Features — 13 January 2018 — by Colin Hyde
All due respect, Sir, but your  words can’t “assure” us

A number of times, more than once, maybe five or six times, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Hon. Elodio Aragon, Jr., said, in response to a point made by a member of the Opposition about the horrendous murderous nation we have become, I assure you…Trust mi. Sir, can we trust you, can you assure this nation that none of your/our police officers will ever bring harm to a journalist in this country again? And Sir, we know that money cannot pay for what your officers did, but has your Ministry made some such tangible form of recompense to Ms. Marisol for what happened on the Tower Hill Bridge outskirts of Orange Walk Town?

Sir, Minister Aragon, someone has to inform you that Belize is well past words at this time. If your lofty office has you insulated from the people, it would be good for you to get off your horse and walk through the alleys and streets with us. I believe you will find that your people, our beloved people, are living between squirming, and terror. We are seeing things in this, our beloved country, our good country, that we have never seen before.

Assurance, and trust, can come only from serious, sincere action. You have noticed that our Police Commissioner, wonderful guy that he is, has proven that he doesn’t have the mettle to investigate Ministers of government and people who are close to them. Democracy is a cruel joke if there are individuals who are above investigation.

We really can’t blame him for stepping very, very lightly when he is dealing with people who hold offices as high as yours. You really have placed yourselves on a pedestal, and Thomas Becketts don’t grow on trees.

I refer you to the editorial of last week’s Reporter. It is rare when that newspaper checks a red government. You have to know that they are somewhere between squirm and terror, to call out a UDP government.

The year just ended has been traumatic for most working class Belizeans because of the high level of violence we have endured…This may not be alarming to the police High Command, but it is a cause for serious concern to everybody else.

In a recent Channel 7 interview Minister of State Elodio Aragon Jr. said he did not feel disappointment at the number of murders (142) during 2017.

“This is the reality of things!” he confided.

“This is prophesy!”, another commentator added darkly, pointing to the inevitability of events.

But murder on this scale is not inevitable. It is not acceptable! And it is deeply disturbing to find that officials of the government who have the duty and the authority to do something about it are not motivated to do more.

The solutions being put forward are not cutting it. To show we are beyond words, into deeds, I offer these two suggestions, for a start. We can start by hiring a Police Commissioner from foreign, or we can elect the sheriff.

The first is a recommendation made some time ago by the present Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Wilfred Elrington. This recommendation, while lauded by some, has not gained traction with the majority because, some have said, it is an erosion of nationhood. Whoever heard of Great Britain or the United States, great nations, sending abroad for a foreign citizen to head their police?

For the record, this columnist has written in support of the commissioner from foreign. I argue that Belize is unique in many ways, and we have a history of getting major league police officers from Barbados and Jamaica. It isn’t impossible that those nations might turn to us one of these days. Who knows, our very own present Police Commissioner might be asked to serve in a foreign jurisdiction and, removed from the interference of local leaders, he will, without fear or favor, get the job done.

Others have called for Belize to hire, elect the sheriff. Now that is an even more interesting proposition. On the surface, Belizeans in the major municipalities electing the top law enforcer in town seems like a good thing. But in our present corrupt political system, which our political leaders love so, so much, we might end up with a real lackey. It is possible that we just might be jumping out of the frying pan with that one.

Mr. Jose Luis Espat, a man who has become a real hero to many Belizeans, including myself, told Plus TV’s host, Louis Wade, that what Belize needs is a Coroner. Mr. Espat, who has training in pathology, explained that Belize is seriously deficient in its capacity to investigate violent crimes.

https://www.crimesceneinvestigatoredu.org/coroner/ has this to say about the job of a coroner. A coroner is an elected official (usually at the county level) who is responsible for the investigation of deaths occurring within a specific jurisdiction, as required by law. Specifically, coroners are responsible for conducting investigations to determine cause and mode of death.  Of course, local politicians who are up to no good might want to interfere in the election of a coroner too.

As an aside, I think the Minister of Home Affairs needs to check himself re: his response to the Toledo West area representative’s call for the government to refurbish the police station in San Pedro, Colombia, to make it habitable. The Minister said that the $90m that some of us want to give the Belize Bank would go a long way to get such a job done.

Your stab at comedy was in very poor taste, Sir. I have looked and I have looked and I cannot find one Belizean, outside of the Ashcroft minions, who WANTS to pay that UHS debt.

Ervin Perez calls for nationalization of legal gambling

On his weekly visit to KREMWuB on Tuesday morning, financial consultant Ervin Perez said, in his wish list for 2018, that Belize should nationalize legal gambling. Mr. Perez said that in times like these especially, the poorer folk try to make a little something off the gambling games. (Before we go on, let’s make this clear: Mr. Perez was not speaking about the illegal games – the Piti-Pat, and the Bingo.)

Mr. Perez said what the government should do is turn this vice into virtue. He said that if our GoB nationalized legal gambling, the surplus (profits) could be used for health and education purposes.

There are profits. In the Boledo, an investment of 5 cents can win you $3.50. There are 100 numbers in the game so the seller wins $5.00, plus the 5 cents cost of the ticket. On a straight line, the seller has $1.55 to pay for administration and taxes, and the rest is PURE profit.

Ervin isn’t the first person to call for nationalization of legal gambling, but he is quite likely the most illustrious. The man is highly trained in the world of economics and business. He is highly respected in his field, his services being sought by government agencies and private clients.

Ervin said that the proper way to effect the nationalization is to set up a statutory body, a national gambling board that would oversee the industry. There is the risk, of course, that corrupt politicians would steal the profits. But really, we don’t have a choice, we have to try, we have to hope.

The people who control legalized gambling would not be happy about such a move by our government. They would have to understand. Indeed, the Boledo was owned nationally for years, until some public officials realized they would have to do less work if they sold it off to private owners. Forget their claim that they did a quickie math and determined that there was more money to be made from Boledo by privatizing it. Bah.

Another business which the government handed over to private hands is the sale of phone cards. They made it so that only people who have a nice wad of cash could participate. We remember in African Tales what the monkey did to exclude turtle from his birthday party.  When the time came for the birthday dinner and the cupcakes, the servants brought the food in tall baskets.

We don’t actually have to take away the legal gambling. We don’t have to bring kyat boil on the government. We could set up our own games, our own Boledo and Lotto, under other names.

Nationalizing legal gambling really would be good for Belize. Consider, those Belizeans who don’t participate in gambling games because the profits go into private hands, would get a chance to get in on the fun. And all the profits could go to education and health. Nationalize it!

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