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San Pedro PUP Asks for Minister Heredia’s Resignation

The People’s United Party (PUP) sent out a press release to the Belize media on Thursday, December 6, 2012, in which it states that the political party strongly condemns the gross insensitivity, negligence and abuse being shown towards women and children as displayed in two instances that have come to national attention in recent days.

The first is the case of apparent medical negligence and malpractice at the Northern Regional Hospital within the past three months. There are a minimum of nine incidents in which both mothers and babies have either sustained severe injuries or have died; the most recent being two days ago in which baby Harmony died.

The second is the matter of Police Corporal Sharmane Young serving at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, who has been suddenly and arbitrarily transferred primarily due to the arrest of a tourist. The Corporal was carrying out her duties as the Tourist involved in the incident was found guilty of assaulting her by a court of law.

In an email sent out by the San Pedro PUP, it further demands “that Hon Manuel Heredia resign from his post as Minister of Tourism and that Corporal Young not to be transferd for doing her job and Officer in Charge for the San Pedro Branch be given an apology from Manuel Heredia for doing her job.”

Hon. Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism and Area Representative of Belize Rural South, is under a lot of scrutiny on his actions after the arrest case of Liza Marie Mertz on November 24, 2012. Female Police Corporal Sharmane Young is being removed from the San Pedro Police Unit after she arrested and charged US tourist Liza Mertz who reportedly cursed and manhandled the officer. Syracuse resident Liza Marie Mertz apparently interrupted and yelled obscenities at Police Corporal Sharmane Young whilst Young was searching a man who was allegedly selling drugs.

Hon. Manuel Heredia confirmed the fact that he intervened and asked Assistant Commissioner of Police Elodio Aragon to see that Mertz was charged and offered bail without spending days locked up in jail, but stated that he did not request for Corporal Sharmane’s transfer out of the island’s police department because of this incident.

Minister Heredia, has told the media that it was a few months before this incident that he had requested for Corporal Young’s transfer because he believed that she was not performing in the best of her abilities.

“When she arrived on the island, she was the best of the best I believe that we had had as a person in charge of the Tourism Police, but after that, I personally saw that she was not performing to the best,” stated Hon. Heredia. “And I won’t go in details as to say what has been happening, but I had asked for her to be transferred.”

Heredia says that whenever he is asked to inquire about tourists or residents on the island who are locked up, it is not unusual for him to visit the police station. Liza Mertz was granted police bail and appeared before the San Pedro Magistrate Court on November 27, 2012. She pleaded guilty to four charges, and not guilty to the charge of assaulting a uniformed police officer. Three days later, she was found guilty of assaulting a uniformed police officer and fined a total of $1,350 for all charges.

The press release from the People’s United Party went on to state:
“The PUP decries the political meddling and high handedness of a government Minister in Police work, as well as what we consider to be virtual criminal neglect of the ongoing crisis at the Northern Regional Hospital. In the case of Corporal Young, this officer has commitments and family responsibilities; in the multiple cases in the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts entire families as well as women and children are suffering due to the Government’s failure to take swift and decisive action.

All this is happening during Disabilities Week and the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. The PUP considers these cases to be violence against women and children at the hands of Government and the relevant Ministers.

This kind of political interference in the work of the Police must stop. We also make a firm call for the immediate suspension of the doctors or medical personnel involved in the many cases, and as well it is imperative that an impartial and independent inquiry into these serious cases at the Northern Regional Hospital be speedily conducted and proper action taken.”

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