News broke at the last meeting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday September 30th , that a Coast Guard Security outpost is being built on Hunter Caye. This is all fine and dandy, however it is being built exclusively by Guatemalan’s with Guatemalan workers. On Wednesday it was addressed at the Senate, and also later by the Minister of National Security John Saldivar, who had previously stated at the House of Representatives last week that quote, “the question has to be whether we would look a gift horse in the mouth and give up a much needed forward operating base.”
Here is what the Senators had to say
“Mister President, not only in the name of National Security, not only should we look the gift horse, but it is not every gift horse that you should try to ride, because one of these days you will find out that your gift horse is in fact a Trojan horse, and we have to, as responsible representatives of the people, we have to say this.”
“The Department is swamped with requests for work permits from all sorts of people from across the border, not only Guatemala. We have stringently put in place requirements that you must find a Belizean, and if you can’t find a Belizean, only then do we begin to consider.
In the case of the party, I can assure the Senate that at the next Senate Meeting I’ll report the status, because immediately on my being informed we instructed the CEO and the Director of Immigration and Labour to dispatch a team to look into the situation there.
I can’t speak out of hand on what I don’t know. So, I am not yet able to report to this Honourable Senate, but there’s a clear position that nobody, notwithstanding whatever reason, will work in this country without the proper documentation, or will enter this country to work who are illegal. It’s not going to happen.
And that applies to people from the EU, when they have contracts, the US, whenever. So I was shocked when I understood that this was some company who had hired these people and brought their workers. It does not happen in this country, not under my watch.”
Let me make it categorically clear, the contract is one thing but who you employee is another. Nobody can work in Belize, who’s not a Belizean without a work permit. That’s the law and we’re going to up hold it. and nobody can enter Belize without a proper immigration status. That’s the law and we’re going to uphold it, no matter who gave contract, and from whom is paying and that’s the position.
But before we can make a final statement, we have to know what their status is, what they’re doing here and how, and that sort of things.”
Of course, we all should have known. It’s one government, so whatever happens we all should know. There is no excuse for that, or no reason why we didn’t know. As quickly as we found out, we dispatched a team to do our work and we will report to the media as soon as we are completed with that.”
We spoke to Minister John Saldivar on Wednesday, who told us that as far as he knows everyone working at the site met the proper requirements.
““I don’t believe that anyone in the security apparatus would have allowed for this to happen, if they felt our national security was threatened by the fact that the Guatemalan company was doing the construction. We understand the sentiment of our Belizean people and the matter have been reviewed. We have already been in communication with US Embassy with respect to some flexibility in their procurement guidelines.”
“What will happen at this time with this Guatemalan contractor at the forward operating base, will he continue?”
Hon. John Saldivar
“At this point, no decision has been made to discontinue.”
“Sir, did you know about it?”
Hon. John Saldivar
“Yes I did.”
“Sir, at the National Assembly, it was made known that the Prime Minister did not know about it. Today we spoke to Minister Hulse, he did not know anything about it, until it was mentioned at the National Assembly. Why did they not know anything about it? And why were you the only person that knew about it? Shouldn’t there be a direct line of communication between you guys?”
Hon. John Saldivar
“I imagined at this point we are reviewing our procedures, with respect to what people need to know and don’t need to know. That needs to be reviewed, and it is obvious now that the matter is a very sensitive one for the Belizean people, so we will make the necessary changes to our policies.”