VOICE OF THE COMMON MAN
By Hilly Bennett
‘The patient dies while the physician sleeps;
The orphan pines while the oppressor feeds;
Justice is feeding while the widow weeps;
Advice is sporting while infection breeds;
Wrath, envy, treason, rape, and murderers rage;
Thy heinous hours wait on them as their pages;
Dear Lord of that dear Jewel, I have lost;
What legacy shall I bequeath to thee?’
Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece.
The unraveling of the United Democratic Party Government abuse, neglect, incompetence and rabid acts of corruption continues. The visit to the Youth Hostel by the Honorable Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development and Indigenous People Affairs and Minister of State Honorable Gilroy Usher, and Chief Executive Officer Tanya Santos unveiled the blatant attack on humanity and a direct violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ( CRC). The youths housed at the Princess Youth Hostel were living in fetid conditions. Bathrooms were in disrepair without running water.
The 19 individuals slept on almost bare steel with a thin layer of sponge for comfort. The social worker and mediator for these young people indicated that numerous reports of various incidences of abuse were laid without finality. Clearly the Youth Hostel, under the administration of the then Minister of Human Development Boots Martinez, and CEO Judith Alpuche, was a stark contradiction to the intent of rehabilitation. The existing conditions throughout the facility was abused and neglected as displayed in the Channel 5 exposé.
In 1993, Minister for Human Development and Women’s Affairs, Dolores Balderamos Garcia suggested that upon signing unto the CRC, the Government of Belize became tasked with the responsibility of ensuring “that children, and especially young women received the opportunities that will ensure their wellbeing…”
That assurance of allowing these young people to realize their dreams became a nightmare under Boots the enabler and his minions. The operations at the Hostel, the squalor lived and heinous incidence of wrongdoing emanating from maladministration was no support for a better life for the youths which became a hush, tucked beyond the razor wire fences. No media was allowed inside the walls of the rehabilitation institution until the bold venture by the new PUP government officials.
Interestingly, when the tragic fire on 28th November 2015 snuffed out the lives of those three females, the former CEO Alpuche indicated that an urgent re-evaluation of existing policies in the method of management of these supposedly wayward youths would occur. The untimely deaths of Shadisha Arnold, 16; Anne Carlos, 16; and Elizabeth Mckoy revealed that several protocols were breached. The facility owed those girls that perished and now the youths, presently being housed at the Youth Hostel, a duty of care and a standard of care. They have failed to deliver those legal responsibilities thus hinging into illegality. To date, the report on the fiery incident in 2015 has not been made public with anyone held accountable. Minister Garcia gave her assurance that the tragedy is not a “cold case” and the results of the findings will be made public.
The honourable minister was adamant that the institution is “not a dumping ground” and measures of reform will be actively pursued. She further insisted that in the promotion of a country’s development, people must be placed at the centre of the efforts of that development. Whilst her ministry is responsible to engage a climate conducive to changing the lives of the young people the families and by extension the communities must be included.
Had the status quo remained and the Minister was not proactive, the words of Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece would be echoing loudly.
The visit on 30th December wasn’t just a visit but an indication that development must include people. A win for the people!!