Within the last twenty-four hours, thirty-six employees at the Port of Belize Limited were terminated; Police officers responded aggressively to a peaceful protest at the port using tear gas and rubber bullets; the Police Commissioner has gone public to relieve himself of any responsibility in the aggression by the GSU and other police elements and the Supreme Court has heard arguments from the Government and the Port of Belize regarding an injunction application to stop the termination of the PBL employees. It has been quite an unfolding of events and with the dust somewhat settled, an investigation within the Belize Police Department has begun and according to the Minister of National Security, Michael Peyrefitte, someone’s head will roll for going against a direct order.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “It’s not justified and there’s no reconciling of it. It makes no sense that the government would apply for an injunction on behalf of the Labour Department that would clearly also benefit the stevedores, then we go the next day and rough up the stevedores. The instructions to the Commissioner of Police were clear. Those people, as long as they are being peaceful are allowed to remain on that compound to at least 2 o’clock, until we hear the ruling of the court. My instructions to the Commissioner was clear. I am sure that his instructions to his commander was also clear. Because there was a three way phone call where I had myself, the Commissioner and the Commander for that Division and the instructions were clear that those persons were to remain there until at the very least the court had ruled. Somebody, some police officer or police officers decided upon themselves obviously to ignore those instructions and that is why currently we have told the head of the Union go to the police station, make a report, those police officers will be charged after they have been arrested because they ignored a direct order and some direct instructions from their commissioner and their commander. An investigation will be done and somebody will be made to pay. At least one person will be made to pay when it comes to that incident because the instructions were absolutely clear. Leave those people on the compound until the court has ruled. Whoever read that Riot Act was reading it not on behalf of the state but on behalf of themselves and we will do an investigation we have already started that investigation and like I said there will be hell to pay because under no sky and in no world would I send the police department to rough up and arrest stevedores on behalf of the vampire Michael Ashcroft and his Belizean minions – that would never happen in a million years.”
Reporter: But it happened.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Ministry of National Security: “But it happened and so somebody will feel the wrath of the government within the police department I can assure you of that.”
Reports coming out of the Belize Police Department are that Assistant Commissioner of Police Alden Dawson may have been the senior cop who gave the orders of aggression at the Port of Belize yesterday. There is an internal investigation currently underway but reliable information indicates that ACP Dawson made an executive decision when he allegedly saw the need for it during yesterday’s protest. Love News understands that while any extreme forms of discipline against ACP Dawson would have to go before the Security Services Commission there are measures within the authority of the Police Commissioner that could be taken. Meanwhile, reports of transfers of officers from the Gang Suppression Unit as well as the removal of its commander are merely rumors up to news time tonight. We will keep following this story.
A release from the Port of Belize Limited yesterday evening indicated that the termination of the thirty-six employees was necessary and regrettable. Their statement noted, quote, “action by PBL comes months after a majority of Belizean companies were required by the pandemic to effect furloughs, layoffs, or drastic salary reductions….After witnessing a 94% reduction in cruise vessel-related revenue and a 26% reduction in cargo-related revenue over the period of April through June, PBL took responsible austerity actions”. End of quote. While the Government is taking austerity measures and multiple companies and organizations have been forced to cut expenses, the Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, says he doesn’t accept that Port of Belize Limited is one of the entities that need to be making cuts.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security: “From the first state of emergency one of the few businesses that were allowed to open twenty four hours was the Port of Belize for cargo coming in and out of the country and the thing with COVID-19 is that yes people were not working as much, people were no in the streets as much but more than ever people were consuming more than ever. So what happens is that they had an increase in their business and this is one of the issues that the stevedores had, if you’re saying that you’re in such financial constraints then show us the figures, who us the figures that tell us how badly you are doing and by refusing to do that and by displaying bad faith we felt that they just wanted to punish these people because they feel that they have the right to stand up and speak for their rights. We had to side with the stevedores.”
The Attorney General filed an injunction in the Supreme Court to stop the Port of Belize Limited from terminating the employees. The court will issue a decision tomorrow morning after hearing arguments yesterday. According to the Attorney for the Port of Belize Limited, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith he is satisfied that the Port had notified the Labour Department of their intentions.