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The allegation of two Belizean Mennonites who claim they were captured and held hostage by Guatemalan military for hours has been widely covered by local media since its occurrence on Thursday May 12th. Although both men have given their account of the occurrence and the People’s United Party has called for a proper investigation into the allegation, the Government of Belize had not made any official statement on the matter. But that changed today…..six days after the incident alleged transpired….when CEOs in the Ministries of National Security and Foreign Affairs George Lovell and Lawrence Sylvester, held a joint press briefing the media on the incident in Belmopan. After the conclusion of the press conference, there was still a lot of confusion about what exactly happened, especially on the police side of things but what could be concluded was that at least one of the CEOs did not believe the Mennonite’s report. CEO Lovell shared some of the actions that were taken immediately after getting word of the alleged detention.

Screen_Shot_2016-05-18_at_8.20.55_PMGeorge Lovell - CEO in Ministry of National Security

“I immediately also tried to established if there were anyone on the Guatemalan side who could collaborate with the story that it was in fact a military organization who had 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 received 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 of an issue thereafter my only concern was the fact that Mr. Ayala who was still over there reportedly helped the Guatemalans to contain the fire and was over there on his own accord.”

The first information about the release of Roger Plett was received at around 5:30p.m on Thursday. But the question on everyone’s mind was how did the OAS establish the information of their release so quickly when the incident happened in a forested area? Did they go out to verify? That question was posed to the CEOs and here is there response.

George Lovell - CEO in Ministry of National Security

“It was less than an hour after the incident that and I could remember clearly Mike because you’ve have said about Mr. Ayala, he was the one who escaped initially and made the call according to the understanding I got, he made the call to George Plett then he called Colin Young who immediately called me and when he called me and explained what has happened he said there are two others that are over on the other side which includes his son we were constantly in communication immediately I called Foreign Affairs so you are talking about a matter probably couldn’t have been more than ten to fifteen minutes because of the conversation, he then I believe he can speak to what he has done then probably got the OAS involved who then alter on called us back but it was much later.”

Whatever the case maybe, the OAS is expected to conduct a verification exercise.

Lawrence Sylvester – Foreign Affairs Representatives

“The government of Belize yesterday, the 17th of May, requested of the Office of the Organization of American States in the adjacency zone a formal verification into the incident reported by the Pletts which allegedly occurred in the Green Hill area of the Yale Back in the Cayo district. The ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of an ongoing police investigation into the matter and we await the outcome and the finding of both parallel process, the next action what appropriate action the ministry of foreign affair and the Government of Belize will do will be dependent on the finding to be reported by the OAS and the police.”

CEO Lovell also made it clear that no diplomatic note will be sent to the Guatemalans until all processes are completed and there is no timeline set out for when it might be completed. But can we expect a proper investigation from both entities? Lovell says that Police have in fact visited the area.

George Lovell - CEO in Ministry of National Security

“I can tell you that as we 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 ongoing and I had ask that they go on the ground along with Mr. Roger and Mr. Ayala  and try to walk over the ground and confirmed what happened and where it occurred, I was told that it was done on the 13th , the day after the incident and 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.”

As it was reported on Monday, it was confirmed that the Police never made it to the exact area the incident played out. When Lovell was confronted about that detail today, he responded that there is a need to revisit what exactly transpired as it relates to the police’s investigation:

George Lovell - CEO in Ministry of National Security

“I am saying that having heard what you are saying and having seen this report I am updated to go back there and look them in the eye and say to them that this is what was said to me at this Press brief, this is what you are saying please confirm or deny these things so I can get to the bottom of these things, I make a promise that I will do just that. For me this is one of the things that we need to do and we need to do this because it is the official investigating team report that this ministry and the ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to go by the CEO just said they are awaiting for that report and I think that is a very important part of our investigation as we try to get to the bottom of this issue.”

For his part, CEO Sylvester stated that the men did not immediately make themselves available to the Police and he found that rather peculiar.

Screen_Shot_2016-05-18_at_8.21.05_PMLawrence Sylvester – Foreign Affairs Representatives

“I directed Ambassador Guerra who serves in the ministry of Foreign Affairs and assist on some of the counsellor on the matters to cooperation with Guatemala to seek out and find the individuals in Spanish Lookout and arrange for a prompt de-briefing, I asked that this de-briefing be done for practical reasons in the presence of an official from the Organization of American States, I believe Ambassador Guerra is here with us and was tasked with this at about ten thirty or eleven on Friday, contact was made by telephone.  I found that the individuals were rather elusive in making themselves available for this de-briefing and it wasn’t until or about to close the normal business on Friday that some type of de-briefing or statement that they made themselves available to give a statement to the San Ignacio police station, Ambassador Guerra would have been there to listen in and I understand that an official of the OAS was there to listen so as far as we were concern the necessary processes to ascertain the facts were being put in place all be it unusual delay from the Mennonite who make themselves available.”

As previously reported, on Friday morning the Mennonites were dealing with the report that their watchman had been held by the Guatemalans who had come across to Belize territory for a second time.

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