BELIZE CITY, Wed. Nov. 25, 2015–Last Friday, November 20, the police’s Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) conducted a sting operation in the Yarborough area which resulted in the arrest of Melvin Hewlett, 35, the Vice Principal of Wesley College, who was charged for drug trafficking and arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court later that same day.
Hewlett’s arrest has sent Wesley College into damage control mode, as the school’s administration has moved quickly to assure stakeholders that normalcy will be maintained at the 123-year-old church/state run institution.
Today Amandala spoke with the school’s principal, Joan Tillett, who told us that she is not authorized to speak on the issue of Hewlett’s criminal case, because that matter has been dealt with by the school’s board of directors, which has made its recommendation to the Ministry of Education in conformity with the Education Rules.
Tillett also disclosed that the school held a meeting with its student body and there is a parent/teachers meeting planned for Friday.
Wesley College is known for its Annual Red Ribbon Drug Prevention Week, during which faculty, staff, student and parents become engaged in awareness activities in the prevention of drug use.
In addition to the school’s efforts to contain the negative optics of its Vice Principal being caught up in the criminal justice system, the Ministry of Education has also issued a press release yesterday, Tuesday. The Ministry of Education release states: “The Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture views with great seriousness the arrest and charge of Mr. Melvin Hewlett, Wesley College vice principal, with drug trafficking on Friday, November 20, 2015.
The release explains that the nature of the charge is contrary to the higher purposes of education and the interests of the profession.
While the recommendations of the Wesley College Board to the Ministry of Education have not been made public, the Ministry’s press release explains that “…a Managing Authority may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a teacher who has been criminally charged and may interdict the teacher by submitting a report detailing the grounds for the interdiction to the Commission for approval.”
The release goes on to explain that a teacher who is placed on interdiction may receive half of his/her salary as approved by the (Education) Commission on the recommendation of the Managing Authority for a period not exceeding six months.
“At the end of the criminal proceedings, if the teacher is found not guilty, the teacher shall continue in employment without prejudice to his status or emoluments,” the release added.
The release continues, “Where a teacher is found guilty of a major offense the Education (Amendment) Rules of 2012 provide for various disciplinary measures, which may be adopted singly or in combination and shall have regard to the seriousness of the offense and be appropriate to the circumstances of the case. The measures which may be adopted by the Managing Authority, subject to the approval of the Commission, include demotion in rank; fine or loss of salary; suspension with loss of pay not exceeding fifty percent for period not exceeding six weeks; retirement in the interest of the profession; dismissal or dismissal and revocation of license.”
Vice Principal Hewlett appeared before Magistrate Deborah Rogers along with his attorney, Anthony Sylvestre, and pleaded not guilty to one count of drug trafficking. He was offered and met bail of $7,000 plus one surety and his case was adjourned to January 8, 2016.
In a press release issued by the GSU, it states that on Friday members of the unit were on operations in the Yarborough Road area, when their attention was drawn to two men who were standing on the street in front of Wesley College.
“Members of the GSU identified one of the (men) to be a known drug peddler within Belize City and as such, decided to stop and conduct a search of him. However, upon the GSU officers approaching the two…the other…identified as Melvin Newton Hewlett, 35, 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.
“As a result, Hewlett was escorted to the area where the white paper landed, and in his presence and view it was opened, resulting in two transparent plastic bags each containing buff bulky substance suspected to be crack cocaine, which was weighed and amounted to 14 grams.”
The release ends saying that Hewlett was arrested and charged for the crime of possession of controlled drug with intent to supply to another (for the purpose of drug trafficking).
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act read along with the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act a person who is convicted of drug trafficking faces a mandatory minimum fine of $10,000 plus three years in prison.