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Apr 24, 2002

Gov’t says actions were justified

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Janelle Chanona

“Now late this evening the government has appointed Chief of Staff Francis Fonseca to be their spokesperson on this incident and this evening he stopped by to give government’s position.”

Francis Fonseca, Chief of Staff, P.M.’s Office

“First of all Stewart, let me say that the Government of Belize fully respects and supports the right of any citizen of Belize to lawfully protest on any issue of national concern. That is a democratic and constitutional right of any citizen. And let me also say at the outset that we sympathise and we express our deep sympathy to the families of all those persons who were injured today. Our understanding is that two individuals were shot and injured, one of them a young man we understand is undergoing treatment in the Belmopan Hospital, the other gentleman we understand has been taken to Melchor. We hope that they both recover very quickly. Also, a very great importance to note, is that some twenty-seven police officers were today injured in Benque Viejo del Carmen, because of the actions of demonstrators and protesters, throwing stones and hurling other objects at them.

Our position is that it is with very great concern we view this demonstration that took place today as one that seemingly was politically orchestrated and manipulated. The protesters, the demonstrators and the Cayo West UDP representatives applied for a permit to demonstrate. They received the permit to demonstrate, and on the understanding very clearly was at the end of that demonstration they would disperse peacefully. As is the norm with these demonstrations, the police are on hand to ensure the safety and security of property and of people. But at the end of the demonstration, the demonstrators refused to disperse and despite repeated warnings from the police for them to disperse and repeated requests made of the political leaders of the demonstration, they refused to disperse. And in fact, they began to advance on the police and in fact began throwing stones and began threatening police officers.

That is very unfortunate and very regrettable and the government…we condemn violence of any sort in all its forms on any side. The actions of the police clearly will have to be investigated. The Police Department has zero tolerance for that type of behaviour. If it is found that police officers acted improperly and illegally, they will be dealt with according to the laws of Belize. At the same time, the rule of law must prevail and it must apply to politicians and the political leaders of this demonstration, and to their followers. So if any of them have broken the law, certainly the rule of law must prevail.”

Stewart Krohn

“Francis, for now the situation seems to have calmed down, but it may not be over. What is government’s next move?”

Francis Fonseca

“Certainly, I think that after all the facts have been gathered this evening and tomorrow, the government will have to look at all the evidence that is presented to it and launch an official and formal investigation into all that took place in Benque Viejo del Carmen. I think and once that investigation is launched and we know all the facts, because we don’t know all the facts at this time, then the appropriate steps will have to be taken.”

Janelle Chanona

“Following the incidents today in Benque Viejo del Carmen, the government has ordered a curfew to begin tonight at 8:00 p.m. until tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m. This is to ensure the safety of all the citizens and security of property. They are asking that everyone co-operate with this curfew. So obviously, Ava this thing is far from over.”

Ava Lovell

“It sure looks that way. Thank you Janelle.”

It may seem anti-climatic, but the new bus fares, ostensibly the reason for the demonstration, were finally published today and the full list will be aired on this station tonight at 9:00, shortly after the lotto draw.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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