Posted: Wednesday, July 8, 2020. 3:17 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The newly-promulgated State of Emergency regulations, as of Tuesday morning, last for 30 days in the first instance and may be renewed.
And while some welcome the police getting tougher on criminals, others make note that the measure suspends many of a citizen’s fundamental rights – and infringes on the presumption of innocence and due judicial process.
They question whether the Government and the Police have other tools at their disposal, and whether Belizeans have been “fatigued” by months of effective suspension.
And they are right to do so, says Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, but they would be a minority.
“It’s not the only thing that we can do, but whenever you want to stop something immediately, that’s the best weapon. You implement the state of emergency, you detain the persons of interest and hopefully like the commissioner said when they come out, they want to make some change to their lives and we have seen that with the previous set. Hopefully, we will see that as well with this set.”
The Minister added, “I don’t know one single law-abiding citizen who hates a state of emergency. Law-abiding citizens love states of emergency because they have nothing to hide and they know they won’t be gone after by the police. If you look at the whole COVID-19 situation, for example, my sentiment that I am hearing off the street is that people are asking back for the curfew so I believe that the Belizean public wants to be safe and if it takes ten SOEs for them to feel safe then that’s what we’ll do.”
The Commissioner explained that – as he sees it – convicting gangsters is difficult: “They threaten witnesses, and nobody wants to come forward and give statement against them, and so we are unable to effect arrest where they are concerned, and so they remain on the streets and continue to torment people, and so this is one way that we can deal with them. So while they’ll be in prison, the gang task force and CIB will be working on the investigations where they are concerned to see if we can charge some of them under the gang regulation and some of them under the criminal for whatever criminal act that they may have committed.”
He also stated that the current state of affairs differs from that in March, as do those involved. And he pointed out that those imprisoned last time had sought the intervention of the Conscious Youth Development Program and mediator Nuri Muhammad and convinced the State not to extend that state of emergency and give them another chance. It is now up to them, he said, to follow through.
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