Late last week Mennonite farmer, Roger Plett was working in the Green Hills area west of Spanish Lookout when he was reportedly taken into Guatemala and tied up by uniformed persons. Plett took his story to the media on Monday after he felt he was not getting the necessary attention from officials. There had been no official response to the incident until this morning when CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Retired Colonel George Lovell and CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Lawrence Sylvester held a press briefing. CEO Lovell said he was informed of the incident on Thursday and he went into action.
“We then immediately consulted with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who then when we have these types of incidents contacted our embassy in Guatemala, also the OAS to try and see if they could look into these issues for us which they did. I immediately also tried to establish if there were anyone on the Guatemalan who could corroborate the story that it was in fact a military organization who had intercepted and held Roger Plett and Mr.Ayala. I was given word that the military had no patrol in that area but we still continue to look into these kinds of information and answers that we receive from our sources. I was pleased when I learnt from the OAS also that the individuals who were held and their equipment were also released that evening and so I didn’t see it much as an issue thereafter. My only concern was the fact that Mr.Ayala who was still over there reportedly helping the Guatemalans to contain the fire was over there on his own accord but my concern was that Roger had reported to me that Guatemalans were in fact recording, they had video records of the incident and my fear was that they would have used that to prove that these individuals were in fact working on the Guatemalan side and so I had concerns from that standpoint. I can tell you that as I speak my police officers and this is what I have done subsequent to establishing that Mr.Ayala was in fact safe in Belize they did a detailed investigation, an investigation that is still on going and I had asked that they go on the ground along with Roger and Mr.Ayala and try to walk over the ground and confirm what happened and where it had occurred. I was told that that was done on the 13th the day after the incident and that the police as a result of that encounter and those interviews that they had with Roger and Mr.Ayala decided that they were going to do further investigation which is still ongoing.”
And while CEO Lovell said police had been on the ground, Plett has disputed that, as he told the media that the Police refused to go to the area where the incident occurred citing the sensitivity of the situation. CEO Lovell has committed to investigate the allegation as he said he was assured that the team would be taken to the area.
“The government of Belize yesterday requested of the office of the OAS in the adjacency zone a formal verification into the incident reported by the Pletts which allegedly occurred in the Green Hill area of the Yalbac Cayo district. We are aware, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of an ongoing police investigation into the matter and we await the outcome and the findings of both parallel processes. The next action, what appropriate action the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the government of Belize will do will be dependent on the findings to be reported by the OAS and the police.”
For his part, CEO Sylvester said they are awaiting the findings of the investigations before deciding on the next course of action.
“I found that the individuals were rather elusive in making themselves available for this debriefing and it wasn’t until about clost of normal business on Friday that some kind of statement that they made themselves available at the San Ignacio Police Station. Ambassador Guerra would have been there to listen in, and I understand that an official from the OAS was there to listen. So as far as we were concerned the necessary processes to ascertain the facts were being put in place albeit the unusual delay from the Mennonite and the worker making themselves available were in reporting it to the police. There are police in Spanish Lookout, there are police in Georgeville, there are police in San Ignacio and we wanted to do that debriefing and in summary I await the outcome of the police investigation and the results of the verification exercise that we have requested to then determine what will be the next appropriate step.”
CEO Sylvester said he had asked for a prompt debriefing on the incident however according to him the men did not comply with the request in a timely manner.
“When Mr.Plett spoke to me and we concluded our conversation I said to him “are you prepared to take a team into the area and show them precisely where this occurred?” and he said yes. I asked him he could do that the very next day and he said yes so for all intents and purposes I thought that he was going to go into the closest police station. What we had tried to arrange, what I was trying to arrange was for us to do that debriefing that Mr.Guerra was tasked to do which was all arranged so that was one; Mr.Pletts had given me the assurance that he was quite ready to take the Belize team in there and to show them what happened and where it occurred. So for us then to reach a point where I am now understanding that that was not done , for me this is one of the first things that we need to do and we need to do this because it is the official investigating team’s report that this Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to go by.”
There was no time line given for the conclusion of either of the investigations into the incident.