Even In Face Of Gang Warfare
For the past few weeks, we've been reporting on the situation with the Gang Truce work programme. In spite of a massive outbreak of gang violence, it continues to pay gang affiliated males to work four days a week, on the understanding that once they get paid, they'll have no good reason to be causing trouble on the streets.
Today we asked the Prime Minister why the programme continues, even as it appears that it is not working:
"The gang truce - the program - I just heard the OCED explain to us that there is more or less full out gang warfare. So obviously the truce remains only a tissue of a fantasy. However, the program remains that people are being paid. Will this be continued, and if so, to what end?"
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Yes man, and you see again, this business of setting up a premise from which then all the criticisms and the emotive, colorful and very expressive language - I must commend you - from which that follows is not fair. To say that the gang truce is only now the tissue of a fantasy is a very nice sound byte, but it is absolutely inaccurate. A lot of what is happening is being caused by people who were never in the gang truce. The gang truce never pretended to encompass every last single individual who is in criminal gang activity, and that was clear from the beginning. A number of gangs weren't included in the truce, and a number of members that were included in the truce always refused to participate. Current position, there are still some gang members that are working with the truce, and that are behaving themselves. Long story short, those that prove - demonstrate - that they are prepared to work walk the straight and narrow, will continue to be employed for so long as they keep the peace, in so far as we can determine that. And the others, some of whom have always been outside the truce; some of whom have been in the truce but have now left - will simply have to be dealt with by the security forces."
And today, the Prime Minister also discussed the latest Supreme Court judgment on Telemedia. As we told you, it confused even the best attorneys in Belize - but the Prime Minister today said that one thing it does do is clarify who should retain possession and ownership of the phone company...
Prime Minister Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"I agree with you, Jose, in that the judgment left a lot of questions unanswered, but the central issue - the core issue - as to ownership of BTL - and by extension - BEL is not any longer in any doubt. The Government and people own those utilities. While there was a pronouncement against the specific assumption of control order made by the Minister. No relief was given, in fact, the judge specifically and expressly refused any of the relief that the previous owners sought. In my view, that then is checkmate. I don't see that we need to go back to the House to fix anything, but don't hold me to that. I will, of course, have to get the considered opinion of the lawyers, and if it turns out that to make assurances doubly sure, we should go back to the House, we will. If the judge had found that we didn't own the thing, we would have gone back to the House to re-acquire it. We will never ever let go of the ownership of those utilities in the Government and people of Belize."