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Sep 6, 2016

Will Senate or Bi-Cameral Investigation be Undertaken into Latest Immigration Scandal?

At least thirteen U.D.P. ministers and former ministers are being named in the Special Immigration Audit for being involved in irregular practices as it relates to the issuance of passports, visas, and nationality certificates.  The Auditor General points out that the law does not provide for ministers to intervene in the process. On both sides of the House, there are proposals for an investigation. The P.U.P. has been pushing for a Senate Select Investigation, as contained within the constitution, while the government is proposing a bicameral investigation to which it would appoint majority of the members. Tonight, Isani Cayetano looks at the two motions, but will the unions agree to chair?

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Auditor General’s special report on dubious goings-on at the Immigration Department regarding the issuance of passports and visas, as well as the granting of Belizean nationality during the period 2011 and 2013 is the subject of much controversy.  Contained within the volume is information pertaining to a recommendation given by Prime Minister Barrow and his wife to her brother-in-law, Peter Dahlstrom.

 

Julius Espat

Julius Espat, Area Representative, Cayo South

“Dean Oliver Barrow and Kim Simplis Barrow recommended a person for nationality that could not and noh have the requirements to pass nationality and that person is brother-in-law.  Ih brother-in-law neva have the necessary information and the necessary time in Belize for him to become a Belizean citizen and Barrow, in his way, mek everybody bruk di law so that ih could get ih nationality and ih could get ih passport.”

 

Aside from the extensive record of names, including those of other elected officials, listed in the transactions, there are reported errors found within the seven hundred page document.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“We are also obliged to point out that in a number of very significant ways, that report is extremely flawed. It has made some giant unjustified leaps in coming to certain conclusions. It never gave the department the opportunity to respond to and clear up even those allegations which had perfectly legitimate explanations. And it sure as hell did not follow the rules of natural justice in naming people of wrongdoing without never giving them a chance to answer or even comment on the accusations. This last is important because the natural and legitimate expectation is that the report ought to be followed by disciplinary or perhaps even criminal action against individuals. But now that expectation will now have to contend with the certainty that wrongdoers will immediately move for court orders to quash proceeding against them on the basis of violation of their rights.”

 

Inaccuracies notwithstanding, the findings of the audit where it concerns nationality certificates and passport applications are quite limited.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“According to the Auditor General’s report they could have probably unearthed more fraudulent nationality certificates but they were only able to review three months worth of the passport applications for 2011 and 2012, even though their mandate was to do an audit covering twenty-nine months between April 2011 and September 2013.  They could not even get their hands on the electronic register of complete visa and entry records for visitors from the various ports of entry to identify who entered the country between April 2011 to September 2013.”

 

The gravity of the situation has resulted in a call for a full and impartial inquiry into the matter.  That raises the issue of a special taskforce, as well as the selection of its members.  Would the working group be comprised of members of the House of Representatives or the Senate?

 

Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga, Business Senator

“The senate, as we know, according to the Constitution, can be an investigative body and has the constitutional authority to conduct public hearings and it can lend to full public disclosure to satisfy the public and to allow them to see firsthand all that has transpired.  The matter before us today is extremely important to all true Belizeans.  Today what is at stake Mr. President is the restoration of our reputation, the credibility and the very legitimacy of our citizenry and nationality.  Because of the magnitude and the serious ramifications of the problem before us, we owe the nation and the international community nothing less than full transparency in this matter.”

 

Despite the call for a Senate Select Committee to conduct the inquiry, that notion was defeated last Wednesday when Senator Ashley Rocke, aside from the U.D.P.’s parliamentary majority, voted against it.

 

Ashley Rocke

Pastor Ashley Rocke, Church Senator

“The option of having a wider body to do this investigation, I was not opposed to an investigation.  I was supportive of an investigation, the only issue was that during the Senate meeting only one was proposed when I said yes.  But when the alternative was presented, I am a man if you know anything about me, I will choose and I will choose, like I said, in the best interest of everybody.”

 

PM Barrow weighed in on the controversy in the wake of Pastor Rocke’s attack by the churches.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“If Senator Rocke is to be condemned because he prefers the Joint Select Committee over the narrower Senate Select Committee, you will similarly condemn the Chamber of Commerce?  Because they too obviously prefer the Joint Select Committee over the narrower Senate Select Committee.”

 

So what is the composition of the latter?  The Joint Select Committee will be made up of a majority from the Barrow Administration, the remainder will be split between members of the Opposition and the social partners.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I will suggest to Cabinet, ought to have it so that the chair of the committee come from among the social partners.  Obviously if you Mr. Questioner have anything to do with it that chair could never be Senator Rocke and we will never agree to Senator Lizarraga.  So I think Ms. Elena Smith better get prepared to step up.”

 

Elena Smith

The PM has informally nominated Union Senator Elena Smith, but will she accept the post of chair of the Joint Select Committee?

 

Elena Smith, Union Senator

“That is dependent on my organization.  But as I said, they have said no so far so I don’t think that that will happen.  But I guess we’ll see.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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2 Responses for “Will Senate or Bi-Cameral Investigation be Undertaken into Latest Immigration Scandal?”

  1. Ali BaBa-row, chief thief says:

    This is not a scandal!
    It is a proud badge for my forty criminals!
    Rarely do my thieves get such recognition for their exceptional work!
    Carry on, with your heads held high, you are Belize’s finest!

  2. Hatari says:

    You better get your tickets now because this circus is going to have a lot of political monkeys and hyenas jumping through hoops and dancing a jig. If the PM gets his way, the whole investigation will be tilted in his direction, since he will have the majority of the votes. This is going to be a biased fiasco and waste a lot of our money.

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