Will Belize lose the base of the British Army Training Support Unit (BATSUB)? That is the question that is being raised this week amid reports that British billionaire, Michael Ashcroft, who has been in protracted litigation war with the Barrow administration here over a series of contracts and telecommunications investments, has put the question to the UK Parliament this week.
On Tuesday, June 29, 2010, Ashcroft (Conservative), former Belize Ambassador to the United Nations with the bulk of his business interests in Belize, asked Her Majesty’s Government: What are the plans for the military base in Belize; and whether Kenya is being considered as an alternative.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) responded: The Ministry of Defence is facing significant financial pressures and we must, therefore, focus our resources on our key areas. All activities, including our military basing overseas, will be reviewed as part of the ongoing Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Amandala spoke Thursday morning with Major Stephen Swan, a representative for the British Army Training Support Unit (BATSUB) in Belize, who told our newspaper that in about six weeks, the UK Government will begin to look at all overseas bases, including the training bases in Brunei, Kenya, Canada, and Belize. The only military posting that will be exempt from the review, said Swan, is Afghanistan.
Swan said that the base in Belize began as an operational peace-keeping base because of the conflict with Guatemala over Belizean territory. According to the British Army’s website, BATSUB was formally established on 1st Oct, 1994, on the demise of British Forces Belize, to support Land Command exercises.
Swan told us that the last defence review was undertaken a decade ago. It has nothing to do with the change in government in the UK, he told us, adding that the reason is to undertake “cost-cutting measures.”
In May, Prime Minister Dean Barrow spoke with us about concerns over the repercussions of the litigation war for Belize, in light of the fact that Ashcroft’s party rose to power after the recent UK elections. Barrow was optimistic, saying that he doesn’t think they would operate at the level of interfering with Belize’s sovereignty to please an individual.
“I am prepared for whatever...,” said Barrow. “They are not going to bomb us; they are not going to attack us. And so how bad can it be? What are they going to do? Take away their training presence? It would be a serious blow, but it’s something we’d have to deal with.”
Swan told us that the results of the Strategic Defence and Security Review should be out in October.
(News Source: Amandala)