Despite the many revelations that have surfaced after the execution of Police Special Constable Danny Conorquie, there is still a grave level of incompetence being displayed by the Government and they just don’t seem to get the gravity of the present. This is rather alarming for me, since I grew up hearing that George Price and the PUP wanted to sell us out to the Guatemalans and that it was Philip Goldson and the UDP that were our only line of defense against that sell-out. So it is ironic that the PUP has taken the lead and taken the proverbial “bull by the horns.”
Francis Fonseca on the ground
While the sitting members of the party in government, including the Prime Minister, keep down-playing the issue and making excuses for not seeing the optic nor the threat of Guatemala to Belize, the Leader of the Opposition has trumped them and not only made public calls for unity, but has gone on “ground zero” in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve to get a firsthand understanding of the plight and fight in this area and along our borders.
I would think such a visit would have been done immediately by the Prime Minister, and/or the Minister of National Security and/or the Foreign Minister so as to let us the people know several things:
1. That we are not operating in fear and that they themselves are not in fear of the Guatemalans and thus would walk their territory freely as every Belizean should;
2. As a confidence-building measure for our tour-operators, special constables of the Police Tourism Unit, soldiers of the Belize Defence Force;
3. To access the situation firsthand and meet with stakeholders and any person or entity, including the Opposition, that could provide suggested solutions to the crisis; and
4. Most importantly, to show us the people that they get it, that they are with us on standing our ground against Guatemala and that they are prepared to be on the front line, amongst other reasons.
This never happened and instead it’s the Leader of the Opposition, who after waiting for over three weeks, had to take the lead and go on the ground…. Now if the Ministers or the Prime Minister, with whom the buck stops, go there they will be following, not leading!
Government’s approach – a daily countdown
In contrast to the people of this nation and the Opposition, the Government Ministers and the head honcho, Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow, have instead spent time admitting they don’t know what is going on. They have even contradicted themselves and seem to be running like a chicken without a head. Let’s put in perspective their response thus far to what has transpired shortly after the execution of Danny on September 25, 2014.
Thursday, September 25, 2014 – First we had to deal the Police and BDF saying the killers of Danny were Guatemalans, but while even the man on the street could have figured that logic out the first official reaction to the murder came from no other than Foreign Affairs Minister, Sedi Elrington, who had this to say when Daniel Ortiz presented him with the position that members of the public will instinctively want to ascribe the murder to illegal Guatemalans. Elrington had this response: “I as the Minister of government have got to be proper; government Ministers have to behave in a proper way; we also expect that the media be very proper and cannot help to fan the flames of suspicion.”
Friday, September 26, 2014 – There was silence thereafter from everyone in Government; only the people and call-in shows were raising a storm about this slow incursion by Guatemalans.
Saturday, September 27, 2014 – Still dead silence from Government.
Sunday, September 28, 2014 – Danny is laid to rest and police fight to give him an official funeral with a full 21-gun salute. NO MINISTER OF GOVERNMENT ATTENDED!
However, police present understood the security implications. The Officer Commanding San Ignacio Police, Supt. Dinsdale Thompson, spoke at the funeral: “Now the issue pertaining to his death in Caracol, we have done all that we can do in relating to investigation. Our officers went out there, we have done interviews and are still interviewing some more persons in relation to who have seen and have heard certain evidence that we can put together and what we have concluded with our investigation that it is not Belizean, it is not any other Central American but Guatemalans that did this. It is more than time for us Belizeans to ‘raise up’ when it comes to those who want to just come upon our soil and take our lives or take our possession in the way that they are presently doing it.”
Monday, September 29, 2014 – Dinsdale Thompson is forced by government to retract his day-before statement: “I am hereby retracting what I had said publicly at the funeral. I would like to now say that we have no evidence to prove that the culprits who shot Danny Conorquie are from Guatemala.”
Different persons, this writer included, denounced the lack of responsiveness when asked by the media: Isani Cayetano – “In your opinion, do you believe that this matter is being taken lightly by the authorities?”
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Protest Organizer – “On the face it looks so, especially after I heard the comment by the Foreign Minister. It’s so ironic, you know. But maybe there are other authorities we don’t know of, maybe there are meetings with the Prime Minister, maybe with the Minister of National Security that we don’t know of that are taking it more seriously and they will later issue a statement. I, as a citizen, would have expected that statement to be issued the moment that young man was killed in the line of duty with his uniform on and his official revolver, state issued revolver was taken away. Remember what the report says, they shot at him, he fell and thereafter they came over him and finished him off. That’s what they did, that’s an execution. It’s an execution by Guatemalan bandits on a Belizean law enforcement officer. If you don’t get the sense of it then you’re in the wrong country. And so I’m hoping that the authorities are not taking it lightly. I will not assume what they are doing behind the scenes but what is coming out on the face of it, I am sorry, I am disappointed with the response that we have seen.”
Danny had been laid to rest and clearly in response to the criticism of their lack of response finally the Government issued a press release on the issue and finally condolences were extended to the family of Daniel Conorquie and stated: “There are reasons to believe that Guatemalan nationals may be responsible for the shooting and this has been communicated to the Guatemalan authorities and the O.A.S. The Guatemalan Foreign Minister expressed his government’s regret over the death of the Belizean Special Constable and offered full collaboration in the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The government, however, did say that government is committed into looking at the financial welfare of Danny’s family.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 onwards. – REACTIONARY!
Danny’s slaughter was preventable
But this is all after the fact and still many wondered if we were taken by surprise… did rogue civilian Guatemalans ambush us on our own home turf with no prior warning that this was possible? From a Belizean standpoint this move was bold, aggressive and well executed. However, as we learnt, there were signs long before that this day was possible and likewise could have been prevented. It was 7News that received an internal police memorandum sent in January 2014 from the officer commanding the Tourism Police Unit, ASP Diana Hall, to the Commissioner of Police practically begging that attention be given to the security concerns for the police constables at the Caracol archeological site. The memo warned that the TPU officers are “equipped with two shotguns which are no match for our Guatemalan counterparts many of whom also have a military background…. I personally believe that these officers are put in a high risk position and although it is an archaeological site, the tourism officers are not the ones who should be manning that site… God forbid that we do not lose one or more of our officers and when we get a public outcry we start to play the blame game as to who is responsible.”
But that blame game is on and more than blame… there is evasion, avoidance and outright refusal to admit failure and start re-building. One week after that memo surfaced the media finally got ahold of Minister of National Security, John Saldivar, and here is a playback of what happened:
Daniel Ortiz – “How do you answer to those who say that the Commissioner of Police and your Ministry on a whole dropped the ball; and that is the reason why Mr. Conorquie was killed because he was just doing his duties and he wasn’t prepared properly for this particular location.”
Hon. John Saldivar – “I wouldn’t draw that conclusion and anything further we are looking into that matter. I wouldn’t draw that conclusion.”
Reporter – “To what extent is it being looked at?”
Hon. John Saldivar – “We’re looking into the matter to see what happened when the memo was sent to the Commissioner; what was done about it, we’re looking into that. We haven’t concluded anything at this time.”
Alindy Marisol Amaya – “Could he face any penalties for this?”
Hon. John Saldivar – “You’re going too far; we’re looking into the matter.”
Reporter – “But if he got the memo and ignored it?”
Hon. John Saldivar – “Did anyone say that he ignored it? I said that we’re looking into the matter. When we come to a conclusion as to what has happened appropriate action will be taken. At this point we are looking into the matter.”
Reporter – “Do you think the killing of Danny Conorquie could have been prevented?”
Hon. John Saldivar – “Of course it could have prevented, but how you would have prevented it.”
Reporter – “The warning of the memo? That’s how it could have been prevented.”
Hon. John Saldivar – “Maybe you know more than I do, but I don’t know that at this point in time.”
Daniel Ortiz – “Sir, but at this time the family is upset that the responses the Ministry has given seem to skirt the fact that, issues were raised and no one addressed it.”
Hon. John Saldivar – “I believe that I said in the National Assembly what we believe to have been the primary lacks in security resulted from the fact that the vehicle that should have escorting the tours had mechanical problems and that’s as far as we’ve gone at this time.”
I need say no more… ironically the boisterous Minister, who pontificates on WAVE Radio show many mornings having much to say about all and anything, suddenly could only repeat, “We’re looking into the matter.” I challenge the media to follow it up weekly until they give us an answer what came out of their probe into the matter.
There are more security issues to be addressed and the recent Hunting Caye saga and the response from the Commandant of the Coast Guard, speaks volumes that even from the standpoint of only the optic… Belizean authorities have condoned and keep justifying a non-military incursion by land and water… more on this next week!
God bless Belize!