Belmopan: Thursday 29th November 2008
Two weeks ago on November 14, Private Fidel Williams was on duty at the Southern FOB on the Sarstoon River when a plank of the old deteriorated pier broke under his boots and a large piece of steel affixed to the pier base post rammed into his eye socket, losing his eye at the same time. There is reliable information out of Price Barracks that Private Fidel now needs further urgent professional medical treatment regarding his vision in the eye socket area, and that he is being sent on his own to Merida for this treatment. The most inexcusable thing about this situation is that he is being sent via public transport on a bus, all the way from Belize to Merida with another soldier to guide him. Private Fidel deserves much better because he has pledged his life for the country. He deserves to the best medical treatment possible onboard the force’s plane or Tropic Air as an option. Possible even an arranged Air ambulance to Chetumal would assist him at the very least. This soldier was on duty on a risky mission surrounded with risky deteriorated amenities when he was hurt. He was on duty at the Sarstoon protecting our borders. He should not be sent on a public transport bus traveling for so many hours suffering in pain from his lost eye. The Minister of Defence should look into this situation; BDF needs to ensure better medical conditions for his soldiers. However, the Minister of Defence John Saldivar cannot ensure this because he has never been a soldier and has never felt what all soldiers go through. That is why Private Fidel is of no concern to him and allowed to be sent on a twelve-hour bumpy road trip even when he is still in pain, The Ministry of Defence wastes tens of thousands of dollars flying private citizens around the country using the two helicopters and the Defender, sometime flying for hours around Belmopan for a parade then surely the Minister should have some compassion to have an injured soldier fly out of the country to Merida for urgent necessary medical treatment. Where is the Soldiers’ Benevolent Fund? Every soldier has to donate one day’s pay per annum. I paid my dues for 23 years and many soldiers before, and after me have done the same without getting a dollar from the fund. That hefty sum should be available to provide to our soldiers and more so in this case where Private Fidel deserves the best medical care provided with a comfortable means of transportation because he is a serving member of our security forces. That is the purpose of such a fund. He did not get hurt through his own fault; it was the BDF and the Ministry that failed in the maintenance and upkeep of the FOB. Private Fidel Williams was on Duty for his country; he was injured on duty, and he has lost his eye on duty. Now, the BDF is now asking Private Fidel to resign with only five thousand dollars being given as compensation! BDF should do the right thing and stand shoulder to shoulder with their soldiers, especially when they are injured on the job. How callous can BDF be to this soldier who will never be the same again? Five thousand dollars ($5, 000.) as compensation is a slap in his face to the integrity and human dignity of any soldier. Every year it will cost him more than five thousand dollars to maintain the artificial eye he will need. Instead of asking him to resign the BDF should keep him in the employ or take him in before a Medical Board for a decision with a fair and decent compensation. I was a soldier, and I stand shoulder to shoulder with Private Fidel and believe that every BDF soldier should stand up for him.