The San Pedro Sun

Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit disrespected by Coast Guard personnel

Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit was hosted by the Government of Belize as the guest of honor during Belize’s Independence Day festivities. PM Skerrit arrived in Belize on Wednesday, September 18th and was accompanied by Honorable Dr. Collin McIntyre, Minister of Trade of Dominica. During their stay in Belize, PM Skerrit and Minister McIntyre took time to visit Ambergris Caye on September 21st where they visited Hol Chan Marine Reserve. While on their trip to the marine reserve, the visiting Prime Minister was disrespected by officers of the Belize National Coast Guard. The incident has now made news in Dominica and prompted officials in Belize to conduct an investigation into the incident.

Shortly after arriving on the island, PM Skerrit was also welcomed by the staff of the Belize Tourism Board and taken to Victoria House Resort. There, PM Skerrit was welcomed to the island by Mayor of San Pedro Town Daniel Guerrero and Belize’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Hon Manuel Heredia Jr.

Left to Right
Hon. Dr Collin McIntyre, Hon Manuel Heredia Jr, Hon.Roosevelt Skerrit (PM) and Mayor Daniel Guerrero

On PM Skerrit’s itinerary was a visit to Hol Chan Marine Reserve where he also toured Shark Ray Alley with divers from Ramon’s Village Dive Shop. The Coast Guard was informed about the PM’s activity for security purposes, which is standard for VIP’s but the Coast Guard vessel didn’t show up on time and the trip went ahead without them.

When the Coast Guard vessel with four officers on board did arrive, an incident occurred where the visiting PM was embarrassed by the officers of the Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard officers stopped the boat and proceeded to detain the vessel by tying it to their boat and questioning those onboard the Ramon’s vessel. On board the vessel were two dive guides from Ramon’s Dive Shop,  a representative of BTB, a Belize Foreign Affairs Protocol Officer, a Belizean Sergeant assigned to the PM and his Minister, the PM’s personal bodyguard, Minister McIntyre and PM Skerrit.

The San Pedro Sun understands that when the boat was detained, a coast guard personnel identified only as Officer Ogaldez, was disgruntled because he was detailed at the eleventh hour to work the PM’s sea activity. He was told by Skerrit’s Belizean escorts that the Prime Minister of Dominica was on board and that he must “stand down.”  Ogaldez refused the order and gave no acknowledgement to the protocol orders and boarded the Ramon’s vessel. The officer proceeded to rudely ask, “Who is the Prime Minister?” PM Skerritt answered, “I am” raising one of his hands, but according to a report drafted as part of the investigation, Ogaldez “cheups” (derogatory sound made by sucking your teeth) at the PM. He insisted in wanting to see the PM’s credentials and after the rude Ogaldez continued, the Foreign Affairs Protocol Officer called a senior staff at BTB who managed to calm Ogaldez over the phone.

PM Skerrit was scheduled to attend two local functions, a free musical concert at the Central Park and a second concert with an international Mexican band. However, because of the embarrassing moment, PM Skerrit retired for the night. The San Pedro Sun understands that PM Skerrit registered his discontent about the incident with Prime Minister Dean Barrow before leaving the country.

The incident has prompted an investigation into the behavior of the team of Coast Guard Officers who were onboard the vessel. On Monday September 23rd, the officers dispatched at sea on the day of the incident, were all called in to the Coast Guard base in Belize City. A complete report is being compiled after which a disciplinary hearing is expected to be conducted.

PM Skerrit had expressed earlier in the day that he was happy to be on the “number one island in the world” and said that he was planning to return to Belize on a different occasion. It is uncertain if after the unfortunate incident, PM Skerrit would consider returning.

PM Skerrits visit to Ambergris Caye was his last stop before leaving the country on September 22nd.  It was an honor for The San Pedro Sun to have made the acquaintance with PM Skerrit’s during his stay in San Pedro Town.