Belize seems to be reeling from one embarrassment to another. The Dominican media houses are having a field day with Belize over the detention of that country’s Prime Minister by the Belize Coast Guard. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit gave a pleasant address at Belize’s Independence Day official Ceremonies on Saturday, praising and congratulating the country on its 32nd Anniversary. But just a few hours after that speech, PM Skerrit was in San Pedro and was taken by boat to see the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. The entourage, which apparently did not include any high ranking recognizable Belizean escort, was supposed to have been trailed by the Coast Guard for security purposes. But, the coast Guard vessel was evidently operating on “Belizean time,” an old saying implying Belizeans are always late. When the coast guard did not show up on time, the trip went ahead as planned. On their way back, the vessel Roosevelt Skerrit was in was stopped by the coast guard and the boat was detained by tying it to the coast guard boat. The Belizean escorts informed the Coast Guard that the Prime Minister of Dominica was on board the boat but a Coast Guard officer gave no acknowledgement only asking, “Who is the prime minister?” It is reported that Mr Skerrit responded, “I am” but was ignored by the officer. A call had to be made to the Tourism Minister’s secretary who finally got the Coast Guard officer to stand down and let Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his entourage through. It has been reported that after the embarrassing incident, PM Skerrit retired to Victoria House on the Island and did not attend any events that were planned for him that evening. The Dominican Prime Minister left the country of Belize on Sunday. On Wednesday, Minister of National Security, the Hon. John Saldivar, noted that that Coast Guard Officer has been punished. He further expressed his view of the event.
Hon. John Saldivar- Minister of National Security
“First of all, I think it’s a gross exaggeration to say that the Prime Minister was detained. His vessel was boarded by the Coast Guard and the conduct of the officer was unbecoming. The matter has been dealt with and the Coast Guard Officer has been reprimanded and we apologize profusely and we’ll send a communication to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for onward transmission to the Prime Minister, our deepest apologies for what occurred but it was just a gross and inappropriate behavior, rude and obnoxious behavior by one member of the coast guard which doesn’t at all, reflect on the general membership of the Coast Guard. I do believe and I repeat that the officer was obnoxious to all on board on the vessel, and for that he have been punished”.
The Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Ogaldez exhibited poor behavior this past Saturday aboard a VIP vessel carrying Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt, who was visiting Belize as a guest of Prime Minister Dean Barrow for Independence Day ceremonies. After some glowing compliments paid at the ceremonies in Belmopan Prime Minister Skerritt was taken to San Pedro and toured the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley, escorted by a representative of the Belize Tourism Board, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a police escort from Special Branch and his own security. The Coast Guard should have come along too but unfortunately their nearest vessel got the call 15 minutes after the vessel had departed and did not catch up to them until they were nearly back to Ambergris Caye. It all fell apart from there as Commandant of the BNCG, Rear Admiral John Borland explains.
Mr. John Borland- Rear Admiral of the Belize Coast Guard
“I think what went wrong was perhaps the approach of the vessel Commanderas we reported, Petty officer Ugaldez. And I think he erred in his judgement, because when he got to the point of stopping the vessel and fired, finding whether or not it was the vessel where the Prime Minister was on board, that was okay. But once that was verified, he should have had more respect to compliment the Prime Minister for visiting us here, being our guest right here in our country and to pay respect in due course in time the deployed, us here. Instead, he tried to get the particulars of the vessel, the particulars of those people on board, stating that he did this because he wanted to be included in his particular report back to his commander. So, I think that was poor judgement on his behalf, knowing the person of such rank and status and position in authority. The best he could have done was to apologize for stopping the vessel and then carry on with his duties of escorting the vessel or even his duties to regulate”.
Officer Ogaldez faced disciplinary internal action. We understand that he has been demoted to Seaman. Some Dominican Republics were not too pleased with the incident and posted some comments on the Dominican news article and this is what they had to say. “They most likely won’t apologize because there is nothing a country like Dominica can do for Belize, if they do it’s out of pity more than anything.” While another person said “Everything about the operations of this little country is amateur, not a bad thing except that there is little interest in making things better here at home. We are amused and entertained by amateur and unprofessional ism and extremely tolerant of corruptions and thievery. Not until we as a people suffer extreme pain, will we wake up and demand a stop to this nonsense.”