Learned Attorney and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, says that when Guatemalans took the Belizean Farmer’s tractor by force and took it into Guatemalan territory on May 12, it was for an understandable reason; after all they had a fire to fight and the Belizeans had a tractor to use and so they simply commandeered the tractor and returned it after they finished using it. The way the Minster explained it, one would get the impression that it was a trivial matter; no big deal at all.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: What I was told is that there were fighting fire…fire got away and it was moving from Belize into Guatemalan territory and the Mennonites had equipment to help to stop the fire and was invited by a Guatemalan N.G.O. to assist, to lend them the equipment to assist and they resisted. And the Guatemalan N.G.O. decided to take self-help and took it from them and decided to use it to clear off the area to make sure that the fire would not go any further into Guatemala and when they had finished that, they gave it back to Plett. You know anybody have any idea of forest. Routinely, especially in the early days when I was growing up…you know I am a country boy…so we use to cut fire paths in the early days. When you were going to be burning your plantation or milpa, you cut an area maybe about ten, fifteen feet—clean, clean, clean—so that the fire would not jump from one farm to the next. And apparently that’s what the Guatemalan N.G.O. did; commandeered the heavy equipment, cleared the area so that the fire will not continue to go into Guatemala and gave it back to Plett.
Reporter: Sir, however, our understanding is that Guatemalan military were in fact along with that N.G.O. and we have seen pictures where that is the case
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: That is not the information that came to me really because we were investigating it. As a matter of fact, we had given instructions…we had gotten word that some such thing had happened and we were checking with the police station and different places where we thought there would have been a report. But couldn’t get any report on it. It was days afterwards that we got the version of this is what happened; it was not that anybody was stealing equipment. I think they got back the equipment, but there was fire…fire was getting away and to try to stop the fire, they commandeered it.
Those comments regarding the kidnapping of Belizean farmers and equipment by Guatemalans were made during an extended 45 minute interview with the Minister. Since the incident where Farmer Plett was forced into Guatemalan territory and tied up for the use of his equipment, which was broken in the process, accusations have arisen that the Belizean authorities are making light of the situation. From since Plusnews broke the story of Plett’s abduction by Guatemalans, Plett has complained that his police report was changed by police after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs became involved. Then Plett’s worker was threatened to be charged with a mischievous act, indicating that the incident did not happen as he said. Then, there was the press conference with the CEO in the ministry of National Security and the CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where, again, the validity of the Belizeans’ versions of events were questioned. Now, according to Minister Elrington’s latest statements on the matter, when Guatemalans forcefully took the Belizean and his tractor into Guatemala to allegedly fight a fire, that was not stealing, because he returned it after he had finished using it.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: It wasn’t a case of anything being stolen and taken away.
Reporter: Well it’s like my saying I’m entering your house, I just need to use your computer and some of your jewelry, and then I take it, after I done use it up, the hard drive is broken, the earrings are broke.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Because I was having a disaster and……. You see, it’s a good point that is being raised Jules, particularly now that we have so many disasters. So I think that we have to start to understand that we’re our brother’s keeper in this kind of thing and we can’t get offended by every action that is taken.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: There’s a difference you know. When you take something with the intention permanently to deprive the person therefore, then that’s stealing, but if I just borrow it from you and give it back to prevent my house or my country to be burnt down, I don’t think people…
Reporter: Sir so if Belizeans were to do the same thing in similar circumstances to a bunch of Guatemalans, you know what, we need resources so let’s go over the border, grab some Guatemalans, bring them across, bring their equipment, and then we send them back, you would assume that the counter parts would look at it the same way?
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I won’t speculate because it’s not helpful to speculate, it’s not helpful. I’m just telling you what I was told in this particular incident.
Minister Elrington has become famous for making controversial statements regarding the tensions between Guatemala and Belize.