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Apr 28, 2005

Opposition rep. arrested at confrontation in Belmopan

Story PictureWho would have thunk it. Peace breaks out in usually boisterous Benque Viejo while the oh so laid back capital of Belmopan hosts a riot. News Five’s Patrick Jones and cameraman Brent Toombs are just back from the wild wild west and report that when it comes to protest, Belize City does not have a monopoly.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
The public forum was organised by the student government of the University of Belize to give the scholars a chance to dialogue with the Prime Minister on current issues facing the nation. And it was plain from the moment the last refrain of the national anthem ended that the P.M. was in hostile territory.

Student #1
?Firstly, I?d like to thank you for being here and for screwing up our country.?

(Students cheering)

Student #2
?Not being disrespectful, but who are you to talk about good faith practices and integrity.?

Student #3
?Then you are standing here on credibility and accountability, and that?s not there, it does not exist. That?s my point. Because if so be the case, when we go to the international community to beg for debt relief, and by the same good governance policy…they won?t give us any debt relief because you gave Mr. Ashcroft nineteen point five million U.S. in tax cuts.?

But hardly five minutes into the forum, ruction broke out at the gates of the Belmopan campus, as teachers, public officers and trade unionists, who were trying to gain access to the gathering, clashed with the police.

Patrick Faber, U.D.P. Area Rep., Collet Div.
?This is a public institution. See the flyer here people, public forum, inviting the people of this country to come out to the public form. They have stopped the people of this country from coming in just to protect Prime Minister Said Musa.?

(Nat sound: police trying to prevent Faber from entering forum)

Patrick Faber
?What is your reasoning for not wanting me as a member of the National Assembly… I never come inna that crowd, I get in my vehicle and I drove here from Belize City.?

(Nat sound: Faber runs from officers)

Officers caught up with Collet Area Representative Patrick Faber behind the cafeteria building and after subduing him, carried him to a waiting police vehicle for a trip to the police station.

Back at the gate, riot police took control, pushing back the riled up public officers, teachers and even the media.

(Nat sound: Riot police advancing, Zenaida Moya being pushed out of the way)

Zenaida Moya, Councillor, P.S.U
?We were about to attend a public forum as was announced at the U.B. campus. A number of us, as you know, we were in Benque, we brought our unionists to have a rally, and many of them said they wanted to attend the forum. The Prime Minister would have been there, they wanted to ask him some questions, and we were prevented from entering the building. Orders from above currently have?this is I guess what you call their Dragon Unit or whatever, their riot squad. They are shoving us.?

Kathy Linares accuses senior superintendent Rudolph Orio of being out of order when he had her ejected from an area in front of the campus.

Kathy Linares, Alleges Police Brutality
I was standing over there earlier on the street side and then the officer Orio came to me and I just stood up there and then he grabbed me from aside and punched me.?

Patrick Jones
?So you were doing nothing and the police officer assaulted you??

Kathy Linares
?I standing on the side of the street.?

Patrick Jones
?Did you disobey the officer when he told you to move??

Kathy Linares
?No.?

Patrick Jones
?But I don?t think an officer will assault you just like that.?

Kathy Linares
?I was just standing there. He was telling everyone to move, but I was just standing there.

With the lines clearly drawn, both sides stood their ground. And while the police had nothing to say to the media except move back, Moya used the occasion to drive home the unions? message once more: that Musa and his government have got to go.

Zenaida Moya
?We are going to continue here, we have a purpose here, we want to bring the message to the public that at the end of the day we want some answers, we want reform. We are not satisfied with this government. We are here, we already told this government what we think of them. We have no confidence in the Prime Minister. We want him to step down immediately; we are not asking him. We know for a fact that a number of their Cabinet people met and they already asked him to step down. He wants to play hardball and so he is treating us like this, but we are not going to give up. I know Godfrey Smith said they know the unions are not [going to give up]. We are not going to give up. This is something that we believe in because we are tired of the corruption, we are tired of the mismanagement of our public finances and we will not allow this to continue.?

Patrick Jones, for News Five.

According to authorities in the nation’s capital, Faber has been charged with assaulting a police officer.

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