Compol discusses Santa Cruz 13 and lack of village police

 

In Monday’s newscast we reported that the Government of Belize led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl Lynn Vidal, dropped all charges against 13 Mayans, including MLA spokesperson Christina Coc, after one year of dragging them through the courts in Punta Gorda Town. The charges that the DPP were unable to make stick arose from an event one year ago in the village of Santa Cruz, Toledo where Rupert Myles, a Belizean of Creole descent, refused to abide by instructions of the Alcalde as it relates to a structure he built on an Archaeological site. Myles was reportedly “hogtied” and paraded through the village in a manner that the State called “unlawful arrest”. The men were charged with common assault and aggravated assault. Prime Minister Dean Barrow singled out Christina Coc in an interview on June 29th, last year, in which he made his case to the nation stating that “Cristina Coc seems to think that our acceptance of the entitlement of the Mayas in, Toledo, in southern Belize, to some kind of land rights is tantamount to some concession of sovereignty. Some concession that they have rights that supersede the laws of this country.” It is indeed one thing to make a case to the public, but the DPP seemed unable to make the case to the Court on behalf of the said Government, hence the case was dropped. News Five spoke with Coc by phone, breaking her silence on the issue for the first time, and here is what she had to say.

Christiana Cho, Mayan Leaders Alliance

“All along the Mayan Communities have stood behind the Private Sector team to say that there’s no place for them to answer to. This vlcsnap-2016-06-29-16h13m30s360clearly is a situation whereby the community will be politically prosecuted. The crowd was unable to provide any evidence at all to substantiate their claims that they had committed any criminal act. The very charge that was being brought against us was actually a matter of criminal assault that we had to endure. They raided our homes and this situation was orchestrated and it was politically motivated. Clearly, our people have stood together despite all odds. This situation was a situation that shows that this state is willing to divide one group against another and divide a very unified Belize.”

 

. Several days after the arrest of Myles by the villagers under the instruction of the Alcalde, police descended on the village in a predawn raid and arrested the thirteen individuals. A police prosecutor had appeared in court to present the case even before DPP Vidal took up the case. At Monday’s press conference, the Comissioner of Police, Allen Whylie was asked to speak on the case withdrawal.

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“I limit my comment to say that my knowledge on what occurred is what I heard from the media. I limit my knowledge to that. I won’tvlcsnap-2016-06-29-15h32m23s958 second guess the decision made like I said I became aware of it on the media.”

 

But could the Santa Cruz incident be prevented had there been a permanent Police Presence in the village? After all, Alcaldes do have the power to detain and arrest citizens, but by arresting those involved in detaining Myles, the police was sending a different message. Even in the murder of Francisco Ack which PlusNews reported on that took place in San Benito Poite Village, the Police took more than 5 hours to reach the scene of the crime. Commissioner Whylie says Policing villages poses several difficulties.

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“The police did respond the night but it is a remote area and a difficult terrain. Across Belize, as you can see, we have many remote villages and we have substations in some areas. One substation perhaps could be responsible for 10-12 villages. There are areas that we do not have substations and in a lot of those areas when the request for assistance is needed the response will come from the head station. Especially a incident where a man was chopped and died.”

 

We asked Commissioner of Police whether the lack of permanent police presence in many villagers across the country is because of a logisitical, political, or financial decision.

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“I don’t think every country will be able to build a police station and place a police in every village. Some villages sometimes spring up quickly. Their needs to be analysis done in terms of population, crime and the level of reports and those are the kinds of things that we are guided by in terms of when we move and make recommendations for more police stations to be built. I do believe that we are at the stage where the one man structures we build should be a thing of the past. One police officer cannot manage a village. There is also an issue with mobility that also needs to be addressed. So there is a whole number of factors that need to be considered when we make those kinds of recommendations.”

 

We understand that the DPP had commented that the accused men of Santa Cruz would not be dragged again before the court with new charges. In the case of the murder of Assistant Pastor Francisco Ake, we reported earlier in our newscast that two men were today arrested and charged.

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