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Compol on Union Protests

Police Commissioner Chester Williams is tip-toeing around the unions to not exacerbate an already tense situation. In yesterday’s showing of the Belize City protest, BNTU’s President Elena Smith told the media that as many as seven hundred members came out to march. Although the unions chose three separate locations, the gathering of more than ten persons went against the heart of the Covid-19 regulations pertaining to social distancing.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “As you would know that the join unions are having their daily activities as a part of their strike action in response to the ten percent wage increase by the government. I must say that as a department we have been very accommodating to the unions and have exercised restraint and for the most part we try as best as we can to use diplomacy to address issues or infractions that we may see occurring particularly in terms of the number of persons who are allowed to assemble at one particular area at any given time. I listened attentively to the interview with the Minister of Health and Wellness when he addressed the issue of the risk associated with these mass gatherings and I have to agree with him and we have since dialogued with the unions and explained to them that there’s a need for them to be more in compliance with the regulation. And I must say that they have tried their best to comply in the sense that it is always observed that whenever these persons are together that they’re all wearing masks, they try as best as they can to exercise social distancing and they also have their sanitizers with them but that is still not sufficient and so we have always asked them to try and reduce the number of persons that are in any particular group.”

Commissioner Williams went on to say that as much as they can do to maintain the peace with the unions they will do so. He admits that it was noted that the numbers were high, but that some latitude was given to the public officers and teachers.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Like I said we try as best as we can at this time to avoid confrontation. We know tensions are high with public officers and we know that the government is doing it’s best to try and resolve the issue and so we don’t want to provoke any situation that may result in these activities becoming more violent or more hostile and so it is with that spirit that we try to exercise restraint and dialogue with these teachers or union members. And yes while the president may have said that there were over seven hundred persons who came in I can say to you that these persons were not congregated in one particular area there were three different locations that they had gone to congregate. I think there was a group in the Yarborough area, there was a group at Memorial Park and there was a group I think at Marion Jones and so they divided themselves into three different groups. 

Renee Trujillo, Love FM News: But isn’t the regulation of maximum ten persons or something of that sort ?

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police:  “Yes that is true and like I said we have discussed the matter with them and we have asked them to try as best as they can to ensure they comply with the regulations and for the most part to practice social distancing. I saw the video footage on the news and to some extent they were distant apart. Yes in certain parts you see where people were a bit closer but you can see where they try to walk that six feet behind each other. It may be as you rightly said a violation of the regulation but we have to also understand that the purpose for which the unions are doing what they’re doing and what they’re trying to achieve and the fact that the government is doing it’s part so we allow to as best as we can to see how we can through dialoguing get the teachers to corporate more and we don’t want to have that level confrontation with them so we’re hoping that at the end of the day cooler heads are going to prevail, this matter is going to be resolved and we can all put it behind us.”