Adjunct Professor of History and Political Science
In the 1970’s when Belize was still a British colony and I was a police officer, our country had a director of Public Prosecution Office, an audit department and a police department that worked hand in hand together on all matters of stealing as a government employee, bribes, corruption, extortion, forgery, fraud, uttering, conversion, embezzlement, and other crimes that government officials and civil servants committed.
In those days most of the civil servants that were arrested, charged prosecuted and sent to prison for these crimes were employees from; the post office, customs and police departments. Since our independence in 1981, some of our civil servants are still committing these crimes boldly and nothing is being done to them because of their political affiliations with UDP or PUP.
The prime minister and his ministers in Belize are above the law and none of them have been arrested charged and sent to prison for any of these crimes that they have committed over the years. Why? Because the people that have the power to arrest, charge, prosecute and send them to prison, are the same people that they appoint into their positions and they serve at their pleasure.
These are the: attorney general, commissioner of police, the director of public prosecutions, magistrates and judges. all of these individuals are loyal to the prime minister and serve for them and not the citizens and country. If a person is arrested for a crime in Belize, the prime minister or one of his ministers, can call the inspector of police and ask him to release that person from prison.
These are the three most powerful law enforcement officials in our government because of the functions they carry out which are: attorney general chief enforcer of our country’s laws; the commissioner of police to apprehend all law breakers including the prime minister and ministers of his cabinet and the director of public prosecutions to prosecute all those accused of a crime, who were arrested and charged by the police.
This is something that police officers, members of the Belize Defense Force and civil servants in most government departments witness regularly and are afraid to speak about, due to fear of victimization from their supervisors. The victimizations or retaliations they will receive can be; daily harassments, a transfer from the Department, refusal or a delay in processing citizens legitimate documents, no promotions, termination from employment or other unfavorable actions.
Sometimes it is not only the Civil Servants that get punished but also all their family members. There is a phrase in Belize that goes like this, “If Yu Can’t Ketch Harry, Yu Ketch Hi Shirt.” Meaning that they will find a way to victimize you some way or another. This have been going on in Belize for years now and if you or a family member have not experienced this, you are not living in Belize. Belizeans must now report all these victimizations and retaliations to the UN Human Rights Commission as human rights violations, to end this practice by both UDP and PUP in our country.
In the police force, if the inspector refuses to release a prisoner, then the minister will call the commissioner of police and the person will be released. If they cannot get the person released from prison, then they will work on destroying the evidence that has been gathered from the police station exhibit room before the matter reaches the courts. This is why the director of Public Prosecutions or his or her crown counsel have been going to court, to ask that the charges be withdrawn from some defendants for lack of evidence.
The evidence was there in the beginning but in some cases they were intentionally destroyed to acquit the favored defendants. Changing the government back and forth between UDP and PUP, will not stop corruption in our country because we have been doing that for years and it has and will not work. What we need to do is to (1) Legislate code and ethics laws for the prime minister, minister of his cabinet and all civil servants, with penalties for infractions, (2) change the way we appoint our attorney generals, directors of public prosecutions and commissioners of police.
Maybe, setting up a regulatory board with representatives of all the political parties, churches, unions and social partners to appoint these individuals, giving them oversite authority and to force the UDP and PUP to sign on to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) enacted by the United Nations in 2005. I have spoken to many of my family members and friends about the issue of corruption in Belize and most of them have experienced one or more of these incidents in Belize. The UDP and PUP use this issue against each other just to get elected into office but as soon as they become the government nothing serious is being done by any of them to end corruption. They will not do anything about it if we elect one of them into office again in 2020.
We the people of Belize must take full responsibility for what is happening to us because even though we know that they have and are abusing us, we continue to elect and reelect UDP and PUP back into office as if we have no other choice. They cannot get elected if we do not vote for them and now some of us are giving up the only power we have over them by selling our votes to them.
It took me some years to come to this conclusion and I gave a lot of thought before I felt this way. One thing I hate like most Belizeans is for somebody to take me for a fool. When I listen to the way how some our politicians speak. That is exactly the way many of them think about us. We must stop selling our votes and retain our political power for ourselves.
Since vote buying has become so rampant in our country, the politicians have lost total respect for us. They believe that, once they have the money to buy some of our votes, they do not need us and do not care about our concerns or complaints. Wake up my people and let us seek an alternative to these two parties this coming year by voting for the Belize People’s Front (BPF). How much longer must we endure these pains and sufferings? We do not deserve this from the people we elect as our leaders.