There is no simple explanation for the astronomical national debt or the escalating incidents of crime and violence in the nation state of Belize. It is a long “trail of tears” leading to our present condition of “bondage,” as chronicled in last Friday’s Amandala editorial. But it is also a fact that we have been poor before as a people without at the same time experiencing the current level of violent crime or seeming lack of faith or trust in our system of governance or law enforcement.
Prime Minister John Briceño and his new PUP government have so far remained steadfast in employing homegrown solutions to our financial crisis (no IMF), while making timely moves to implement portions of UNCAC, although there are no indications of any effort to seek outside assistance for crime investigation in Belize. Nevertheless, Government has done a lot on various fronts so far, especially in containing the Covid-19 pandemic and planning for a slow rebound of the Belizean economy. But the unions are yet to be convinced.
The sensational weekend murder of a senior police officer who was in the company of a woman closely associated with a son of Lord Ashcroft, will further test that waning trust the Belizean people are displaying in regards to the political leadership of our country.
While previously a few innocent citizens had even been naively speculating that maybe the capitalist shark, Lord Ashcroft, would gain a soft heart and now attempt to help the Belize nation solve its humongous debt crisis, last weekend’s events point only to “survival of the fittest,” and no doubt the vast resources of the Lord will once again test the mettle of our admittedly weak justice system. Many members of a cynical Belizean populace have already declared their belief on social media that the suspect will “get off Scot-free.”
In a nation now ranked among the most indebted, as well as having one of the highest murder rates in the world, the most sensational, media-focused homicide for this century before May 29, 2021 in Belize would likely have been on Thursday, December 28, 2017, when a 39-year-old Belizean man, Fareed Ahmad, was shot while driving his vehicle towards his Hattieville home just after midnight on December 27 in the company of a 24-year old female passenger, who was an off-duty police officer attached to their Special Assignments (SA) Team. A self-employed barber who was also an active football referee and a sponsor of youth activities and a football club in Hattieville, Fareed was from all accounts a perfect gentleman; a model citizen, in fact. But in the year preceding his murder, Fareed’s whole family had been under heavy surveillance and intimidation by the investigation arm of the Police Department following reports that one of his brothers had become “radicalized” and travelled to the Mideast, where he was reportedly killed somewhere in the Philippines, where he was associated with a terrorist group. Despite finding nothing incriminating after “raiding” the family’s home and seizing cell phones and computers belonging to Fareed and his siblings in Belize, members of the Special Assignments team (SA) had continued to surveil and intimidate members of the family. And they had complained publicly on major media outlets about the unfair treatment.
The unique circumstances made the Fareed Ahmad murder sensational in Belize; but in the end, just over a couple years later, many Belizeans were in shock when the only suspect walked free.
“Are we the Belizean people in charge of our own affairs?” is the question that ran through the minds of many citizens. Are any of us safe from “outside forces”? That was the net effect of the sequence of events preceding his murder, and finally the end of the case, with no one found guilty of causing Fareed Ahmad’s death.
It is not our intention to re-try that case here; but just to refresh our readers’ memory in light of the latest and even more sensational murder case, in which there are interesting parallels.
On the day of Fareed’s murder, his sister Taheerah told Amandala:
“The Fareed that we know was a black, middle-aged, law-abiding, ambitious man—the most popular barber in Belize. He grew his business from the age of twenty-one-years old to what it is today.
“What we also know is the only issue Fareed has been complaining about for the past year is an ongoing surveillance, oftentimes what he alleged as harassment by special units in the Police Department. In fact, what we know is that Fareed was targeted last week, having his vehicle searched at the Raccoon Street police station. From that search he again alleged harassment, and an excessive use of force, as he was subdued, handcuffed, and taken to the station by the new Special Assignment team.
“Unfortunately, what we also know is that yesterday [Wednesday] morning, Fareed made a formal complaint to the Police Internal Affairs office… and less than twelve hours later my brother was ambushed and shot multiple times. Ominously, he was also accompanied by a female police officer from the same SA team.”
On a recent Krem Radio Wednesday night show, attorney Richard “Dickie” Bradley expressed his deep dismay, even shock, that, despite the astounding allegation made by the accused Michelle Brown at her murder trial, that a third person, another police officer, had entered the vehicle and delivered the shots that killed Fareed, and although she even called the officer’s name, according to Dickie, no investigation was ever done into this allegation, and neither did the prosecution bother to call that officer to testify. So, with all the bungled details, starting with mishandling of the crime scene, the judge decided there was “reasonable doubt,” and the accused was found “not guilty.”
In cases involving Lord Michael Ashcroft’s various business dealings in Belize, although he has sometimes had to go to the Appeals Court, and even to the Privy Council and later the Caribbean Court of Justice — ultimately, he has always won his cases here.
In the current case, a Superintendent of our Belize Police Department, Henry Jemmott is dead. The accused is a lady who was with him at the time of his murder, Canadian citizen Jasmine Hartin, who is reportedly in a common-law relationship with Andrew Ashcroft, a son of Lord Michael Ashcroft.
Belizeans are no longer in shock at anything in Belize. They are more likely in awe, and are generally prepared for the worst. It is not a healthy climate in which to lead a nation in desperate need of unity, commitment and inspiration to guide us through the major financial, health and security crises facing us. But tough situations sometimes bring out the best in great leaders. Prayers are in order for our Prime Minister, Johnny Briceño, and for our little nation, Belize.