October 12th, 2012.
Hon. Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Canada; Mr. Hugues Rousseau, Canadian High Commissioner and other members of the Canadian Delegation; Carlos Perodomo, Cabinet Secretary; Colonel George Lovell, CEO Ministry of National Security and other members of the Ministry of National Security; Alexis Rosado, CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Patrick Andrews, Honorary Canadian Consul; we are also blessed with the presence of Mr. Douglas Singh, previous Minister with the responsibility for the Ministry of Police and Public Safety; Mrs. Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecution; Ms. Ann-Marie Smith, Chief Magistrate; Mr. David Henderson, Commissioner of Police and other members of the Police Department; Brigadier General Dario Tapia, Commander BDF and other members of the BDF; Captain John Borland, Commandant Belize Coast Guard; Ms. Genoveva Marin and members of the National Forensic Science Service; Members of the various media houses represented here today; other distinguished guests; Ladies and Gentlemen; a good morning to one and all.
I feel extremely privileged to have been afforded this opportunity of addressing this most captive audience – and one capable of influencing positive change in our fight against crime and violence here in Belize; I am encouraged by your presence here this morning; this certainly gives me the assurance that, as stakeholders, we are all committed to create a safe and secure environment where our citizens and visitors can live in peace with itself.
I wish to welcome the Hon. Minister and her team to Belize. My understanding is that the programme of events included a fly over in a helicopter along the Belize-Guatemala border accompanied by the Vice Minister of Guatemala and CEO in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An official visit to the border (adjacency zone) is also scheduled in the programme of events. I also note that Minister Ablonczy is the head of the Consular programme for the Canadian Government, and as such, she will be visiting the Mennonite Community in Spanish Lookout. I am hopeful that your stay in Belize will help to further the excellent bilateral relations that both our Governments shared since the establishment of diplomatic relations in November 1981.
It is pleasing to note that the foundation is well on its way to be set for integrated planning in citizen security issues. Following the Donor Coordination Group meeting on Citizen Security with key CEOs of the Government, on the 23rd August, 2012, where Belize’s National Strategic Plans were discussed, a commitment was made for the development of a road map, which will chart the path for a more synchronized approach to the wider donor contribution effort. We have also been actively engaging our friendly Governments; dialogue with the British, Canadians, Mexicans and the US Governments and others continue to result in major capacity building efforts.
In April 2012, through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Programme, Canada donated this Integrated Ballistic Identification System, TRAX – 3D, which is valued over $2 million, and is said to be the most advanced ballistic imaging solution in the world today.
This will now significantly increase the ability of our law enforcement agencies to make ballistic matches across crime scenes and jurisdictions. We are hoping that in a very short time, this equipment will assist in our investigating effort of the numerous crimes involving guns and the arrest of gun crime offenders.
Hon. Minister of State, distinguished guest, it is important to underscore the fact that this IBIS system was delivered to us in less than six months from the time a commitment was made by the Canadian Government. Those of us who know how difficult it is to navigate through the red tape and bureaucracy for donor countries to provide this type of assistance, in such a short time frame, will understand how unprecedented this is. The Government of Belize, and in particular the Ministry of National Security, is extremely thankful to the Government of Canada for this most needed and expeditious contribution. You demonstrated that, not only you are a true partner in the fight against national and transnational crime, but you are serious about playing your part.
Belize is partnering with a similar project being executed in Barbados. Barbados has agreed to share a server with Belize and Belize has agreed to meet the cost of maintenance of the server jointly with Barbados. Canada has also agreed to sponsor training for one individual at the Forensic Lab in the area of Serology, which is the scientific study of blood serum and other body fluids. The training will be conducted in Canada for three months at a cost $18,000 Canadian Dollars.
Moving forward, a recruit squad for the Police Department and one for the BDF will be added to their strength. The BDF and the BNCG will be strengthened to provide better security coverage along our borders and at sea. The K-9 Unit is being fully utilized to support the crime fighting effort. The CIMS will be rolled out countrywide. Resource packages, similar to those given to Eastern Division, will be extended to the Districts, especially Cayo and Stann Creek, in a proportionate manner. Mobile interdiction teams will be stood up. Legislation to limit the bail of repeat offenders and implement a sex offenders’ registry and monitoring system, along with efforts to increase the rate of convictions of criminals will be pursued. Efforts will be made to strengthen the Police’s Prosecution Branch and institute greater coordination between the Police and the Office of the Director of the Public Prosecution. We will ensure more effectiveness in the investigation and preparation of cases for prosecution and ensure, together with the Magistracy and Judiciary, the proper enforcement of the laws governing denial of bail in cases of sexual and other serious offences; also, a procedure to deal disciplinary with corrupt officers in an expeditious manner will be pursued.
Our Intelligence Architecture will be revamped into a Fusion Center that will host a new Counter Intelligence Unit, and the proposed National Crime and Violence Trends Observatory (which would endeavor to conduct more in-depth analysis and primary research projects on crime and violence trends across the country). The Fusion Center would also serve as the Government of Belize’s International Liaison with international and regional partners such as INTERPOL, the Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre (RIFC) in Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. Finally, the Fusion Center will facilitate the I-Trace software and conduct tracing services for all weapons and ammunition recovered by any and all national security agencies.
There is a whole lot we have planned on doing, but, in times of shrinking economies and limited resources it is a challenge for our Government to provide needed resources, in the quantity and in all the areas we would like to. Therefore, we must be strategic and real in our approach in addressing our many issues. We ask for patience as we seek to achieve these planned objects.
We now have the most advance ballistic imaging solution added to our inventory; I want to ask the staff of the Forensic Service to please look after it well so that it will service us for a long time to come. We are depending on you to do so.
In ending, I wish to thank the Government of Canada for their kind contribution.
Also, I wish to take this opportunity to join the Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon. Dean Barrow, in offering my congratulations and thanks to the thousands of Belizeans from the Cayo District and across the country who participated in the San Ignacio/Santa Elena peaceful protest against crime on Thursday. Please be assured that the war on crime will not slacken but be heightened by increased human and material resource allocation.
I thank you for the role you have played in this effort and for your attention.