Law Students challenge CARICOM Heads of State for equal access to the Legal Training
June 20, 2017
BCCI & COTA form strategic alliance
June 21, 2017

Two justice systems – one for the poor and one for the political elite

Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2017. 4:52 pm CST.

Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2017. 4:43 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff:  Belizeans, for the most part, would agree that justice in this country is not administered equally. It is a known fact, especially for Belizeans living in some of the most difficult circumstances, facing constant harassment and altercations with the law. There have been several incidents recently that clearly demonstrate this alternate justice system that only select Belizeans are fortunate enough to enjoy.

For the masses, however, the justice system has proven to be a cruel reflection of the rot and decay eating away at this nation’s democracy.Crime remains prevalent in society, though the police department insists that major crime is down and would have the public believe that a supposed gang-truce has solved the problems in south-side Belize City. Despite that, there are countless murders that have gone unsolved with no sign of hope for justice. In other cases, Belizeans are thrown in jail for minuscule amounts of marijuana and other non-major crimes. Some citizens even face constant harassment from members of the police department, and where is the justice when they need it?

Now, though, as we have learned from Eastern Division South Commander, ACP Chester Williams, it is apparently okay to assault an officer if you are provoked, at least if you are one of the select few under the jurisdiction of this alternate justice system. When responding to allegations that Minister Edmond Castro’s son Wasani assaulted an officer, Williams replied: “That’s because he had the phone on the man provoking the man. As police officers…we must respect people.” There should be some kind of poll to see how many Belizeans feel comfortable with the idea of punching a cop in the face, in the police station, because of being provoked. If every Belizean who has ever been victimized by the police were to do the same there would be riots all across the country.

Not only did Castro’s sons allegedly assault an officer, they were also found in violation of several other laws including numerous traffic offenses, which the arresting officer detailed at length in his report. The arresting officer also noted that the Castro boys warned him about who their father was before proceeding to assault him. Still, none of that was enough to warrant charges being brought against them, as Williams now claims that the officer’s report was false and/or inaccurate (specific parts, which he refuses to disclose). Furthermore, PC Shelrick Caliz has been accused by his own commanding officer of political mischief and for all intents and purposes, has been thrown under the proverbial bus.

Williams also argued that police were unable to levy charges against the men for the traffic violations because no-one was in the vehicle when police met up with them. This is despite the fact that the officer clearly explained in his report that the white Wingle pickup truck they were driving in sped past at high speed on Collet Canal heading toward Conch Shell Bay in Belize City. So by this logic, avoiding a ticket or charge for a traffic offense is as easy as parking, exiting the unlicensed or uninsured vehicle and pretending to not be the occupant of said vehicle. So many loopholes the public did not know of until now.

And after the Castro brothers were able to walk away from that incident un-bothered and seemingly invincible, the Castro clan, ever the entrepreneurs, were busted with 89 cases of contraband Coronas by Orange Walk customs. They were busted in an unlicensed white Wingle pickup truck with no license plates, the same description as the truck that Belize City’s south-side police failed to levy any charges against the Castro boys for. The lucky brothers, however, have agreed to pay a fine of an undisclosed amount and the customs comptroller assures the public that there is nothing out of the ordinary going on. And while that may indeed be the case, as the Prime Minister would say, the optics of it all are very bad.

This incident could not have come at a less opportune time for Minister Castro, who has been fielded with a swarm of negative press since the U.S. revoked his diplomatic and tourist visas several weeks ago. Castro, of course, has been accused of being involved in an illegal immigration hustle through which hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of unqualified immigrants were sold Belizean nationality and visas, leading to an immigration nightmare for a country like America that puts great emphasis on homeland and border security.

And that incident is only just the latest in a series of scandals and black eyes for the Barrow administration since the beginning of its third term in office. But even other scandals that have surfaced have proven the existence of this alternate justice system within Belize. When documents leaked showing former Lands Minister Gaspar Vega had illegally sold land to his son Andre and Sharon Pitts and compensated them over $400,000 each; justice has been so delayed that government has still been unable to collect those monies back.

Just several weeks ago, Brian “Yellowman” Audinett threatened physical violence against members of the press in the National Assembly during a session of the ongoing senate inquiry and police stood by and did nothing as he did so. On top of being allowed to openly intimidate and threaten the media, he has been allowed to keep his job, sending a very clear message, which is that supporters of the ruling government are untouchable.

Even before that, Government Press Office Director Dorian Pakeman was involved in a traffic accident in March 2016 in which Dean Dawson was knocked down and died. Apart from involving a loyal government supporter, the case was controversial because there were allegations that a blood sample taken from Dawson was tempered with. Pakeman’s blood tested positive for cocaine but the case was eventually dismissed but not before the handling of the case drew heavy criticism from the public. Just a few months later, Guardian Newspaper Editor and UDP loyalist Alfonso Noble was also involved in a traffic incident in which Gilbert Myers was knocked down and killed as he rode his bicycle along the George price Highway on Christmas Eve. There were reports that Noble was intoxicated at the time but no blood sample was ever taken from him because he conveniently claimed to be a Jehovah’s Witness, an excuse which he eventually made jokes about on social media. Many expect that Noble, like Pakeman, will face very little, if any consequences at all for their actions.

This list could probably go on and on, thinking back to the days when the PUP elite were in the same position and no doubt took advantage of the same political leverage. As a matter of fact, one would expect the opposition to well, oppose stuff like this happening but instead, crickets. It is clear that the parties who trade power in this country, and their families and supporters are content with the justice system the way it currently is. There will be no justice unless Belizeans demand that the distribution of justice be equal and fair for all. Any regular citizen would be beaten half to death by police for any of the offenses the political elite are entitled to get away with. It is a reminder that the political upper class are not normal people in Belize and are entitled to far more than the rest of us because their daddies can fire public servants who don’t let them have their way. These are the people who deserve all the tax dollars, all the land, all the scholarships, all the pardons, excuses and protection it seems, while you, the hard working citizens, you get to have taxes and cost of living raised on you. But if Belizean people are content with things the way they are, then perhaps they are getting precisely the kind of justice they deserve.


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