Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
An 11 year old student of St. Matthews Government School was knocked down yesterday after 3:00. Tezzrah Diamond Thompson came off the bus with her schoolmates at the entrance of Mahogany Heights. But when she emerged from in front of the bus to cross the road she was hit by a truck. It's a truly tragic story and today we went to speak with Tezzrah's grandmother and she told us that she was coming from work when she saw her granddaughter thrown on the side of the road.
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
This was Tezzrah's favorite song. She would perform her version of that song almost every day after school for her grandmother.
But yesterday she didn't make it home to serenade her grandmother. Instead her grandmother found her mangled body on the side of the road.
Linda Williams, Grandmother "I was coming from school yesterday in the evening about 3:30, in our school bus when I saw a crowd at the junction for Mahogany Heights and when I took a look I saw a child, but when I look at the shoulder I realize that it's my granddaughter's shoulder. I said "God," I said mercy, please don't tell me that it's my granddaughter. I said please, please, tell me it's not my granddaughter. But then when the bus slowed down I took another look and I realized that it was my granddaughter and her face was covered with blood."
Many school kids and parents were near the bus shed when it happened. One witness told the grandmother that this white truck hit Tezzrah as she stepped out to cross the highway.
Linda Williams, Grandmother "She came off the school bus and a lot of children ran across the street. So they said a friend was calling her telling her to come while another was telling her to come and hold her hand. But the minute she moved forward, they say that's when the vehicle hit her."
A paramedic and a student nurse who were traveling on another bus came off and tried to save little Tezzrah's life. They stayed there with her until her mother came to take her to the hospital. But she didn't make it - She died at the KHMH early this morning. Now the family has to cope with the tragedy of losing their little Diamond.
Linda Williams, Grandmother "She is a very jovial person, very strong minded and we always find time to discuss what she would like to be when she becomes older. She said that she wants to be an accountant, because she said she loves to work with money and I know that I can. She said that's why she is the treasurer for her class."
Those dreams have now been crushed by what Williams says is systematic neglect of the community.
Linda Williams, Grandmother "I was the first chairperson for this community and I have asked for a health post in our community and we just asked for one nurse and we haven't had that health post. We also asked for speed bumps on the highway and we have not received those speed bumps. What is the government waiting for? The past did not do it and the present do not think that we need speed bumps in our community."
But, now, no speedbump or health center will bring back little Tezzrah.
The truck driver, Jose Rodriguez has been charged with manslaughter by negligence, causing death by careless conduct and driving without due care and attention. When we spoke to police they told us that it's an unfortunate case where the child did not look both ways before crossing but still, they say, that the driver should have slowed down especially since a school bus was parked on the side.
COLA is always on the news, agitating for one social issue or the other. And, indeed, that's what COLA is: a pressure group. But, recently, the grassroots organization has started to take a more political tone with its "Build the Base Now" campaign. And, today, COLA went all the way: President Geovannie Brackett announced a decision to actively campaign against Wilfred Elrington.
They want to get Elrington voted out of the Pickstock constituency which they say is a pressure tactic on the incumbent UDP on issues such as the ICJ, the Belize-Guatemalan Territorial Dispute, and the planned Sarstoon Forward Operating Base.
This morning, we caught up with President Geovannie Brackett at the Queen Street Police Station, where he had gone to get a permit to hold a public meeting with potential Pickstock voters. He explained his organization's decision to get directly involved with politics:
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "Citizens Organized for Liberty though Action (COLA), we went to Queen Street Police Station to get a permit and to sign a bond for a public meeting to be held this Thursday October 8th. It will be at 7:30 in the night, to hold a public meeting right in the Food and Beverage parking lot next to Smiling Meats. The purpose of calling this public meeting, "Our orders are real" public meeting. COLA in our campaign of building the base and "Our no ICJ" campaign have continuously calling for a couple of years for the removal of Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington. The Prime Minister has refused to adhere to that call. That call has not only come from COLA, but that call has actually come from several quarters within the society and from other activist groups. We believe that the Prime Minister had a chance to remove Sedi Elrington and to put someone else there to restore credibility to that position. However, that was not done. The position that we are taking here at COLA, as an organization, while we have never done this before, we've never attempt to either endorse or not endorse a politician. We have come out unanimously to say that to choose any option except Sedi Elrington for the Pickstock area. We believe if the UDP which has a lot of money right now, we know that they are the incumbent, if he were to win again, we would have to have him face as foreign minister once again. This for us in our view and we've consult with many different people, is not in line with what we want to see for this country. This is just the start of another campaign. The build the base campaign, we would have love to continue to flesh that out, but the Prime Minister gave us a promise that the base will be built and then called the election, which we don't have any assurance that the base will be built and we cannot continue a campaign when there is no real government in power as per say right now."
So, is Brackett or the members of COLA being manipulated, or is he being paid by a political party to campaign against Wilfred Elrington? The press challenged him to respond to those and other questions, and here is that back and forth:
Reporter "You are jumping the gun a bit here because there is no guarantee that if the United Democratic Party should win at the polls on the 4th November, that the Prime Minister will name Wilfred Elrington as our foreign affairs minister again."
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "He have a track record of two terms that he has been the foreign affairs minister. So once bitten twice shy."
Daniel Ortiz "Do you concede that your credibility might take a hit simply because you have align yourself in what appears to be a political fight now?"
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "I think that that a fair question, but there are risks always. We don't start off a position where you want to take or not based on whether or not our credibility is going to be attacked. Because right now my name and Moses Sulph name and all of our names with COLA are being attacked on Wave Radio. That's the simple fact."
Daniel Ortiz "Are you being politically manipulated?"
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "Well I just answer that question back a while ago. The answer is no."
Daniel Ortiz "Are you being paid by any political party for this?"
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "You being paid for what you do to ask this question? Just leave it at that then."
Daniel Ortiz "But you still haven't answer the question, are you being paid?"
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA "I am not being paid. I am not being politically motivated. And I am asking you are you being paid for asking that political question?"
Daniel Ortiz "I am a journalist. I have questions to ask."
Geovannie Brackett, President - COLA Okay well then Daniel. Channel 7 will give us 2 minutes on their TV station whether we have or not. So the point is let Channe7 7 ask that question whether they want or not. We have said no."
Of important note is that we have confirmed that Brackett had a meeting with Dr. Francis Smith, PUP Standard Bearer for Pickstock last night in plain view on Pickstock Street. When we asked Brackett about that meeting, he claimed that it was a courtesy meeting to inform Smith of his intentions to campaign against Elrington.
Orange Walk police have located and charged two men who were caught on security camera robbing a Chinese store in Orange Walk. They are Jarett Crawford - who was in the store with a knapsack - and Albert Wagner - the reported gunman.
As we reported the men were caught on camera as they robbed Yan Store at the entrance of Trial Farm Village on Saturday night at 9:45. They entered casually without masks, and Crawford - allegedly the man with the knapsack bought pack of gum and a cigarette and lit it up - before he went into position behind the counter. At a few minutes to 10:00, the man who police say is Wagner pulled out a pistol and robbed the store.
Both suspects are from Belize City and Crawford is linked to Taylor's Alley. He was recently charged in connection with the First Caribbean armed robbery. Now, they are in custody of Orange Walk police and will be taken to court tomorrow to be charged for robbery.
Today was another day of protest for SSB workers: in Belize City, a group of 19 stood with their placards in front of the branch office again during their lunch break. According to CWU President Audrey Matura Shepherd, they will continue to protest until they get their compensation. When we spoke to Chairman of the Board Doug Singh, he said that management stated its position already that it does not agree with the workers on the compensation. Both sides will hold a meeting tomorrow concerning the CBA.
Shepherd told us that sometime after that they will organize a press briefing.
Tonight another city youth has walked from a murder at the end of a trial by judge without jury - this one before Supreme Court judge, Justice Troadio John Gonzalez. 24 year old Ronald Bradley, a resident of Mahogany Heights was accused of the October 15, 2010 shooting murder of female Prison Officer, Miriam Gillett. This morning Justice Gonzalez, he upheld a no case submission made by Bradley's attorney, Oscar Selgado.
With that, JUSTICE Gonzalez acquitted Bradley of murder and he was free to leave the court after almost five years on remand.
The sole witness in the prosecution case was the driver Ernest Savery, and even though he was killed before the case was called up for trial - his statement was admitted into evidence. Still Selgado made a no case submission that there was insufficient evidence.
Bradley was accused of shooting and killing Gillett in a daring ambush staged near the prison on the Burrell Boom/Haittieville Road. Gillett was shot in head and died while Savery was also injured.
Viewers may remember Dr. Abigail McKay, she was a Dean at the University of Belize who's 3 year employment ended when the then President refused to grant her a 2 year extension. She believed that she was entitled to a 5-year extension and in 2014, she sued the University. Justice Courtney Abel granted her permission to bring her case for judicial review against UB.
She never got her chance to bring her full case, because shortly after that, the University, represented by Denys Barrow, applied to the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision of the Supreme Court. That case came up before the Court of Appeal where Barrow, and McKay's attorney, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, tried to convince the panel of judges why the case should or should not be struck out.
After about 2 hours of presentation, the Court of Appeal agreed with Barrow and ruled that McKay's lawsuit should end. It's a victory for UB, and possibly the end of McKay's legal fight. We spoke with the attorneys for both sides, and here's what they had to say:
Denys Barrow, Attorney for UB "The claimant brought a claim in what you called judicial review against the University saying that they should have extended her contract by a further two years beyond the 3 years for which she signed. We took the point, the University took the point in the high court that that was a wring claim to bring, that she has a contract for 3 years. If she was dissatisfied with that she would not have made a 3 year contract. She insisted that she had a right. Although the contract doesn't say so to a two year extension. The Court of Appeal in effect upheld that. That there was not any decision made by the University to terminate or to do anything. She signed for a 3 years contract and that was the end of it. If she had a right or had any basis for claiming that they ought to have given her a performance review etc. - that was a claim in contract and not a claim for judicial review."
Audrey Matura Shephard, Attorney for Abigail McKay "They are saying that the application would have been best grounded in contract. But, it brings into question now the fact as to the validity of the staff and faculty handbook of the University, which is what many of the people rely on. Because they are saying it has no force. It has never been brought in by statute. Although I tried to argue that there are cases that show that not everything is by statute, that there are legitimate expectations. Clearly, if you were in there you would see that the Judge especially Justice Blackman was absolutely not for it. He made a clear-cut distinction between the contract and judicial review. So at the end of the day they are not saying that she doesn't have a claim, they are saying don't bring it in public law, which is judicial review. Bring it in private law, which is contract."
McKay has been ordered to pay costs by the court. Matura-Shepherd says that she will discuss with McKay whether she wants to bring another case to fight the contractual aspect of her termination.
Another issue we took the opportunity to ask Barrow about was the accusation from the Opposition that the Barrow Government has supposedly overpaid Denys Barrow for his services. As you will have noticed, he is the Government's lead attorney on many of the cases that go to the high courts.
Recently, an opposition ad started circulating on Social Media which discloses the sum of money that they Government paid Denys Barrow for handling the case of the Palencia and Paranga cargo ships. Viewers may remember that the Paranga ran aground on the reef, 2 miles south east of English Caye in 2012. Last year, The Government detained the Palencia Cargo Ship, and held it in Belizean waters until the owners, who also are in charge of the Paranga, paid the environmental fine, which amounted to 2.7 million dollars.
For his legal work in getting the payment, Denys Barrow was paid just over a half a million dollars, which represented 20%. The PUP used that internal memo from the Ministry of Finance, to suggest that brother Barrow cashed in at the public's expense.
So did he? Here's how Denys Barrow answered it:
Daniel Ortiz "The opposition has made an issue of the fact that you are the Prime Minister's brother and that you have been one of the prominent attorneys for the Government of Belize and they are also suggesting that from time to time you've been overpaid for that service. We have to ask the question, is that in any way accurate?"
Denys Barrow, Attorney for GOB "No. Um, it is political mischief and one expects it in the course of a political campaign. Regrettably, there is not any kind of corruption, any kind of shady dealings on the part of Dean Barrow that they can point to. So what they do is they say because I charged the usual fee that a very senior attorney will charged and the government pays this for my services, they are saying that this is nepotism - that this is something which should reflect badly upon Dean Barrow. I regret that they have seen fit to do this, because they all know that the fees that I charged are the same fees as lawyers at my level of practice, my experience of practicing would charge. I would love to give you a bill of cost for instance that Lord Goldsmith submitted and is seeking to get the Government of Belize to pay where he is charging 1,000 pounds an hour for his services, whereas I charge along with other senior lawyers at the rate of BZ$1,000 per hour. I think a 1,000 pounds an hour works out to maybe BZ$3,400 an hour. So it is what is charged that the government pays to me and it is far less that what it could have been required to pay if it had employed somebody such as Lord Goldsmith or some English QC."
In relation to the money he collected for the cargo ship case, Barrow said that he simply charged the Government the standard 20%, which is what most, if not all, banks charge.
Last week Thursday, we told you how the Bar Association of Belize, by majority vote of its members, passed a resolution to make a most unusual application to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
They want the court to give a decision on the eighth amendment to the constitution - even though both parties that brought the case challenging the amendment have settled and told the court - basically - that they want no further action.
Denys Barrow doesn't agree with his bar colleagues. He attended that Wednesday night meeting and tried to convince the membership that this is an unwise course of action. But, despite his best efforts, he was outvoted, and the resolution passed.
So, today, when he had the opportunity, we asked Barrow why the bar was wrong. Here's what he had to say:
Denys Barrow, Attorney for GOB "The parties, the former shareholders of BTL, the former shareholders of BEL and the Government of Belize have agreed that the case is finished. Money has been paid, the property which has been taken away has been paid for and the parties have agreed that the case should finish. The Bar Association passed a resolution last week deciding that the Bar Association will make an application to the CCJ in this case which the parties have settled concerning all the nationalizations. The Bar wants the CCJ to still give a decision notwithstanding that the case has been settled."
Mike Rudon, Ch5 "Is there any ground for you to object to that?"
Denys Barrow, Attorney for GOB "At the meeting of the association I presented a paper which set out the reasons why it is entirely inappropriate for them to make that application. Unfortunately for I think political reasons those who were putting forward the resolution rallied their troops and in my view a clear political vote was taken that they should go forward and make this application to the CCJ to allow them as non-parties to say to the CCJ what they think the CCJ should do. I think it is outrageous. I shared that with them. I was voted down and that is it."
"A court is not allowed or will not give what you called a hypothetical or theoretical decision. So the question where the 8th amendment was valid is now any longer before the CCJ. But the Bar Association or the politicians who are behind this move want to have that. I imagine they have some hope that if the CCJ give a decision, the decision will say what they wanted to say and that this will embarrass the government."
Daniel Ortiz "Is there any real prospect of success of this application from the Bar, since they aren't an interested party in this case?"
Denys Barrow "My personal view and it is very important that I emphasized this, so I am not seeking to speak for anybody or speak with any authority, but the advice which I try to give them, is that they are wasting their time."
The former shareholders of BTL and BEL, who had sued the Barrow Government, have told the court that they want no further action since the case has been settled.
Errol "Butchie" Haynes - the last time his name made news was in 2011 - when he was caught in Mexico with an arsenal of prohibited firearms and ammunition. Well, unknown to us, the 31 year old was returned to Belize in May of 2015 - and now he says he is being unlawfullly held at the Belize Central Prison on a conviction for drug trafficking and possession. Haynes says there is no evidence for the conviction, and so his attorney Hubert Elrington today launched a habeas corpus application before Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin.
Haynes says when he was released from a Mexican prison and arrived in Belize, he was handcuffed and locked up at the Kolbe Foundation to serve out a 3 year conviction.
According to court records, on October 4, 2013, he was convicted in the Belize City Magistrate's Court before Senior Magistrate, Sharon Fraser on one count of drug trafficking and one count of possession of controlled drugs.
But his attorney says that there was really no trial, and his client is being held unlawfully.
The Chief Justice adjourned the case until Friday when he has subpoenaed the Superintendent of Prison to appear in court and present the warrant for Haynes arrest.
The General Election is only 29 days, and, right now, all across the country, politicians are scrambling to connect with voters. We'll be previewing a few battleground divisions over the next four weeks and we start in Caribbean Shores where there are two new candidates with distinguished political and professional pedigree. Kareem Musa and Darrell Bradley are both young attorneys and both first time general election candidates.
We caught up with Musa yesterday while he and his team were campaigning on Baymen Avenue:
Kareem Musa, PUP Standard Bearer - Caribbean Shores "Today Daniel was our last fail preparations for the campaign leading up to the general elections on November 4th which is only one month away. But I can tell you that since June of last year, over a year and a half, this team has been on the ground campaigning in Caribbean Shores. We have hit the streets running from since then and we haven't turned back. So this is now just the final preparations and we are fully confident. All our members are excited. The energy level is extremely high right now and we will deliver Caribbean Shores to the People's United Party."
"Today we are actually unveiling and launching our manifesto which I would love to share with you and with the residents of Caribbean Shores. Of course the party is coming out with a national manifesto, but we do have a localized manifesto and that was born out of the responses that we have gotten from the residents of Caribbean Shores and I can tell you high on the priority of concerns is the fact that they have had an absentee representative for the last 8 years in Caribbean Shores. The UDP has had 8 years and they have done absolutely nothing for the people of Caribbean Shores and so they want someone who is accessible, someone who is approachable, someone that actually cares for them and that is what Team Kareem brings. We bring caring compassionate leadership to Caribbean Shores."
Daniel Ortiz "You name Musa. That's a political brand name. A PUP brand name, but also it has its own negative connotations as well where some persons still remember the former Musa administration, you dad. How do you differentiate yourself from Said Musa?"
Kareem Musa, PUP Standard Bearer - Caribbean Shores "I am my own man Daniel. Yes I am my father's son and he did a lot of good for this country. Let's not forget that. And certainly any prime minister, whether it's Dean Barrow, whether it's Said Musa, whether its Manuel Esquivel - any of their children would have a hard time. Because when you are prime minister you have to make decisions and certainly some of those times the decisions might not be the right ones. But people know who I am. I have proven myself both professionally in my legal practice of representing the oppressed and the downtrodden. I have proven myself politically and personally to my people of Caribbean Shores."
Daniel Ortiz "Has it generated any kind of negative responses from your voters that you are Said Musa's son?"
Kareem Musa, PUP Standard Bearer - Caribbean Shores "Absolutely none. I cannot point to one single person on this campaign trail in Caribbean Shores who has ever said that to me."
About, an hour ago, we also got a chance to see his political opponent, two time Mayor Darrell Bradley, in action, and we asked him how it's been going:
Darrell Bradley, UDP Standard Bearer - Caribbean Shores "We've been in the area for about 4 months actively trying to court the vote of the people of Caribbean Shores and it's been electric. Of course we have to step up the game substantially. Since the Prime Minister called the election, we've been going on every day. Primarily residents of Caribbean Shores are at home in the evening when they come from work. Last night we were out pretty late going house to house meeting with people, engaging with them. A lot of people invite you into their homes, they want you to it down, they want you to have interaction with them, they are asking you a lot of questions - very detailed in relation to some of the things you did at City Hall, your vision for Caribbean Shores. What you want to do for them in the area and how you will engage them as members of the community and one of the things that I must say is that that kind of interaction is very enticing to me and it's something that motivates me as a candidate - that you see how much the residents of Caribbean Shores really want to see a better community and they want their candidate to explain to them in detail what my vision is for the development of this area and how I will contribute to a better country in central government."
"I will be humble with this and I will be sincere in saying that rarely we have a negative comment. Of course people will raise their concerns, they will give advice which I take in a good spirit, constructive criticism in areas where I could improve in my leadership, but by and large people really respect the work that you've done and in relation to what we are saying, its not about promises, it's not about things that you are telling people you are going to do in the future. Judge me based on what you see this city has been doing over the last 3 years - a tremendous amount of work."
Daniel Ortiz "Do you take any issue with persons suggesting that you have an unfair advantage because you directed some of the works into Caribbean Shores before announcing that you intended to run here?"
Darrell Bradley, UDP Standard Bearer - Caribbean Shores "Nobody directs works in a particular area. If you look at the improvements in the city, the majority of the work in Belize City under the City Council and in partnership with the central government occurred in areas other than Caribbean Shores. The most expensive infrastructure was the Central American Boulevard, it was the improvements in Collet Canal, it was the Lake Independence Bridge, it was the improvements that the City Council did in the downtown area in terms of concreting all the roads. It was Freetown Road, Queen Street - all of those developments occurred prior to any work in Caribbean Shores. Because we rollout the municipal bond in the way that we did, it benefits people and I think nobody can say that the work has not gone on all across the city."
The second annual national track and field championship will be happening on the 14th and 15th of November and the Belize athletics association is inviting track athletes from across the country 16 years and older to be a part of the event. According to the president Deon Sutherland - it is a way for these athletes to showcase their talent while competing against their peers.
Registration forms can be obtained from and returned to the BAA via email at email@example.com or from the association Facebook page. Forms must be submitted by November 11 and cost of registration is 10$ per athlete.
A regional workshop for the Green Climate Fund started today at the Radisson in Belize City. The Fund is to sponsor adaptive measures for climate change - but small island developing states - known as SIDS - which are most vulnerable to climate change have hardly been getting anything form this fund. That's what the meeting is about the Minister Joy Grant outlined it in her opening:...
In last night's newscast we reported on Darren Banks 8 year old son who is currently out of school and is living with his grandmother. In an interview the elderly woman explained that child is out of school because she is in the process of moving him to another primary school but cannot afford his transfer document from St Mary's Anglican school - the last school he was attending. Today the school sent out a press release denying withholding the transfer forms. The release stated that its administration released the transfer documents for the student on September 18th 2015 to the child's guardian.