State of emergency declared in parts of Belize

March 27, 2024 in Regional

The Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, has welcomed the decision by Governor General, Dame Froyla Tzalam, to declare a state of emergency (SOE) in southside Belize City and specific sections of the Cayo District, insisting however that it should not be regarded as an admission of defeat by the police in dealing with the crime situation.

The SOE will remain “in force for a period not exceeding one month; but may be extended from time to time by a resolution passed by the National Assembly for further periods”.

It comes amid an upsurge in gang related activity.

Speaking to reporters, Williams dismissed suggestions that the SOE is contravention of the human rights of citizens in the area.

“I have never heard the government being critical of it. I’ve heard that the SOE must be used as a measure of last resort. I don’t think that any reasonable Belizean would ever say that the government and the police are not doing enough,” Williams said, noting that there are programmes geared towards helping young people get out of the life of crime.

“We are doing interventions. They are given employment opportunity. So the truth is that the government and the police are trying but again, we all know that there are going to be those persons who will not want to live a peaceful life and may continue to live that violent lifestyle.

“And so the SOE is geared at going after those persons. The amount of persons we expect to be detained from the SOE is not a huge number. It’s going to be a small number of persons because we just want to be able to pluck out the bad seeds,” he said.

He insisted that the human rights of those persons are not being violated.

“Which rights is more important? The rights of 50 persons who hold the country, the city hostage? Or the rights of 50 people? Over 140,000 in a city or the rights of 400,000 people. We have to strike a balance and I’m sure that some human rights activists are going to agree that as a part of human rights, we have to look at the greater picture to see if we’re going to allow these people whose right we believe should be protected to continue to extinct themselves.

“I think that if we allow the extinction to continue, then we will be in breach of human rights norms because we are seeing a trend and we just allow it to continue. The fact that we step in and do the SOE, so get them to have a pause and to rethink, I think goes in line with maintaining human rights norms.”

The Police Commissioner said that he does not believe that the SOE is an admission of defeat by the police.

“To say a failure of the police, what does the police have to deal with? The police have to deal with the failure of society. You’re brothers, you’re children, your uncles, those persons who choose to live a violent lifestyle.

“They’re raised in their respective homes and they turn out to be what many families do not desire them to have become, but that’s how they become. And so the police have to end up dealing with those persons. And yes, the country is huge. We all have a certain number of police officers. We can’t tag police to every criminal to make sure that we babysit them, that they don’t go and commit crime,” he said.

Williams said he believes that the police have been doing “fairly well in making sure that we, we police the entire country in the most peaceful way that we can and try to make people feel comfortable.

“When we have parents who are condoning what their children is doing, it is going to create problems. And already we are seeing where parents are calling, my son not this, my son not that, when in fact they know they pikney shoot gun. Right, but the minute the child is dealt with by the police, the parents want to come forward and swear for their children, we have to be real,” Williams said.