The cold-blooded, bold-faced execution of a construction foreman as he was steel-floating the cement street being built by Maheia’s Construction on Electric Avenue in the “Complex” area of Lake Independence in Southside Belize City this morning, clearly brings home the fact that there are some individuals whose power to terrorize and kill has superseded the effective ability of the state, with its Legislature, Judiciary and Executive, to demand respect for the law. As a result, the defenceless citizenry are more and more vulnerable and fearful for their lives. This is a situation fraught with problems down the road, problems that might be even worse than those we now face and lament.
What is amazing in this present instance, and the same has occurred in more and more frequent situations, is that the executioners were reportedly not masked; and they were apparently well known to a number of the workmen on the work site, who, as they saw the two men riding up, immediately dropped everything and ran for their lives. The work foreman, who is from Sandhill Village, has had, to the best of our knowledge, no interactions, except for the young men on his work site, with any members of the rival gangs in Belize City. With no cause to fear anyone, he continued his work, the necessary steel floating of recently poured cement, before it became “set”. According to reports, the foreman never even saw who killed him, as the gunman (men) came from behind and shot him about 12 times in the back of his head and back.
Belize police, and BDF soldiers, since the latter have been deployed to support the police on the streets, have had approximately zero effectiveness in stopping the sniper-style murders in Belize City. The statistics prove that. (Perhaps the BDF should go back to guarding the Western border.)
Our policing approach has been all about collecting evidence after the act, and going through the motions of trying to put together a case to bring the guilty party to justice. Occasionally, the Police or Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) are accused of brutalizing suspects, which usually causes a weakness in their case. But, more often than not, it is a failure to have witnesses give evidence in court, for fear of their lives, that has allowed those accused of murder to “walk” over and over again.
“Impunity” is the buzz word nowadays, when talking about violent crime and murder by a certain sector of the criminal element.
It has been said that something dies in a man who has committed murder that makes him have a tendency to do it again, and again. Cold blooded murder, execution style, is not the same as crimes of passion, as between lovers, or in a state of anger over some perceived wrong. What we hear about repeatedly nowadays are men going on a mission to kill, with impunity, impunity for all who are watching or dare to watch, impunity for the Police who will come later and “pick up the pieces”, and impunity for the justice system that will fail, because they have terrorized the citizens into refusing to testify in a court of law.
What do we have here? A breakdown of law and order, where a small group of so-called “soldiers” is concerned. “So-called” because soldiers are supposed to be brave men. These individuals who can shoot an unsuspecting victim in the back are not necessarily brave; bold, but not brave.
U.S. President Barack Obama, whose primary job as Commander-in-Chief is the protection of American citizens, was recently given the Nobel Peace Prize. But that did not stop him from authorizing the execution of self-proclaimed terrorist and killer of thousands of American citizens, Osama Bin Laden. And there have been very few, if any, voices of dissent with this action. The terrain of “terror” is a terrain of war; and the rules become different from times of peace. Still, some voices warn of the danger inherent in this situation if it becomes a trend.
One extremely firm and intimidating managing director liked to advise Nova farm managers to “threaten them with death,” in driving home the point where certain rules, important rules for the survival of the shrimp in the ponds, were to be followed by farm workers at all cost. “Death” in his language, of course, meant getting fired. And the message was delivered, with positive, though sometimes painful, results.
What if a zealous police officer, or family member of a murder victim, takes it upon himself to really “threaten with death” a would-be witness, who already fears for his life to be taken by the accused or his agents? Now the witness would have two fears. He knows exactly who committed the murder, but fears that divulging such information, or worse, appearing on the witness stand would be risking his life. However, if he is “terrorized” enough by the officer or family member into giving up the identity of the killer, but still refuses to take the witness stand, there is a new situation here. The hunter/murderer, with impunity, may now become the hunted, by a zealous police officer or family member of the murder victim.
If the present trend continues, at some point, vigilante justice will begin to take over. And the police force could end up joining in the fray. Soon, and perhaps this has already happened on a few occasions, where citizens are convinced that the police intentionally killed a citizen who had a criminal record and was suspected of serious crimes, that might become the norm. The problem is that there were also a few cases where police were suspected of killing individuals for “personal” reasons. That is where the slippery slope comes in. That is where the danger lies for “personal” issues and “party politics” to play a part in decisions to execute individuals who may not necessarily be terrorists or serial killers.
But as bad as the situation is getting, a desperate citizenry, who would otherwise maintain their belief in “innocent until proven guilty,” will inevitably throw their hands up in desperation, and beg for anything that could stop the repeated killing of helpless, innocent, hard-working citizens by members of the “criminal element” who are acting with greater and greater impunity.
Murderers rule right now; and this is very, very bad. But might we soon slip into a “Police State”? Do we want to “go there?” Is there anywhere else that we can go?