Earlier in our newscast we told you that the Commander of the Land Forces in Britain would be meeting with Belize’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow. That meeting did occur on Coney Drive this evening and had the presence of several senior officials in the British Forces as well as the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security and the Commander of the Belize Defense Force, Brigadier General David Jones. Following that closed door session, Love News met with the Prime Minister who spoke to us on what this strengthening of relations will do for Belize.
“Well, Renee, there are so many ramifications to this development. First of all and perhaps directly what the BDF is trying to do here is to establish a sort of Regional Training Centre for Excellence, a sort of jungle warefare type training center and what this does is give further impetus to an idea that, in fact, our BDF has been trying to implement for some time now. What General Everard said to me was that it would be lovely for them to collaborate with the other national armies that are passing through, the Dutch, the Norwegians, in particular, and of course you know that for a while now we have been having visits and exchanges with the Americans and with the Canadians.”
Prime Minister went on to speak on the economic benefits and educational opportunities that the revitalization of the exchange with the British Forces will present.
“What this will do as well is to allow our own Belize Defense Force to benefit from the cooperation that will take place not just through the joint training exercises but as a consequence of the general broadening of the relationship between the two militaries. Already we’ve talked about new places for BDF personnel in training facilities in the UK in military schools in the UK. There is also the economic aspect of things, the fact that there will be some increasing additional local employment, the employment of local staff and naturally the spending of money in the economy is always something that we greatly appreciate. All around this is absolutely a good deal and we are extremely pleased indeed. We want to put on record our gratitude to the British military, to the UK Ministry of Defense and to Her Majesty’s Government in general. The benefit that we, as a country and the BDF in particular will derive from the new arrangements is absolutely to be welcomed and appreciated.”
As for what areas will be utilized in training activities with the two military units, Commander David Jones says that areas have been designated already and they will be notifying residents on a needs basis should the training occur in an area of concern. Commander Jones went on to say that they are also discussing the issue where some of the areas used for training are the hotspots for encroachments.
COMMANDER DAVID JONES
“There are particular areas that have been used by British Forces in the past and some of these areas are currently being used by the BDF. The main areas include the Manatee Area, Sibun Gorge, 1963 line. Of course, we want to eventually want to go to Baldy Beacon. The issue at the moment is that there are some of these training areas that there have been some encroachment, those are going to be negotiated with whoever is there so that we are quite sure of the areas that British Forces will have to train. So where there are civilians that have to be encountered, as normal we will give notice by radio and television that the areas are going to be used and we are going to negotiate and discuss it with the land owners and people who are living in the surrounding areas that British Forces will be doing training in the area and just have a discussion with them to be advised that these guys will be there and to ensure that there is no conflict or any adverse situation that will affect the civilians there. In the past it has been a welcomed sight for British Forces to be training in Belize and especially since its going to be done jointly with the Belize Defense Force, it’s good that they will have a local face there to be along with our British counterpart and I suspect everything should go quite smoothly and it should be a welcome sight for local civilians to see British Army back in Belize again.”
Lieutenant General James Everard spoke on why Belize is the chosen location for the training of British Forces.
“I think two points: first of all, all armies have learnt that the world is a difficult place at the moment, that you succeed by working with your friends as part of a growing land power network that you see around the world and when you look to this part of the world our biggest friend is Belize. The only member of the Commonwealth in Central America, a long history of our armies working together and in a jungle training, test young soldiers and officers in way that no other training does. They come here and they leave, better stronger for the experience and I come back to my other point that also both armies emerge better from the experience of working more closely together. I see only positives and no negatives.”
According to the Prime Minister, the arrival of the over one thousand additional British Forces soldiers is expected to begin immediately.