It was with incredulity that I watched Inspector Mark Flowers, the Commander of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) attack, with what appeared to be partisan undertones, a senior Member of Parliament and a former two-time Prime Minister of Belize.
My horror was derived not from the notion that the Rt. Hon. Said Musa was undeserving of a verbal flogging for his comments about the GSU, but rather that such a rebuttal came from a senior police officer—the head of the most feared, armed agency of the State.
I do not wish to dissect the comments of the Rt. Hon. Said Musa nor do I wish to dissect those of Inspector Flowers. My sole concern here is the message being sent about the state of our democracy, when a member of one of the constitutionally defined, “disciplined forces” of Belize, can so publicly and so viciously attack a sitting member of Parliament. And with apparent impunity!
The comments of the Rt. Hon. Said Musa were political in nature; yes, they were. But politics is the province of politicians, not professional police officers! Inspector Flowers had no place rebutting partisan political talk, even when those comments are about the unit that he commands.
Belizeans must understand the critical role that the police play in our democracy. The Police Department is one of the three conduits through which justice must flow, and perhaps most importantly, the police are the primary avenue through which our government exercises its monopoly on the use of force. There is no greater threat to a democracy than the perversion of these two ideals: the delivery of justice and the proper application of force! When the police cannot exercise its constitutional duties without the polarizing influence of partisan politics it imperils all of us as Belizeans, not just those who form the Opposition.
Some people argue that Inspector Flowers was entitled to his views and I concur. However, what he was not entitled to do, as a member of a “disciplined force”, was to express them in the manner that he did. It would be unheard of for an officer of the Belize Defence Force or the Belize Coast Guard (both constitutionally defined “disciplined forces”) to have conducted themselves in this fashion without career-ending implications. This is a function of the professional nature of their officer corps and their continued efforts to insulate themselves from harmful partisan political meddling.
Inspector Flowers’ conduct speaks directly to the state of professionalism in the Police Department and to the emasculation of the Commissioner of Police (ComPol). I can assure you that the Commander of the BDF would not have waited for political direction or approval, to discipline any of his officers who dared to behave in such a manner; neither would have the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Belize should be thankful!
It is my belief that this whole issue is most untimely. It comes on the heels of the writ of mandamus handed down by the Supreme Court to the ComPol, and the resultant growing public perception that there is direct and deep political interference in the work of the police.
It also comes at a time when the nature and level of crime is such that it requires a serious bi-partisan effort if we are to restore citizen security to acceptable levels. The likelihood of any meaningful bi-partisan solution, if any such chance existed, may have been scuttled by this unfortunate incident.
Predictably, this matter has been reduced to partisan politics. Blue on one side, red on the other, and the Belizean people in the middle. Some people revel in the idea that the Rt. Hon. Said Musa has been attacked in this fashion: their justification being the political indiscretions of his 1998-2008 administration. What we don’t seem to understand is that when we allow an injustice to be visited upon someone simply because we do not like that person, we unwittingly invite injustice upon ourselves. Have we already forgotten how, in November of 2012, the GSU chickens came home to roost? Have we already forgotten how, in November of 2012, they roughed up the wife of the present ComPol? This is what eventually happens when we fail to nip wrong doing in the bud!
For those who think that I am “defending” the Rt. Hon. Said Musa, I am not! He is more than capable of defending himself. For what it’s worth, I would feel exactly the same way if a member of a “disciplined force” had attacked the Hon. Dean Barrow, whilst he was the Leader of the Opposition, or any other Member of Parliament for that matter. It is wrong and it is extremely dangerous. Such behavior should never be condoned!
In parting, let me say that it is not my intent to “Berylize” Inspector Flowers. I know him to be a highly intelligent and capable officer and I am sure, that from a tactical perspective, he will do well as the commander of the GSU. I am unsure what led him to the position in which he now finds himself but he must seek to make amends. He needs to tell us that he works for the Belizean people and ONLY the Belizean people! He must convince us that our trust in him to head our most elite Police unit has not been misplaced! If he can do that, I as a citizen of this country, would have no problem in his continued superintendence of the GSU.
Major Lloyd Jones (R)