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Sep 25, 2020

Defence Bill Amended

Back to the House of Representatives where the Defence (Amendment Bill) 2020 was also introduced. The bill amends the Defence Act to bring it into conformity with the Belize Constitution.  The amendment was further prompted after News Five broke the news of serious allegations of sexual assault and rape within the Belize Defence Force.  In most cases crimes committed by security officers are dealt with by the Security Services Commission which then deals with the discipline, trial and punishment of military officers who have committed offences such as offences relating to persons in custody.  What the bill does is to increase and more clearly define disgraceful conduct which includes rape and sexual assault, which under the Criminal Code of Belize, carries a heavier penalty than under the Defence Act. Military officers who commit such offence will be dealt with under the full extent of the law and the Belize Constitution.  The Opposition supported the bill though its members had some concerns.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Area Rep., Caribbean Shores

“In actually and in reality abuse exist in our military and in our police department and we are talking in a sexual nature and while it was that the intent was to include matter like rape and sexual assaults as matters like disgraceful conduct I think we would have run afoul of the criminal code Madam Speaker because the criminal code has a penalty of up to life for rape. And so my main position and proposition within the committee was that we need to have more enforcement. The police department needs to be able to go into the military if there is an accusation against of a particular officer of rape or sexual assault and investigate. It cannot be that the defence and the military is immune to this type of investigation. And so we in this honorable House have to send the strongest of messages, strongest of signals that it will not be tolerated any longer. We need to stand up with our women in the military. We need to stand up with our women in the police department and while it is primarily our women it is not exclusively. There are instance of abuse against male and so Madam Speaker the signal nonetheless needs to be sent today from this honorable house that we will be cracking down and we will be allowing the Police Department to do their job and the D.P.P. to d their job against those offenders within the military and the police.”


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I don’t want to quarrel about what he said about the serious behaviour that is now defined in this bill, which serious behaviour can naturally form the basis of charges inside the military. But what our leader elect said is also true. It has never been the case as I understand that the fact of provisions being made for these matters to be dealt with and for offenders within the military to face as well  military justice, that has never been something that as it were then works to the exclusion of the regular criminal law and the jurisdiction of the people to be able to charge members of the military for crimes that they are alleged to have committed.”


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“Maybe it is time to consider in the B.D.F. that probably in the last year prior to retirement that these soldiers can get some type of counseling and preparing them to get another job, electrical or carpentry or whatever it is that they do. I think that is the least that we owe to them. It breaks your heart when you see these people, highly trained personnel that all they can do is to be a security guard at a hotel or at a business or at the banks and I think we owe it to them. They have served us faithfully and so I think it is time for us to consider as a government to put that into place.”


Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Area Rep., Pickstock

“So I like that idea exceedingly well and would certainly support it and I urge that it may be contemplated. He may well be the one responsible for dealing with it or some other politician but I think it is an excellent idea that must be pursued.”


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“In terms of wanting to provide opportunities for the further education of the men and women of the Belize Defence Force on their retirement, that is a good thing. But there is already this tremendous pool of talent that the B.D.F. host. You meet these soldiers. You visit the camps. You see the variegated nature of the skills of these people. It is fantastic, the spectrum of skills that these people have and I agree that it is a shame that after they retire so many of them are left to fend for themselves in a way that is not beneath their dignity, no form of work is really beneath anybody’s dignity but there is mismatch between the kind of jobs they are able to get after retirement and the sorts of skills these people possess.”

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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