Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press and thank you for joining us here today at our Party Headquarters.
First I would like to express our sincere condolence to the family, friends and congregation of Mr. Llewylen Lucas, Pastor Lue and to all those families who lost loved ones to violent death these past weeks and months.
We asked you here today because a Belizean, a pastor no less, is dead, butchered in the most horrific and gruesome of ways – his head cut off and put on ice in a bucket.
This severed head was carried around in the pan of a pick-up owned by a man who rubs shoulders with people in the highest of places, from the very corridors of Belizean power.
Now we all know that in our country a person is innocent until proven guilty. But everything I just said has to give us pause. It should shock and jolt each of us.
More than that, from the reactions of Belizeans everywhere, there are too many unanswered questions and Belizeans are demanding not only answers, but JUSTICE, to ensure that an act of this nature never happens in our country again.
This heinous act and those connected to it comes at a time of unprecedented levels of violence in our country. It therefore requires a serious analysis of where we are, and where we are to go from here. And as a responsible opposition we will do our part to insist that no stone is left on turned in this matter.
Our reliable information says that the chief suspect, William Mason, who is also known as Danny and as Ted Ouelette and/or Ramesh Quelette, a Guyanese national, also considered to have Canadian nationality and who for a while lived
in the United States and who is known to be involved in all kinds of unsavory and seedy operations, enjoyed friendships and relationships with the most senior of Cabinet Ministers in our country.
Our reliable reports are that a Mennonite corn farmer was introduced to Mr. Mason by a minister of Government. It is alleged that contracted Mr. Mason to import corn on his behalf – $300,000 worth of corn.
Mr. Mason, however, never delivered the corn, and after multiple queries from the concerned Mennonite businessman, Mr. Mason allegedly kidnapped the man and his wife at gunpoint and demanded more money.
This we are told was reported to the police, yet Mr. Mason was never detained, much less arrested and charged.
When asked at a Ministry of National Security press conference on Monday why Mr. Mason was never arrested, Acting Commissioner Russell Blackett said, Mr. Mason is and I quote, “a very cunning guy. The location that he is located for us to get in and search would have been problematic for us.” End of quote.
But that report was made two months ago.
Last month, Mr. William Mason, who is at various times a pig farmer and corn importer, a chef, a semi-pro sports investor and yes, a political financier, emerged at a National Emergency press conference here in Belize City as one of the Government’s search and rescue experts. He was even interviewed on national television.
So Mr. Blackett is saying they can’t get this man, because reaching him is “problematic,” and while they can’t find him, he is giving interviews on national television. Given all this, we believe that the police have much more explaining to do.
We also believe that had the police acted on the report of Mr. Dodd, the Mennonite corn farmer and arrested Mason, Pastor Lue would probably be alive today.
According to none other than the Minister of National Security, last year around September, the Police provided him with such damaging information on Mr. Mason, that it forced him to sever all ties to Mr. Mason.
Minister Saldivar said that since then he has had absolutely no contact with the accused. Minister Saldivar confessed that Mr. Mason had helped to sponsor his very expensive Belmopan Bandits semi-pro football team but insisted quote, “he has never contributed to my political campaign.” End of quote.
We won’t argue with National Security Minister Saldivar whether financing his semi-pro team isn’t part and parcel of financing his political campaign, but in September of last year, both the Police and Minister Saldivar had an opportunity to bring in Mr. Mason for questioning and possible arrest and expulsion from Belize, and they didn’t. If they had, we submit, Pastor Lucas would probably be alive today.
If indeed Mr. Saldivar severed ties with Mr. Mason last September on the strength and advice of the police that this man, his business associate, at least in the football club, had an unsavoury background then the question is: When and how did Mr. Mason qualify for and receive multiple gun licenses from the Police Department?
If he received them after September of last year, then the Police and the National Security Minister have some serious explaining to do. And if he received the gun licenses before September of last year, then we must ask: Why weren’t those licenses immediately cancelled?
Also, why wasn’t Mr. Mason hauled before the Immigration Department since the internet reports, the same one Mr. Saldivar said he had received, showed Mr. Mason to be actually named Ramesh Quellett and the holder of both Canadian and Guyanese nationalities?
A further investigation would have also revealed that the man was removed from Canada because he was convicted of possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition in August of 2006.
While Minister Saldivar must answer many many questions about how this man was able to get multiple gun licenses, even when a simple Google search turned up so much that brings his character into question, Immigration Minister Godwin Hulse also has a lot more explaining to do.
On Monday Minister Hulse blamed Vital Statistics for the fact that foreigners are able to get bogus certificates and eventually end up with Belizean passports. The question is: what has the Government done to ensure that these perennial violations and acts of corruption are stopped?
If William Mason, a man who is the lead suspect in the cutting off of the head of a Belizean pastor, could get a bogus birth certificate, who is to say whether other dangerous international criminals and terrorists haven’t been able to do the same and eventually get Belizean passports?
We recall the case 4 years ago of Rafik Mohammed Allaboun, who was an alleged Hezbollah affiliate, and who was found in Mexico with a Belize passport he got in 48 hours using the birth paper of a Mennonite, Wilhelm Dyck, who had died 26 years earlier in Shipyard.
How it is that in such a short time and without any questions asked, a foreigner, with such a shady past, that can be found simply by going on to the internet, could have swindled his way right into the circles of some of the most powerful people in our government?
This is a man who was functioning at various times as a National Emergency search and rescue expert. He is corn importer, the Prime Minister referred to him as operating a piggery; he is a semi-pro sports investor, a campaign financier, a tour operator and even world-class chef – posing for photos with the current head of the GSU and a senior public officer and now we know he hosted the Deputy Leader of the UDP and Minister of Education at his home.
Most important however is how all of this connects Mr. Mason to a modest pastor who is also connected to the Minister of National Security? This case screams out for urgent action on many fronts.
From better vetting and scrutiny of those who apply for residence and nationality status to campaign financing laws. It cannot be that any foreign national can enter our country and waltz right into the hands of our most senior Cabinet Ministers.
It would seem that Mr. Mason, Quelette, Ramesh, Ferguson, whatever his name is, provided unlimited financing to well connected people and no doubt expected in return unlimited protection and financial gains.
Everything we know of this sordid affair between William Mason and members of Mr. Barrow’s Cabinet and by extension several police officers, lead us to believe that the Police cannot be expected to properly and exhaustively investigate this case.
We therefore demand that an international impartial investigator be immediately commissioned. We also demand that a fully qualified forensic expert be brought in to gather and analyze the forensic evidence.
All we have seen in the Penner Passport Scandal and the Edmund Castro Visa Scandal has convinced us that an impartial investigation is impossible under the circumstances.
In the case of the Penner Scandal, the Commissioner of Police had to be hauled to the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice had to issue a mandamus order for him to do his job and investigate Penner, a sacked Minister of State.
The Commissioner never did, and we all know the outcome of that case. To date we are yet to hear from the officer who is in charge of the Belmopan command and who was the person who was supposed to be in charge of the case from the onset.
A life has been lost here, in a most gruesome and heinous manner. No loss of life is trivial, but the way Pastor Lucas was viciously murdered and the people connected to this case demands thorough scrutiny of the Police Minister and several senior members of the Police Department.
In light of this, I call on the Prime Minister to urgently remove the Minister of Police from his post. We believe he can no longer be expected to preside impartially and without fear or favour over the Ministry of National Security, plus his record with respect to keeping Belizeans safe is far from outstanding.
While at it, the head of the GSU should be made to stand down, his character is now questionable and also the Minister of Education and Youth by his imprudent association to an international con artist should at the very least be publicly reprimanded.
We call on the PM to immediately reinstate the Crime Control Commission to be chaired by the Chief Justice and include the participation of Civil Society, the Churches and other social partners.
Also, we call for massive investment in programs and infrastructure especially in the south side of Belize City to address the challenges that our youth face every day.
Let us use existing resources like our school campuses to conduct night classes for our at risk youth with courses like music, chess, karate, nail sculpting, hair styling, sewing, sports, painting, arts and so on. This has been tested and proven successful in high crime neighbours in places like Brazil. We must do more to stem the violence that is destroying our youth and our future.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press a man is dead and in the most gruesome and horrific of ways. The people of Belize demand answers.