections.
As a boy, Musa attended Saint Andrew's Primary School in San Ignacio. He then attended high school at St. Michael's College in Belize City and later St. John's College Sixth Form. While living in Belize City, Said Musa aided his parents by selling tamales and other Belizean delicacies. After completing secondary school he then studied law at the University of Manchester in England, receiving an Honours Degree in Law in 1966, and then qualified as a barrister at Gray's Inn. He returned to Belize the following year, serving as crown counsel and then going into private practice. Said Musa has significantly contributed to law in Belize by representing thousands of underprivileged and poor individuals who come into contact with the law.
Musa first came to notoriety in the late 1960s when he co-founded the Ad Hoc Committee for the Truth About Vietnam with Assad Shoman to protest the Vietnam War in British Honduras. On 1 January 1969 the group protested a showing of the American film The Green Berets in Belize City, which it characterized as pro-war propaganda.
Musa joined the People's United Party (PUP) under George Cadle Price in the early 1970s. He soon became a leader of the party's socialist wing. He ran for the Belize House of Representatives for the first time in 1974 in the eastern Belize City-based Fort George constituency, but was narrowly defeated by United Democratic Party leader Dean Lindo by 46 votes. Musa was appointed to the Belize Senate for the ensuing term.
Musa was successful in the next general election, held in 1979, winning the Fort George seat and defeating Lindo by a margin of 71 votes. Musa served as Attorney General and Minister for Economic Development in the 1979–1984 Price-led government. Musa also served on the committee that wrote the 1981 Constitution of Belize.
Musa defended Belize's large national debt, mostly incurred in the 1980s, by saying Keynesian economics was being used: "The economy was in a deep recession, the country was broke (due to hurricanes) therefore it had to get the private sector moving again. The country started a major expansionary program ... to pay for the program we took on a lot of debt."
In the 1984 election, Musa was defeated for re-election by Lindo, losing by a margin of 57 votes. He regained the Fort George seat in the 1989 election, defeating Lindo by 449 votes. He has won the Fort George constituency in every election since. Under Price, Musa was Minister of Foreign Affairs and Education from 1989 to 1993.
As of July 2016 Musa has contested 10 consecutive general elections in Fort George and has continuously served as his party's standard bearer in the same constituency for over 40 years, longer than anyone else in Belizean history. (Price was a standard bearer for 49 years, but in three different constituencies). He also trails only Price and Philip Goldson in total time served in the Belize House. Musa is the only current Area Representative to serve in the Belize House before the country's full independence from Great Britain in September 1981.
Musa took over leadership of the PUP upon Price's retirement from party leadership in 1996, defeating Price's longtime lieutenant Florencio Marin in the leadership election. Musa then led the PUP to landslide election victories in 1998 and 2003.
Musa led Belize to significant growth over his near-decade long term in office, but his popularity declined during his last years in office due in part to increasing public perception of corruption among his Cabinet and within his party. He was also accused of abandoning his previous socialist stances in favour of neoliberal policies as prime minister.
Musa again led the PUP in the election held on 7 February 2008, but the PUP suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the UDP, winning only six out of 31 seats. Musa himself was re-elected in the Fort George constituency. UDP leader Dean Barrow succeeded Musa as prime minister on 8 February.
On the day of the 2008 election, Musa stated it would be his last election as PUP leader. After the PUP's defeat, he congratulated Barrow. He considered the opposition's focus on allegations of corruption and negativity from the media to be primary factors in the defeat.
On 13 February 2008, Musa announced that he was stepping down as party leader so that the PUP could "renew itself from the top." The PUP held a convention on 30 March 2008 to select his successor, and Johnny Briceño was elected as PUP leader.
Briceño was replaced by Francis Fonseca in October 2011. Five months later the Fonseca-led PUP suffered a narrow defeat to the UDP, winning 14 of 31 seats in the Belize House of Representatives. Musa was comfortably re-elected in his Fort George constituency and remains the senior member of the PUP caucus.
In 2015 the 71-year-old Musa was the subject of rumours of possible retirement from public life due to health concerns and a perceived negative impact on future PUP electoral prospects nationwide. However, Musa dismissed the rumours and stated his retirement from the Belize House was not imminent. In March 2015 Musa told Tropical Vision Limited that he would "more than likely" run for an eighth and final term in the 2015 election, which he won.
Although eligible to stand in an 11th consecutive general election, Musa is expected to stand down at the next Belizean general election tentatively scheduled for 2020.
Musa is married to Joan Musa. His son, Yasser Musa, is an artist, teacher, poet and entertainer in Belize and headed its arts council, the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) under the PUP administration in addition to serving as chief of public relations for the PUP. Another son, Kareem, recently returned to Belize with a law degree and has taken on a number of prominent cases recently.
In what was considered an upset, Kareem Musa defeated Belize City mayor and UDP nominee Darrell Bradley for the House seat in the Caribbean Shores constituency in the November 2015 election, becoming the first Belizean area representative to simultaneously serve with his father.
Musa and his wife Joan also have three other sons, Mark Musa (a doctor), Said Musa Jr and David Musa. One of Musa's other children from an extramarital relationship, Henry Charles Usher, served as the Secretary General of the PUP for the latter part of the Musa-led PUP and is now party chairman. Musa's daughter, Miriam Usher, is a law student at the Catholic University of America.
|Prime Minister of Belize
|Party political offices|
George Cadle Price
|Party Leader, People's United Party