BY: KEVIN BERNARD
Like many other residents of Orange Walk, I was shocked and outraged by the news that eight men – seven BDF soldiers and a Policeman – walked off a murder charge because the case file was not ready and the Magistrate struck out the case. These man walked into a home and beat more than one person. One man, Ariel Salazar, was beaten so badly that he died. And these men walked out of Court free on a technicality. That is not right. We need to do better than that. We need to fix our justice system. Human lives have value. This was not a bag a garbage that these men kicked and beat. I am appealing to the Police Department and the DPP’s Office to do whatever they need to do to ensure that these men do not escape justice.
It has been a rough week for us here in Orange Walk. The community is still mourning the loss of Alfredo Petillo and his children Kevawn, Jayda and Mia. And even as his family struggles to cope with that loss, the reality is that they have to rebuild their homes. In just minutes Sunday morning three separate families lost everything. As devastating as it is, it should be a lesson to all of us to value what we have, because everything can change in the blink of an eye.
I am proud of members of my Orange Walk community who have stood up to help the families in their times of need. That is what community is all about. We may have our differences from time to time, but when one of our own is down, we know how to pull together.
As a Council, we have determined to be more proactive in ensuring that disasters such as these never happen again. We can’t wait for the government to get its act together. Too many lives have been lost due to fire. Too many persons have lost all their possessions. And like all of you, I am tired of hearing the same old excuses – fire trucks running out of water or equipment being faulty or not working. We have been meeting with representatives of BWSL and we will ensure that all hydrants become functional. I was shocked to learn that as BWSL carries out its infrastructure project to lay new water pipes, they are not connecting to the existing hydrants. We will do everything in our power to ensure that this ridiculous oversight is corrected. And we will push government to focus on critical priorities like our Fire Service.
It is sad that these things are happening even as we celebrate 37 years of Independence. As we stood together, Opposition and Government on Independence Day and gave our addresses, I know fully well that those who spoke for Government were not happy with what was said. But I would say it again without regrets. We need to stop playing stupid political games. We can’t stand in front of our Belizean people and pretend that all is well, when we are forced to depend on fire trucks that belong in museums. We can’t pretend that everything is okay when we celebrate our Independence with a State of Emergency declared for areas of Belize City. We can’t pretend that everything is okay when we have planes bringing drugs into our country like it is a free for all, and there are people dying in our hospitals because of a lack of basic medicine and equipment and inadequate health care. We can’t continue to say that our economy is booming when our children are dropping out of school because their parents can’t afford to send them.
I am serious about changing the way we conduct politics in this country. I am as fed up as all of you with the status quo. I want to live in a Belize where all of us, no matter which party we support and which party is in power, are treated the same and have equal opportunities to goods and services and opportunities. I’m not saying anything that anybody doesn’t know. We all know that to get a job in the public service these days you have to get a recommendation from a UDP Minister. To join the Police you need a recommendation from a UDP Minister. To get a piece of land you need a recommendation from a UDP Minister. To get educational assistance you need a recommendation from a UDP Minister. That has to stop, no matter which Party is in.
I don’t want to stand here as we celebrate the 38th birthday of our nation next year and have to say the same things. I am committed to change. We all need to get with the program.