Common as Rice and Beans

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There seems a marked inequity in our justice system and the word on the street is that people have had enough.  There are countless examples where the poor, especially, have been victims of police brutality and abuse.  Neither have courts treated them better. While the blame game ensues regarding the responsibility for the backlog of cases at the courts, the people, whose fate languish at the mercy of the courts, despair of ever having their cases heard or must wait years for a judgement to be read.  Many police officers have been detained or receive half pay while under investigation for a multitude of different offences.  The outcome more often than we might care to recognize, is that it seldom results in charges.  On the rare occasion that charges are read, the accused do not suffer any real consequences.  The term nolle prosequi has become as common and familiar as rice and beans is to ordinary Belizeans folks.  The outrage became palpable when this week a single mother was remanded to the central prison to wait for her case to be heard, having been charged for handling stolen goods.

The very learned Dickie Bradley, Attorney-at-Law, said this week that the group now popularly called the Narco Nine “have a right to apply to the Supreme Court to restore their freedom…because why would innocent people be in prison till April.”  We assume this is based on the legal premise that everyone is innocent until and if they can be proven guilty.  In Belize, the probabilities that any conviction is likely to stick is slim to none.  Meanwhile, white-collar crime has become increasingly conspicuous, in the past thirteen years, involving many high-profile people. The travesty lies in the fact that some await trial on remand, for having been found with a tablet, while others can pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars misappropriated, and with the advantage of an instalment plan to boot. The gentleman who plead guilty in 2019 to the theft of a $4.75 tin of corned beef spent four months in prison because he owed a previous fine of $85 for riding a bicycle without a bell.  The fine for theft is a year of jail or $3000 in fines.  The magistrate (bless their heart) was lenient and considerate enough to allow him to serve only four months because he did not have the money for the fines.  There have been many instances of blatant fraud, misuse, misappropriation, and irregularities by the well-connected.  In Belize, you are only labelled a common thief and thrown in prison for any length of time if you are poor, underprivileged or have no connections and cannot afford a learned Attorney-at Law.

The Commission of Inquiry recently sworn in has a Herculean task ahead of it.  According to its Chairman, it is tasked to “identify all sales of government assets between October 2019 through November 2020…to determine if all appropriate rules and practices and procedures were followed.”  However, the mission at hand is so much more than that.  Belize is a country badly mistreated and as such has no more patience and even less confidence in its leaders.  She has, these past thirteen years, been under the stewardship of abusive, cruel leaders who have plundered and pillaged her unrestrained to their heart’s content.  There is a higher purpose for this commission, it is to right the wrongs, to bring equity to the chaos and bias in our society, to allow us as a nation to finally heal.  The Commission of Inquiry must uncover and deliver the culprits to Justice.  Across Belize, the cry can be heard…Lock Them Up!