On Thursday, PLUSNEWS broke the story to the nation at the Prime Minister’s press Conference that a SATIIM trip to the Sarstoon was blocked by the Belize Defense Force. While the Prime Minister had belabored the point at a previous Press conference, that only those with a political agenda would be prohibited from using the recently passed SI, no one anticipated that the prohibition included rangers from the conservation N.G.O. Here are his comments after PlusNews raised the matter.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: The rational is simple. There is the regulation in force which prohibits civilians from going to the Sarstoon without lawful authority, presumably if the SATIIM people were denied access to the Sarstoon by the BDF, it is because they did not, in the context of the regulation have the lawful permission. I won’t get into any argument with you. You’re perfectly correct that I did say that the preoccupation concern is whit those that would want to go into the Sarstoon to make some sort of a political statement. I am telling you that SATIIM, if they were not allowed to go to the Sarstoon, would have been stopped on the basis that they didn’t have the lawful permission. I don’t know of SATIIM having applied to anyone for the lawful permission. I certainly wouldn’t expect that any group would attempt to go without beforehand seeking that lawful permission.
SATIIM, however, has made a quick response to the Prime Minister’s explanation. The NGO says that, contrary to what Prime Minister Dean Barrow said at the recent press conference, they did submit a letter to Mr. George Lovell, CEO in the Ministry of National Security . They forwarded that letter to us and we read
“SATIIM’s patrol team will conduct its monthly patrol within the Sarstoon Temash National Park on May 4th to 7th, 2016. This patrol is deemed necessary because of the increase of this illegal rosewood, Santa Maria and Yemeri logging inside of the park especially from within the Black Creek area “
The letter names those who would have been on the trip and gave a day by day breakdown of where they would be visiting and what they would be doing; adding in bold,
” The second day of patrol is the Black Creek area on Thursday, May 5, 2016 which means that patrol will be travelling up the Sarstoon River.”
The letter ended by asking for any protocols that SATIIM needed to abide by. On Monday we asked BNTU President Luke Palacio, as they are currently asking for the retraction of the Sarstoon SI, to comment on its use against SATIIM. Here is his response on the issue.
Luke Palacio, BNTU President: For myself, not necessarily for BNTU because I watched the Press Conference and I was in fact surprised yes that SATIIM would have been blocked because you will recall that after this SI was passed, the Prime Minister said that certain persons would have legitimate interest and reasons would be allowed to go, so indeed it came as a surprise. But we also need to bear in mind that SATIIM and the government are not best of allies so it could have been in their best interest to block them. Probably they thought that SATIIM wanted to make a point too and decided that is how they would go. But basically SATIIM was given the management of that National Park, but for those of you in the media I think that a couple of years ago there was an issues, whether that co-management was reside or not, I don’t know this time.
Reporter: So you’re alluding that the government could have used the SI to block SATIIM for its own personal issues that it had with SATIIM separate from Sarstoon.
Luke Palacio, BNTU President: That’s my personal view, not the union’s view, being familiar with the situation okay.
As we reported earlier, the BNTU intends to stage a rally on Friday to demand that Government rescinds the Statutory Instrument passed on April 29, some eleven days ago.