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Aug 3, 2004

Ombudsman opens new office in Bze City

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It was the Swedish Parliament which coined the term “Ombudsman” in 1809 when it established the office of Justitie–Ombudsman, whose mandate it was to act as a defender of the people in their dealings with government. Today, more than a hundred countries around the globe have established such a position, with Belize joining the ranks in 1999. Since then, thousands of cases have landed on his desk and today, that desk found a new home.

Janelle Chanona

Whether you know him as the ?ambushman? or the Ombudsman, for the past five years sixty-six year old Paul Rodriguez has travelled across Belize doing just that, resolving conflicts. According to Rodriguez?s annual report, in 2003, his office received some seven hundred and twenty-eight reports. And despite limited personnel and resources, his office completed six hundred and sixty-nine of those cases. Rodriguez says the most common complaint was against the Belize Police Department.

Paul Rodriguez, Ombudsman

?Very often, after investigation we find that police were doing their job and in some cases, they had to use a little force to effect an arrest and in some cases they use none at all. But the persons just wanted to try to use the office of the Ombudsman as shield against prosecution; this has happened very often. But we listen to everybody with an opened-mind and sympathetic mind.?

Rodriguez says being a good listener and a strong faith in God helped him overcome the many challenges of his job. A job that members of the National Assembly describe as a vital and necessary element to a good democracy.

Anthony ?Boots? Martinez, Area Representative, Port Loyola

?We are there to serve justice to the people of this country in terms of–especially my oath of allegiance to the National Assembly and to this nation, is to make sure, not only as the opposition, that everybody cross the board is to make sure the office of the Ombudsman, of which I am a member of the standing committee of the National Assembly is to make sure that the injustices are being done. So we will be equipped with all the equipment in terms of information. We can disperse it also and we can make sure–but the mane thing is not dispersement; the main thing is to make the injustice that are being done are being corrected, especially for the little man.?

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize

?I see the Ombudsman?s office as a very critical part of the whole network of good governance that we are seeking to establish in our country. The Ombudsman interfaces with people from all walks of life and one of the things about modern society when things become very complex, the insecurity and uncertainty in which we live today, is that you need somebody that can listen to the average man, the average woman. People have their grievances, their complaints and the worst thing is to have a situation where those things cannot be addressed.?

This morning, official ceremonies were held to mark the opening of the new offices of the Ombudsman at the corner of Castle and Douglas Jones Streets. A transition made possible through funding from the British Government.

Copies of the annual report of the Ombudsman are available at offices located at the corner of Douglas Jones and Castle Streets.

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