Earlier today we caught up with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General Wilfred Elrington. Minister Elriington said he is not of the view that the situation was racial discrimination but rather a practice by neighbouring Mayan communities.
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“You would have seen my position in relation to Guatemala because it has come to my knowledge for some months now, if not years now, that Guatemala is experiencing this problem. It has nothing to do with race, it has nothing to do with color. Because of an absence of strong institutions in Guatemala, the Indian communities there have been carrying out summary justice in villages that are far away from the cities and they have been known to in fact apprehend people who they allege to have committed crimes of stealing and other things like that an actually execute them. This is done in the rural area of Guatemala and it’s being done more often than we like to think is happening and the administration is finding it difficult to contain the situation. So it’s a dangerous development and while it is happening in Guatemala and while the government has limited capacity to deal with it, we in Belize certainly cannot countenance that kind of behavior. We have law and order if in fact there is a violation of the law by anybody, you go to the police station or you go to the courts; you don’t take the law in your own hands and so it is my view that we must have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior. I generally believe that we must have zero tolerance for all types of infringements of the law that is my own view but certainly we cannot countenance that. I can recall that a year or two ago the home of some white people, some Americans, were burnt but worse than that I think even before that there is a man Johnson who was supposed to have been killed, allegedly by Mayans on the basis that he was living in the Mayan village and should not have been there. I think that’s my recollection of it so this is a very serious development and its matter that we must deal with soberly but seriously it is not a matter of joke its serious matter because if you allow this to develop and grow it is going to get out of hand and we will have a real problem in the society. So let me repeat, I don’t think it has anything to do with racism, it’s a practice that the Mayans are known to conduct in their own in Guatemala it is not unusual in Guatemala and I don’t know about the situation in Mexico but I know the situation is in Guatemala and I have made mention of it before to my government and my cabinet so it’s not something that has some new to me. It’s something that is very worrying and I think it is incumbent upon our security forces to take immediate and proper steps to arrest it before it gets out of hand.
Elrington said it is important that Belizeans become more aware of what is happening within and outside the country. He said the role of the media is crucial in that regard.
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“This is one country. All of us as far as I am aware are entitled to go to any part of the country we want to go to and to reside in any part. This is not two separate countries. The Mayans don’t have a kingdom, a country of their own, they live in Belize. The same Belize you live in and the same Belize I live in and in like manner in which they can travel and live in any part of this country we, the other members of society can live and travel in any part of the country. Are there Mayans who are in fact holding a different view, that is very possible. That view of course would have been arrived at through ignorance in the same way in which people were not understanding of my expression of the words ‘artificial border’ well this is the same kind of thing that is happening and as I said to you the last time we spoke, it is incumbent upon the media as the fourth arm of government to help in explaining this message because if our people genuinely don’t understand, they will act under the misguided notion that what they are doing is right and that is going to hurt everybody in the final analysis so its matter that we must all come together. It’s one small country and we can’t afford a fracture so we must come together and work together with them not in hostility, not in animosity but with tolerance and understanding so that our people can know what is in fact the truth. The tragedy with Belize is that for far too long we have been kept uninformed and when we do hear people on the radio and the television they seem to specialize in misinforming the country for some perverse reason or the other. I like to think that the belief to the perverse belongs to the perverse academy but when I say that they get vexed with me but we have got to do something about it because unless we get smart fast all of us will lose. We have to take a quantum leap in knowledge we have to know more about our domestic situation and about the foreign situation.”