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Nov 14, 2017

Defence Ministry Explains Why B.D.F. Senior Officers Are Not Ready to Retire

Tonight, the Ministry of National Security says four officers who have reached retirement age are well within the law to remain in the Belize Defence Force.  Late last week, documents were leaked questioning the status of the officers.  But the C.E.O. in the ministry states that a change in policy two years ago, now allows officers to continue past the age of retirement. News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks at the four cases.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Several ranking members of the Belize Defense Force have raised concerns about the appointment of other senior officers to posts within the hierarchy of the organization, including its leadership.  The bone of contention has to do with the fact that these officers have been awarded top positions, despite having reached or passed the retirement age set for B.D.F. soldiers.  That dispute resulted in documents being leaked to the media on Friday.  Those files contain what is known as a Force Officer Seniority Roll which identifies at least three men who were scheduled to have retired from military service in 2015 and 2016, and another who is slated to be pensioned off in 2019.  On January twentieth of last year, B.D.F. Finance Officer Ms. Romero wrote to then Commander David Jones in respect of four senior officers, including Colonel Steven Ortega, who has since succeeded the Brigadier General in that post.  The memorandum read, quote, the following officers whose names appear below have reached their retirement age and so far I have not received any documentation in regards to their retirement.  Unless the law is revised, these officers must be retired: Colonel Steven Ortega. Lieutenant Colonel Azariel Loria, Major Ismael Romero and Major Andrew Amoa.  At present these officers are still being paid.  Please be advised that their retirement benefit will be calculated to their retirement age and whatever salaries and allowances these officers received after their retirement age will be deducted from their gratuity benefits, unquote.

Felix Enriquez

Earlier today, C.E.O. Felix Enriquez informed News Five via text message that the Ministry of National Security made a policy decision prior to 2015, following consultations with the rank and file of the B.D.F.   It was then agreed upon that the retirement age for B.D.F. officers be extended, since too much was being invested in the training of officers and soldiers, only for them to be retired at such an early age.  Consequently, General Jones, in spite of being listed to have retired in December 2016, stayed on an additional year as commander.  According to C.E.O. Enriquez, no red flags were raised following that decision.  Furthermore, under the new regulations and owing to a bond that is still being served, Colonel Ortega, who is Acting Commander, is fully qualified to remain in service.  In the case of Major Amoa and Romero, they had both applied to continue in the B.D.F., but due to a delay in the passage of the statutory instrument, they were allowed to stay on are still eligible for promotion.

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