14 projects for the Belize Coast Guard, including 9 Forward Operating Bases, are slated for completion before the year 2019. Two of those, the Calabash Caye FOB and the San Pedro FOB have since been completed.
It must be noted that the Calabash Caye base was built by a Belizean contractor in 2009; on the other hand, in 2013 BINARQ, the same Guatemalan company contracted to build the base at Hunting Caye, built the base in San Pedro. But unlike the San Pedro Forward Operating Base where Belizean labourers were being employed, the one at Hunting Caye was being built exclusively by Guatemalans.
This has become sore point for Belizeans, especially after the death of Special Constable Danny Conorquie at the hands of Gautemalan Citizens.
On Thursday October 9th., the Ministry of National Security sent out a press release informing the public that work at Hunting Caye Base had been asked to cease, until a decision with all parties had been reached.
On Tuesday at the Belize Coast Guard Headquarters in Belize City, Admiral John Borland, Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, hosted the media to a press briefing to discuss the way forward in this matter.
“The Stop Order issued by the US Southern Command Armed Corp of Engineers is in effect, and will remain that way until we can agree of the way forward, where [the] following conditions will be met:
No future contracts will be awarded to Guatemalan companies or contractors. No foreign labour will be allowed to work on Government Of Belize projects without the requisite security clearances and work permits. All foreign workers will enter Belize legally and documented for accountability and immigration purposes. All contracts will employ Belizean workers in accordance with the Labour Laws and directives of the Labour Commissioner. The Ministry of National Security will receive copies of all future contracts to Belizean or foreign contractors. The Ministry of National Security will maintain oversight of all projects and workers, to ensure compliance with security and accountability arrangements. All projects will continue to be in accordance with the Ministry of Works, Central Building Authority, and the Department of Environment Regulations.
As of last Friday, we have met with our US counterparts to discuss the way forward, and requested that the remainder of the project, which is about 75% completed, be subcontracted to Belizean personnel.
The company had agreed, but the final decision lies with the Army Corp of Engineers, based on what funds are still available for the project.”
BINARQ will now have to find a contractor that will then employ Belizean workers to complete the project, which is about 75% complete.
According to John Borland, it should take about 4 months to completion.
The issue of National Security was raised in the press briefing. If you can recall on Thursday October 19th, the Minister of National Security had gone on record to say no one in the Security “Operatus” would have allowed for the base to be built by Guatemalans, if they felt it threatened our National Security.
On Tuesday, Admiral Borlard explained why they did not see it as a threat considering that the country of Guatemala has a territorial claim on Belize.
Rear Admiral John Borland
“For it to constitute a national security threat it would have to come from the state, because it is the state that claims Belize. It is not a private company that does international work that is vetted to the highest level by US Southern Command Army Corp of Engineers. They themselves are a private entity. They work all over the world. They do not work on behalf of the state or military of Guatemala, or is in any way connected with any subversive elements that would try to jeopardize its territorial integrity or sovereignty or national security of this state, and it was on those grounds, on those basis, that we did our assessment.
I went through the stages that we conducted the assessment, and at the end of the day it did not constitute a threat to National Security.
When the contracts were awarded to the Belizean contractors, we thought that was great, but we did not have a hand into how the other contracts would be awarded. It was something that we, as a notion state, agreed to [in] 2007.”
John Borland says that when the contract was awarded in 2007, the tensions between Belize and Guatemalan were different that they are today. It happened during a period when both countries were working on confidence building measures.