BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 23, 2015–In 2006, Belizean educator Melvin Hewlett came into the public spotlight when he initiated a community project for youth in the Fort George electoral division, sponsored by then Prime Minister Said Musa, and in 2009/2010, he came into the national spotlight as one of local research professionals who had teamed up with Jamaican anthropologist Dr. Herbert Gayle to release a comprehensive research report dubbed, “Male Social Participation and Violence Study in Belize.”
Over the years, Hewlett, 35, the vice principal of Wesley College and head of its IT program, had built up a formidable reputation, so when the news broke recently that he was arrested for possession of crack cocaine, many were left in a state of disbelief.
Hewlett knows the perilous outcomes of gang life and drug trafficking all too well. When the study was released, Hewlett relayed information taken from the PEER youth analysis, which revealed that their #1 concern is police-youth relations (88% of youth); second was drug use and supply; third was gang violence.
In an unexpected turn of events, though, a press release issued today by the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) alleges that Hewlett “was arrested and charged for the crime of ‘Possession of controlled drugs with the intent to supply to another.’”
The GSU release said that, “On Friday, 20th November 2015, about 11:35 [a.m.], members of the Gang Suppression Unit were on operations on Yarborough Road, Belize when their attention was drawn to two male persons standing on the street side in front of Wesley College.
“Members of the GSU identified one of the male persons to be a known drug peddler within Belize City and as such, decided to stop and conduct a search on him.
“However, upon the GSU officers approaching the two said male persons, the other male person, identified as Melvin Newton HEWLETT, 35 yrs, Belizean teacher and vice principal of Wesley College, of #81 Rich Lagoon Estate, Burrell Boom Village, was seen throwing away a piece of white paper into Wesley College compound.”
Police said that Hewlett was escorted to the area where the white paper had landed, and in his presence they opened “two transparent plastic bags each containing buff bulky substance suspected to be crack cocaine, which was weighed and amounted to 14 grams.”
We were unable to speak to Hewlett, despite several attempts to contact him, personally, but a source close to him told us that the person with whom Hewlett was speaking on Friday had owed him money and had gone to the school to repay him. Sources close to Hewlett contend that he has apparently been set up.
Hewlett appeared before Magistrate Deborah Rogers on Friday afternoon and was arraigned on the charge of possession of controlled drug with the intent to supply. He was released on house-and-lot bail.
Anthony Sylvestre, Hewlett’s attorney, told Amandala tonight that “the charges are unsustainable,” and his client will “vindicate his name and his reputation which he has worked all his adult life in harnessing.”
A colleague of Hewlett’s with whom we spoke this afternoon said that when they heard the news, they felt that it was a mistake.
Sylvestre said that they await the disclosures which are expected from police when they return to court on Friday, January 8, 2016. He said that after the disclosures, they would be able to respond.
Amandala is reliably informed that Hewlett met over the weekend with the principal and board of Wesley College, but we are uncertain whether he will face suspension, pending the outcome of the case.
Sylvestre said that while his client has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, he understands that the school also has the right to preserve its integrity.
“It is an extremely sensitive and difficult decision that has to be made,” his attorney conceded.
(As an aside, a book is due to be launched out of the Herbert Gayle project early next year. That publication, we are told, will be titled, Like Bush Fire.)