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#453543 - 12/15/12 08:09 AM Opposition Rejects New Crime Measures
Marty Offline
The House of Representatives met today in Belmopan to debate and vote on an entire raft of new legislative measures that were introduced two weeks ago.

Foremost among them were the amendments to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Amendment Bill - which seeks to update to current legislation in a few meaningful ways.

The Prime Minister explained and a quite heated debate got started after that:..

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"The way the law is currently structured the minister needs the concurrence of the Crimes Control Council. Crimes Control Council Mr. Speaker has been defunct for a number of years and so to try to get them together to give the minister that concurrence that he needed proved very difficult indeed. There was a question of whether the members were even still validly in place. What we are doing is to say now that the minister will have to get hence forth the concurrence of the National Security Council of this country. In addition to that we are giving the minister rather more flexibility under this bill to have the declaration lasts for a longer period in each 24 hours."

Hon. Said Musa
"We may be trampling on the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in this country. Under this law Mr. Speaker the security forces can: 1) search any homes, any vehicle, any person without a warrant, seize and take away any vehicle or anything for that matter, any article, arrest any person upon suspicion that is having committed or is about to commit a crime, cordon off these so called special areas that are declared by the minister, preventing persons from moving in or moving out of the area. These are very wide sweeping powers Mr. Speaker giving to the security forces and although the law talks about acting in a manner that is reasonably justified we all know that there are many cases where excessive force is used and abused against citizens."

"Indeed now Mr. Speaker the other proposed amendment is that no longer should it be confined to one square mile, it's unlimited, so tomorrow is the Prime Minister and his colleagues are so mindful they can declare the whole of Belize City a special area. In fact they can go further; they can declare the whole country of Belize a special area - a crime ridden country. This is what they seem to want the power to do now."

Hon. John Saldivar
"Finally I think we are finding some ways of dealing with the crime problem - he says we will never be able to deal with the crime problem. Well since we have implemented the crime ridden strategy - major crime in Belize City has gone down by 38%. That is why we have now taken a second look at the crime ridden area law to see how we can improve on it because we believe we are on to something and we want to improve on it so that we can give the police these powers that we are talking about to make it even better and finally when we find a strategy that can work, here we have the Opposition getting up and opposing something that is working. I guess they want us to be between the rock and a hard place - damn if you do and damn if you don't but we are going to continue doing what we are doing to bring crime down."

After debate, the bill was approved by the House and it now goes to the Senate.

Channel 7

#453552 - 12/15/12 08:41 AM Re: Opposition Rejects New Crime Measures [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Dangerous powers, entire country can be declared crime-ridden

The last sitting of the House of Representatives for this year was convened today.  A number of Bills came up for second and third readings but the most controversial was an amendment to the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act.  Several changes were proposed and passed, which the opposition described as draconian since it moves authority from the Crime Control Council to the National Security Council to designate crime ridden areas across the country.   The law now has no defined parameters and can, in an extreme case, be used to designate the entire country as crime-ridden.  The minister also has been granted sweeping powers to the hours during which a neighborhood can be declared as crime ridden.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The introduction of the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Bill 2012 on November thirtieth, and its subsequent reading in the House of Representatives today, has become one of the most highly debated pieces of proposed legislation to be tabled before parliament this year.  The bill seeks to update and bolster stipulations under which crime-ridden areas are designated.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The main objectives here are to ensure that the delay and near frustration that occurred recently when the Minister of National Security wished to make a declaration that those delays and frustrations not be repeated.  We had difficulty because the way the law is currently structured the minister needs the concurrence of the Crimes Control Council.”


Since that body, according to Prime Minister Barrow, has been obsolete for some time now, government has moved to empower the Minister of National Security with the authority to declare certain areas of Belize City as violent.  The measure, according to the opposition is rather harsh.

Said Musa

Said Musa, Area Representative, Fort George

“The thing that concerns me Mr. Speaker, and I believe many on this side of the House, is that we have become so desperate in the face of the spiraling crime situation in our country that we seem prepared to go to extreme measures with Draconian laws that were never implemented before, from 1994 until now.  But in the execution of such harsh laws we may be trampling on the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in this country. These are very wide, sweeping powers, Mr. Speaker, given to the security forces and although the law talks about acting in a manner that is reasonable, reasonably justified, we all know that there are many cases where excessive force is used and abused against citizens.”

In defending government’s proposal, however, Minister of National Security John Saldivar pointed to what he considers a significant drop in the number of crimes, particularly homicides, that are being committed in these areas.

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“Since we have implemented the crime-ridden strategy, major crimes in Belize City has gone down by thirty-eight percent.  That is why we have now taken a second look at the crime-ridden areas law to see how we can improve on it because we believe we are onto something. Everybody knows that we still have a murder problem in this country.  This year, obviously now, we are surpassing last year’s figures for murder.  That points to other problems other than the police department. In Belize City, we have been successful in the last month and a half and we believe that by the end of this year we will have been able successfully in bringing down the major crime rate in this country and, in no small part, to the fact that we have implemented this new strategy.”

But while that new strategy is lauded, concerns are being raised about the apparent open-endedness of the proposed law.

Said Musa

“Let us assume that they want to declare Belize City a crime-ridden area, not just south side, north side, everywhere crime-ridden, do they have the police, the security forces to cordon off Belize City?  Lock it down as they have been doing with parts of Lake Independence, Mr. Speaker.  And don’t forget that with these new amendments the lockdown will not be confined to three hours, it’s the whole day, eight hours that’s what they want to imprison people in their homes.”


Despite the objections raised during today’s sitting, the government side is expected to give support for passage of the Bill. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The House signed off at about five-forty this evening after it had dealt with a number of other bills including the domestic and financial institution bill, the income tax (avoidance of double taxation) bill and the statistical institute of Belize amendment bill. Two other bills also got the nod from the house; the Trafficking in Persons and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children bills.

Channel 5


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