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Sep 11, 2008

Carnival Day’s grenade scare puts damper on 10th parade

Story PictureThere are fortunately no serious incidents of crime to report from Wednesday’s Tenth Day Celebrations in Belize City. And while some may say the turnout of spectators was respectable, when compared to previous years, the parade was lacking in numbers. The last float that is normally flanked by thousands of Belizeans jumping up to the sound of Hip Hip Hurray, appeared anemic this year as many stayed away for security reasons as a result of Saturday’s grenade scare. But News Five’s Marion Ali and Chris Mangar were not deterred and observed the parade at the start, the middle, and near the end.

Marion Ali, Reporting
From what we saw, there were the usual head entourage, including all the top brass of the ruling party and their supporters. That was followed by the queens, the floats, the bands, and the performers. But the crowd which brought up the rear of the parade was by our estimation, half of its size at its biggest point.

But while the crowd was not its best, the authorities were out to take control of whatever possibility and they had their plan in place.

Crispin Jeffries, Assistant Commissioner of Police
“We are concerned that the people may feel a certain amount of fear and there’s no need to fear. There is adequate security presence here and we are sweeping the route. We’ve been at it since six o’clock this morning. We’re looking at over two hundred and fifty police officers. They are spread pit from here right out to Bird’s Isle. We’ve increased the number of Belize Defence Force personnels and the demolition team has swept all the area with our Canine dog that deal with demolition and explosives, they are out here also.”

Marion Ali
“So you feel that the events of Saturday; the grenade attempted attack as well as the shootings, have deterred people from coming out of their homes and take part in today’s celebrations?”

A.C.P. Crispin Jeffries
“I think that is the obvious but I don’t think that people will be apprehensive that something will happen. We did a major exercise yesterday to look at those persons we believe may want to create some problems and they are in police custody at this time.”

Also not deterred were the politicians.

Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Works
“That will not deter us. We are Belizean. I think we hold strong as a community. We are a peace-loving country, I think that the people out here understand fairly well that we are here, we are here in peace and I think that the people involved in criminal behavior must understand and I think that they understand too especially the clamoring over the radio station and news media for them to behave themselves in terms of this as a country.”

Marion Ali
“On the flip side of the coin, if you look at the side of the street there are not lots of people that used to line the street in previous years out today.”

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“Well, you know like anything else, you will have people who will have the fear and like anything else, it’s a matter of bringing back confidence.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Indeed, Marion, there’s no way you can guard against random incidents but I think everybody will see the security forces are out here in numbers, they are on high alert, we are as safe as we can possibly be, given that there is uncertainty about life; as safe as we can possibly be. I am extremely pleased with the job that the security forces are doing and I am so pleased to see so many people out here, both in the parade and lining the parade route. It means that we’ve decided that as a society, we will not be defeated.”

Marion Ali
“But at the end of the day there are still people at home. This celebration, this parade is all towards celebrating the peace, the harmony, the liberation achieved two hundred and ten years ago. Some people stayed at home. They decided to do that because they feel that their peace, their liberation, their harmony was robbed last week Saturday.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Well, I am not sure to what extent that is so, I don’t think we’ve taken a poll but I concede that no doubt there are a few people. By and large though, look at the spirit out here, look at the crowds along the parade route. I think it’s a reaffirmation of the fact that Belizeans will not be defeated.”

Zenaida Moya, Belize City Mayor
“This is our day and we will ensure that we take this day.”

Marion Ali
“But do you blame the people who have decided to not come out because of fear?”

Zenaida Moya
“I always say prayer is something that will immobilize you and you can’t let fear take over your life and take over what you do. You have to be cautious yes, but at the same time you cannot let fear dictate what you do. If it weren’t for our forefathers who did not let fear stop them from ensuring that they was their, we wouldn’t be where we are at. So we as patriots, we who are very nationalistic, we have to continue what they started two hundred and ten years ago.”

The bystanders who did make it out despite the happenings of last Saturday said they were confident in the upgraded security features.

Marion Ali
“You never fraid fi come out?”

Bystander #1
“No ma’am, no , I can’t think of that because then we have to continue and this is our Belize.”

Bystander #2
“No because we were reassured that everything would be okay and I know I see a lot of law enforcement out here so you know …”

Bystander #3
“No, I never did fraid fi come out because I just feel like nothing wah happen right.”

In retrospect, the Police High Command feels that their improved manpower and vigilance on the tenth helped to deter criminals from having their way.

A.C.P. Crispin Jeffries
“We went up including the B.D.F., we’ve added about a hundred and twenty-five officers to the security arrangement and some additional features; features that we would not normally use unless the public felt that it was necessary and I believe that a lot of the success was because the public support was there for the type of security arrangement so there was no complaint of armed soldiers waling on the streets on a day like the tenth of September.”

Marion Ali
“What happened to those people you had detained prior to yesterday?”

A.C.P. Crispin Jeffries
“Most of those persons who we’ve gone through and we found out that they were not of interest, we’ve released. They were kept for the required forty-eight hours. There were a few that we know were held for more than forty-eight hours and that was because there were the ones we knew had direct contact with grenades in the recent past.”

But for the twenty-first day celebrations, which this year now be celebrated, on Monday the twenty-second, Prime Minister Dean Barrow says the same efforts will be extended.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“This is going to happen again on the twenty-first, I think the parade will actually be on the twenty-second because the twenty-first is a Sunday. But the security forces will bring back this same kind of relentless effort to give Belizeans the assurances they need and deserve.”

Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

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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