I have been super busy meeting deadlines and getting my paid job done, thus I have not been able to write my timely thoughts for readers. But trust me when I say that the issues of all the crimes, especially those against women and children, have hit home very hard. I cannot find words to express comfort to the families and this nation or to even express the personal grief I feel at the loss of yet another layer of humanity in our small nation.
I have had time to reflect on the issue of violence over the past years of my professional life, and I have had the good fortune to even draw on my personal experience to understand why our society is so broken and so violent and so abusive and why we are so disrespectful and why collectively we cannot see that leadership at the top has caused this marginalization of those at the bottom. We cannot speak of true equality in this nation because those in power work to keep power, not serve the people, and those with authority bully those below them and those with control over the money rob those without access of said money.
The matter is even more exasperating when I see that the only remaining institution in the Civil Society seeking to stand up to demand better is the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU). And yet within their own ranks those who prefer party over Union and people power seek to attack, discredit, and vilify their own Union. Those teachers don’t only disagree with the position of their Union but have even engaged in attacks against their leader and some are really personal, misogynistic attacks. I was not going to even comment much less write about the rally or even give my views on the lame response to crime by this Government by the secret weapon – that is the re-appointment of Hon. John Saldivar to the portfolio of National Security, he having already been there and failed at reducing crime. However, Saldivar has started off on the really wrong foot and gives me no hope that he can bring better than last time, especially since power got to his head when he found it necessary to post on Facebook his attack on Senator Elena Smith and issue his subtle threats regarding her glass house.
Saldivar and Mason – the appearance of justice
He is clearly upset that the teachers’ report card on his performance as Minister of National Security 2015 to 2016 was an “F”, and so to return him to the same post cannot create any sense of confidence and much less provide a track record of success. I will go a step further and place on record that I do not believe that the timing of his reappointment is right for additional reasons. One such reason is that BNTU had as one of its demands during its 11-day strike the removal of Minister Saldivar from head of the Police Department because of his known association with Danny Mason and the subsequent revelations that came out as to the extent of his involvement with Mason.
Now let us not forget that Danny Mason has been arrested and charged for the murder of Pastor Lucas, after the Pastor’s head was found in a bucket in Mason’s vehicle. This discovery was made by the police, who also conducted the investigation and who must also guard the evidence — from the pictures to the clothing and all forensic items needed to win this case. These same police must also now testify and help the Office of the DPP ensue a successful prosecution. Without the police this case cannot be won, especially since the evidence in its entirety is based on police work. Now Saldivar, the known former business partner and associate, is the boss of these very same police …. You like the optics of that? So the police must now help prosecute the business partner and associate of their boss. Now the perception of this is very important in the realm of law and the appearance of justice.
In the 1923 case of R v Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy the principle as to appearance of justice was succinctly stated as “not only must justice be done; but it must manifestly be seen to be done”. Thus, the appearances and perception should not taint the perception of justice. So it must not be that indeed the Minister will interfere with the investigation to even influence the police officers in their evidence gathering and testimony, but it is sufficient that he was once connected to the very man his subordinates must prosecute.
In the McCarthy case, the conviction in a traffic accident was quashed because the clerk to the Justices hearing the case was a member of the firm of solicitors acting in a civil claim against the same defendant arising out of the accident. The Clerk retired with the Justices, who went to deliberate the decision and returned a verdict of guilty against the Defendant. On learning of the Clerk’s position, the Defendant applied to have the conviction quashed and the Justices swore affidavits stating that they had reached their decision to convict the Defendant without consulting their Clerk, who was only in the room. So if it is based on the type of facts that we look at the appearance of justice, can you imagine in this case where the Minister is the boss of these police? That clerk had no superiority of those Justices, but the Minister has superiority over these police officers.
Don’t forget PM Barrow, an attorney himself, must have appreciated this finer point of law when in 2016 he removed Saldivar as National Security Minister under public pressure. This removal was one of the demands made by the BNTU, who also called for an international investigation into the beheading because there was no confidence that local police would have been able to do their work without interference. Thus it’s a betrayal by the PM to now turn around and re-appoint the same Saldivar, when the Mason trial has not yet taken place and police are still expected to work to secure said conviction.
Saldivar’s track record
The other reason Saldivar is not the best qualified for the job is that in 2016, while he was the big-honcho for police, this country saw the highest murder rate yet since 2012. It was a staggering 145 per some accounts and 138 per others, but the murder of Pastor Lucas was counted amongst those. As reported on 11th January, 2017, the year 2016 was the bloodiest and deadliest as confirmed by the statistics released by Commissioner Allen Whylie: “Of the hundred and thirty-eight murders for 2016, fifty-one cases have been solved to date, eighty-seven cases are currently under investigation. As a result of those cases solved, police have arrested and charged sixty-five persons; namely, sixty Belizeans, two Salvadorans, one Honduran, one Guyanese and one Guatemalan.” That Guyanese is Danny Mason.
Now, add that reality to the other reality that Saldivar was the person who also introduced his other colleagues to Mason or vice versa. Pawpa Mena had issued tape releases which you can find on Guardian newspaper website stating that he was taken to the residence of Danny Mason by John Saldivar. He also conceded that he had obtained $10,000 in campaign financing from Mason.
Then Patrick Faber disclosed that he too got introduced to Mason by Saldivar and was even invited to have congratulatory drinks at Mason’s house. In his statement he said, “I have met Mr. Danny Mason twice. Once in 2015 via Minister John Saldivar and again on the day of my swearing in. The reception after my swearing in … was done at the Chon Saan Palace in Belmopan … I received an invitation indirectly from Mr Mason to his home … to join him for congratulatory drinks. I accepted that invitation. That is the full extent of my relationship with the person that I knew as Danny Mason.”
Too often in our country once a person becomes a politician and is in power we treat them as if they are demi-gods and beyond reproach, when it’s the contrary that must take place. Once they are doing the public duties of the people they are accountable to the people for their decisions and conduct that affects their public life. Sadly, in this instance it has become easier to seek to attack Senator Elena Smith, a woman, on a very personal and low level and sadly some of the most vehement attackers are women and no other than teachers. That is the extent of the division on the issue of abuse and violence in our society, but it has become the norm that people do not recognize it and easily participate in it.
To be continued in next Friday’s issue of the Amandala