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Dec 14, 2012

Dangerous powers, entire country can be declared crime-ridden

The last sitting of the House of Representatives for this year was convened today.  A number of Bills came up for second and third readings but the most controversial was an amendment to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act.  Several changes were proposed and passed, which the opposition described as draconian since it moves authority from the Crime Control Council to the National Security Council to designate crime ridden areas across the country.   The law now has no defined parameters and can, in an extreme case, be used to designate the entire country as crime-ridden.  The minister also has been granted sweeping powers to the hours during which a neighborhood can be declared as crime ridden.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The introduction of the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Bill 2012 on November thirtieth, and its subsequent reading in the House of Representatives today, has become one of the most highly debated pieces of proposed legislation to be tabled before parliament this year.  The bill seeks to update and bolster stipulations under which crime-ridden areas are designated.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The main objectives here are to ensure that the delay and near frustration that occurred recently when the Minister of National Security wished to make a declaration that those delays and frustrations not be repeated.  We had difficulty because the way the law is currently structured the minister needs the concurrence of the Crimes Control Council.”

 

Since that body, according to Prime Minister Barrow, has been obsolete for some time now, government has moved to empower the Minister of National Security with the authority to declare certain areas of Belize City as violent.  The measure, according to the opposition is rather harsh.

 

Said Musa

Said Musa, Area Representative, Fort George

“The thing that concerns me Mr. Speaker, and I believe many on this side of the House, is that we have become so desperate in the face of the spiraling crime situation in our country that we seem prepared to go to extreme measures with Draconian laws that were never implemented before, from 1994 until now.  But in the execution of such harsh laws we may be trampling on the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in this country. These are very wide, sweeping powers, Mr. Speaker, given to the security forces and although the law talks about acting in a manner that is reasonable, reasonably justified, we all know that there are many cases where excessive force is used and abused against citizens.”

 

In defending government’s proposal, however, Minister of National Security John Saldivar pointed to what he considers a significant drop in the number of crimes, particularly homicides, that are being committed in these areas.

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“Since we have implemented the crime-ridden strategy, major crimes in Belize City has gone down by thirty-eight percent.  That is why we have now taken a second look at the crime-ridden areas law to see how we can improve on it because we believe we are onto something. Everybody knows that we still have a murder problem in this country.  This year, obviously now, we are surpassing last year’s figures for murder.  That points to other problems other than the police department. In Belize City, we have been successful in the last month and a half and we believe that by the end of this year we will have been able successfully in bringing down the major crime rate in this country and, in no small part, to the fact that we have implemented this new strategy.”

 

But while that new strategy is lauded, concerns are being raised about the apparent open-endedness of the proposed law.

 

Said Musa

“Let us assume that they want to declare Belize City a crime-ridden area, not just south side, north side, everywhere crime-ridden, do they have the police, the security forces to cordon off Belize City?  Lock it down as they have been doing with parts of Lake Independence, Mr. Speaker.  And don’t forget that with these new amendments the lockdown will not be confined to three hours, it’s the whole day, eight hours that’s what they want to imprison people in their homes.”

 

Despite the objections raised during today’s sitting, the government side is expected to give support for passage of the Bill. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

The House signed off at about five-forty this evening after it had dealt with a number of other bills including the domestic and financial institution bill, the income tax (avoidance of double taxation) bill and the statistical institute of Belize amendment bill. Two other bills also got the nod from the house; the Trafficking in Persons and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children bills.

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14 Responses for “Dangerous powers, entire country can be declared crime-ridden”

  1. Rod says:

    Without bringing back the hanging penalty this problem will never go away second if the ministers and people in this gov continue to thief and lie if this corrupt gov is allowed to continue in their thieving ways then then nothing will change why is the mayor and his family not in jail for contraband why are the people selling passports not in jail why judas barrow not in jail for not locking up all his corrupt people when people in this country see that all the people in this gov is committing crimes and nothing happens to them then they think its ok for them to thief kill rape etc . We need to start putting anyone who commits a crime in jail regard less if they are the prime minister or ministers again channel 5 find out ask why is the mayor and his family not locked up for contraband why why.

  2. Belizean says:

    Just do it Mr Barrow. The reason Mr Musa and his crowd no like it is cuz they have something to hide. Who no have nothing to hide no holla!!

  3. kwekewj says:

    This is good. this should have been done from the beginning.

  4. okay with it says:

    its time to do something anything. families might be mad when a love one goes to jail for doing the wrong thing, but heck the good people that is still left would be a little safer. the crimes doesnt just affect person to person, it affect the whole country. now lets add the death penalty to this bill as well.

  5. Genotu Rembiuos says:

    If the BRITISH takes over this country we will be 99% better off then than now !!!
    LET US BE WISE AND GIVE BACK BELIZE TO THE BRITISH, STOP THE CORRUPTION !!!
    LIVE BETTER, LIVE LONGER.
    UNLESS YOU WANT GUATEMALA TO REALLY TRAMPLE US OVER?
    SOUND STUPID?
    OK, YOU`LL REMEMBER THAT.

  6. Storm says:

    Our beloved Prime Minister has displayed a consistent contempt for the law. Do you trust him to seize even more powers over your freedom and property? I do not.

    It is remotely possible he has good intentions, but the powers he wants are tyrannical, despotic. My opinion is that Hon. Dean Barrow realizes that there is nationwide dissatisfaction with his regime and he wants to be able to arrest dissidents and opponents before they increase the pressure on him. My assumption is that some people who express critical opinions here would be among the first arrested.

    The proposals amount to the power to impose martial law across the Jewel, under his sole and personal control, since he personally appoints all of the positions that advise him under this new scheme.

    No, no, a thousand times NO to these dangerous laws!

    If I am wrong, and Barrow does not aspire to dictatorship, let us continue our democratic experiment peacefully, under the existing laws. Otherwise we might have to fight, and soon, to protect freedom here.

    Merry Christmas to the Jewel!

  7. Eye in the Sky says:

    This is how it all began in Cuba, communist China, and other such countries. Little by little the common Belizean is loosing their rights and freedom.

    Want to stop crime. PAY the Police a GOOD wadge so that they make enough money to live comfortable and not have to resort to taking bribes or get involved in crooked dealings.

  8. Bear says:

    Part of this new law gives police the power to “arrest any person upon suspicion that is having committed or IS ABOUT TO COMMIT A CRIME.”

    That is pretty dangerous, it calls for police to read a person’s mind, and then put them, in prison for what they believe that person was thinking.

    I suppose Hitler and the Communist North Korea might have such laws, but never in a democracy.

  9. BA in cali says:

    Thank you eye in the sky, don’t look at China its happening in the US also. Freedom are being giving up for socall safety, all we are doing is giving up our freedom to goverment . Goverment is not the answer to the problem of Belize,this is dangerous to a free BELIZE.

  10. Louisville,Ky says:

    Most of the comments on this blog is so assinine in content, I won’t even dignify it with a response.
    You all ..itch and complain about the crime situation, now you are ..itching and complaining about the solutions.
    Mek up unnu mind.

  11. Storm says:

    I support harsh laws to stop violent crime, but in the hands of professionals, such as BDF, not in the hands of politicians generally or PM Barrow in particular. The dangers in his proposal are that he [a] wants to change oversight to a new group of which he appoints every member [can you say "yes men"?], and [b] he wants to apply it over the entire country, so every home and vehicle in the Jewel can be searched and any property seized without warrant, not just in those places where there is a demonstrated problem of violence, and [c] he wants the power to arrest for THINKING ABOUT a crime instead of committing one. I oppose the proposal for those shortcomings.

    Every dictator sooner or later enacts a law like this to put his opponents in jail.

    That said, I would expand the definition of “crime ridden area” to include all of the corrupt ministries and government offices.

  12. the silence is deafening says:

    with all these streets being concreted, is anyperson with a recognized civil engineering degre supervising the work, that the corect size steel at the correct place is being used. I have seen bungalow houses use more steel that what is being put down there. what you think will happen when a rain comes softens the sub base then an 18 wheeler sand truck passes over this has to be seen. but it it breaks to contractors would be long gone laughing all the way to the Bank. please channel 5 get someone from the association of engineers that is not political to give an opinion.

  13. Babaero says:

    Louisville i aggre with you on that.

  14. Eye in the Sky says:

    A solution is Hanging by the Neck if convicted.
    Another solution is pay the Police what they deserve to thwart them from taking bribes and being involved in corruption.
    Another solution is to lock up politicians if caught doing wrong.. They should show us Belizeans the example.

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