Belize - Belize News - Channel5Belize.com - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Featured, Miscellaneous, People & Places, Trials » Eamon Courtenay Turns Up the Heat on Ruth Meighan at Senate Inquiry
Jan 25, 2017

Eamon Courtenay Turns Up the Heat on Ruth Meighan at Senate Inquiry

Former Director of Immigration and Nationality Ruth Meighan returned to an already hot seat at the National Assembly as the latest to testify in the Senate Special Select Committee’s hearings on the Special Audit of the Immigration Department. As the top boss, she presided over most of the time covered in the Audit, but questioning last week established that she knew very little of the internal workings of the Department – and according to the Auditor General, laxness elsewhere was taken advantage of, leading to the fall of Minister of State Elvin Penner and exposure of a system overwhelmed and overworked. Today’s hearing, especially with the hard questioning of Senator Eamon Courtenay of the People’s United Party, focused more on Meighan’s role and what she did, if anything, to stop or arrest the creeping illegalities and irregularities in a Department seemingly gone out of control. But as Aaron Humes reports from Belmopan, she seemed to have few answers, then or now.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The return of Lead Senator for the Opposition People’s United Party, Eamon Courtenay, presaged tougher questioning for former Director of Immigration Ruth Meighan at the latest instalment of the Senate Special Select Committee on Immigration. The venerable Senior Counsel brought his tough-as-nails questioning style to a career public servant who showed significant reserve in her prior appearance. A favourite theme of his questioning today was her responsibility in the role and whether it was abdicated, in this case approval of passports and nationality.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Could a passport be lawfully issued without your approval as Director of Immigration?”

 

Ruth Meighan, Former Director of Immigration

“No.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Right. Could nationality be issued lawfully without your approval?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Nationalities are issued based on my recommendation.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“So the answer to the question is what?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“If I make a recommendation to the Minister who approves…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Could it be lawfully issued without your recommendation?”

 

Ruth Meighan

Ruth Meighan

“I’m not sure.”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“Senator Courtenay – sorry to interrupt you – but this is pertinent because last week you said that passports could be issued without your approval?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“As Director of Immigration, my approval was the signature on the system; that is it, that’s my approval. I don’t have any, any, any, kind of involvement with applications for passports from the time of application to the time of issue.”

 

But later, Meighan agreed that her signature was for the purpose of approval, beyond personal interventions with regard to emergency passports, as she testified last week. But that also means, she admitted, that it was possible to put her signature, which was in the system, on a passport that did not meet the application requirements, which of course she never saw.

 

Ruth Meighan

“I am not certain, because my understanding from getting there and up to leaving is that, with my signature on the system as the Director, that that is the Director’s approval. So, the processing of the passport can be done without my knowledge, but with my signature on the passport, I believe that it was a genuine approved passport.”

 

Courtenay also challenged Meighan over whether she was a “rubberstamp” for the approval of nationality certificates without further checks.

 

Ruth Meighan

“The recommendation would come to me from the officer in charge indicating that the person met the requirements for nationality. From the officer in charge of the section.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And what would you consider when you made a recommendation to the Minister to grant or not to grant?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“The information that is required, given to me by the officer in charge of the section.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Am I to understand that if – you said it was Mister [Gordon] Wade…?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“If Mister Wade sent you an application from an applicant that satisfied a picture, a reference, a medical – whatever was required, and he said all of those – tick, tick, tick, tick – you wrote to the Minister and say, I recommend granting nationality?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“So essentially, you were a rubberstamp? [Pause] That was a question.”

 

Ruth Meighan

“I don’t know.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You don’t know. Miss Meighan, the Director of Immigration had a right to say yes or no at that point, would that be correct?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Did you ever say no?”

 

Ruth Meighan

“ Whenever a file would come to me without all the requirements it would be returned for further vetting.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And the converse is, as long as it had all the requirements, you said yes for all of them.”

 

Ruth Meighan

“Yes, yes.”

 

Whether any harm was caused to Belize from this apparent laxness is yet to come to light. From the National Assembly in Belmopan, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

Be Sociable, Share!


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

Leave a Reply

CAPTCHA Image
*