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Dec 22, 2015

Belize’s First Military Attorney Joins the Bar

The courtroom of Justice Courtenay Abel was overflowing this morning for a special ceremony. The occasion marked the admission to the bar of the first B.D.F. soldier. The proud moment was shared by family, friends and colleagues. Having completed his legal training in the Caribbean, Lieutenant Lionel Olivera, will head a new legal department within the B.D.F.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The path from recruit intake to attorney at law has been the road least traveled by any in the Belize Defense Force.  In fact, Lieutenant Lionel Olivera is the first officer to achieve such a feat while wearing the battle green uniform of the B.D.F.  His admission to the bar eleven years after enlisting in the armed forces, is an accomplishment that is lauded by many, including his superiors.

 

Lionel Olivera

Lt. Lionel Olivera, First B.D.F. Attorney at Law

“Initially the reason why I actually decided to go and study law was because we had an incident in the Belize Defense Force where one of our soldiers had shot someone and he ended up being charged by the court for manslaughter and I believe that the BDF could’ve done more in terms of assisting him.  So that struck a chord with me and I said why didn’t we do much more, so I decided that I will send in my application and I was successful at that and here I am now.”

 

This morning, in the chamber of Justice Courtney Abel, an oath was administered and Lt. Olivera was formally called to the bar.

 

David Jones

Brig. Gen. David Jones, B.D.F. Commander

“This is a very proud moment for me and also the Belize Defense Force.  Not just proud but very historic because it’s the first time that we’ve had a serving officer of the Belize Defense Force being called to the bar.  So congratulations are in order to Lieutenant Olivera, to his family and it’s a good day for the Belize Defense Force and it’s very good for our soldiers now to have a practicing attorney so he can better guide us and not just the soldier but also myself because never in the history before we’ve had a serving member of the force being a lawyer to guide and advise the commander of the Belize Defense Force who conducts all the trials for the soldiers.”

 

Of course, getting here meant that the officer-turned-newly-inducted-attorney not only spent many sleepless nights on guard duty here in Belize, he also had to burn the midnight oil studying at the Norman Manley Law School in Mona, Jamaica.

 

Lt. Lionel Olivera

“It’s a five-year journey that has finally ended and I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I believe now that I am being embedded into the force as a legal advisor.  We could do more for our soldiers who want to go and study law, just like we’ve done for doctors or pilots.  This is a similar thing that we could do for our attorneys.”

 

His immediate post, as far as his desk goes, is in the office of the adjutant.  The days ahead however, will see him establishing a law office for the B.D.F. at Price Barracks.

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“We intend to have a legal department in the Belize Defense Force so he will now be the head of that legal department and he will now be able to guide and advise me in regards to the size of the strength, the number of people and the qualifications that the people need because we need to have a legal department for the Belize Defense Force.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“This achievement sets precedence for other members of the B.D.F. to pursue other career goals as well.  Can you talk to us in terms of being able to encourage these men and women to pursue other areas of studies apart from military instructions?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“Apart from military instructions, if there are any other professions that require the skills that the Belize Defense Force wants I encourage it and it’s not just myself, but other previous commanders of the B.D.F. have encouraged it as well.  So it’s a first for us to have a legal profession, but if there are any other skills that will be of much use to the Belize Defense Force and, of course, use to the country even after the soldiers have left the force with their profession they can impart it to the public on a whole.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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