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Feb 15, 2017

Did Ministers’ Recommendations Really Matter?

Eamon Courtenay

As a senior man in the Immigration Department, George Reynolds saw his share of important people coming in and out – even a Minister or two. But he told the Senate Special Select Committee that he personally saw little of them in his area and their interventions played a role. He also commented on the practice of Ministers recommending Chinese nationals, who did not know the persons they were recommended for.

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Are you familiar with the practice of Ministers frequenting the Immigration Department?”

 

George Reynolds, Former Port Commander, Immigration Services Belmopan

“I see them there now and again, yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Now and again – you don’t see a lot?”

 

George Reynolds

“They didn’t come to me, so I wouldn’t know; because like I say my office is an enclosure, so if they do come around it’s only when I open my door to go out I would see them, but I wouldn’t say a lot.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“The truth is Mister Reynolds, Ministers, certain named Ministers, used to frequent the office, the Department of Immigration; are you prepared to agree with that?”

 

George Reynolds

George Reynolds

“Was that a question?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Yes; I was asking if you agree with it?”

 

George Reynolds

“You asked me my comment on it, and I say I don’t know, so I can’t agree with something I don’t know; so I can’t agree with what you are saying.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“So you are aware that there are numerous instances of Ministers making recommendations for Chinese nationals to get visas to visit Belize? You are aware of that?”

 

George Reynolds

“Yes, I am.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“And is it your experience that the Ministers knew these Chinese individuals?”

 

George Reynolds

“They knew the family that was here.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Or they knew somebody here, and they were making a recommendation for somebody outside who they didn’t know.”

 

George Reynolds

“I guess if that’s what you’re saying, yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Right; you’re the one who was processing it, you see, so that’s why I’m asking you. I want to know what is it you did when you got a letter from a Minister recommending somebody he or she did not know; is there any value at all to that recommendation.”

 

George Reynolds

“The recommendation shouldn’t have any value if the requirements that identify the person and the family member is there; the recommendation just go there because usually those get priority.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“You see, the interesting thing is this: if in the example you give me, there is a family member here, and the Minister knows the family member, why wouldn’t the family member make the recommendation? Or the family member knows the person, the Minister doesn’t know the person?”

 

George Reynolds

“Yes, but the family member produces their documentation here…”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I understand all of that and I’m asking…”

 

George Reynolds

“The recommendation letter just comes additional to the documentation from the family member.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Right and I’m asking you why the Minister, who does not know the person, write and sign a letter saying I recommend A, B and C for a visa?”

 

George Reynolds

“I wouldn’t know why the Minister did that.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Right, and did you pay any attention to it when you were making your decision whether you approved or not?”

 

George Reynolds

“Somewhat, yes.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“It did influence your decision?”

 

George Reynolds

“Yes.”

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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.

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