Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2020. 7:19 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Former Belize Defence Force (BDF) Captain Derricia Castillo-Salazar, who has been speaking out in the wake of sexual assault allegations in the recently released intake that is being reviewed by the Force, is seeking answers from current commander Brigadier General, Steven Ortega.
The Special Investigative Team assigned by the Ministry of National Security includes two current senior police officers – Assistant Superintendent Sherlette Ramclam and Inspector Shaida Mckenzie – and retired Commissioner of Police Gerald Westby, the Chairman of the Civilian Complaint and Review Board.
But Castillo-Salazar wants General Ortega to make clear whether he is convening his own Court of Inquiry under the Defence Act concerning administrative changes, or trying the cases himself, which he is not empowered to do under the Defence Act.
More importantly, she wants to know “whether this team will address the endemic culture of violence against the women in the BDF, as well as some of its men.” She warns that the General cannot “emulate Pilate and try to wash your hands of the problem” – the culture that is failing to protect those who serve and is, in fact, subjecting them to private and now public shame.
General Ortega told reporters that the BDF prides itself on a culture of “standards and discipline” and those out of line with that culture would be dealt with. But there is a chain of command to follow of which he personally is at the end; therefore, he has not taken any personal role in investigating because all the reports will come to him.
And while he acknowledged the Force’s “black eye,” the General said it must be dealt with:
“Of course, no commander would feel good to have negative reports coming out. But I believe that at the end of the day, we are here to fix problems that exist and there is only one way to fix it. If we investigate it and put proper measures in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
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