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Jul 26, 2017

After Break, Godwin Visits Committee; What about P.M.?

Godwin Hulse

The Senate Select Committee is now scheduled to go on break for the entire month of August. Chairman Salazar told reporters that their visit to the department is scheduled for the end of August, following by public hearings in the first two weeks of September – those dates would be the sixth and thirteenth of September respectively.  Salarzar has made no secret of his desire to wind down the public aspect of the hearings and repeated as much today. But who will be the subject of those hearings? Minister of Immigration Senator Godwin Hulse had been notified of his appearance from back in May, but was passed over in favor of several colleagues. We can, however, expect him to be on the agenda when the committee returns.  Prime Minister Dean Barrow has been asked uncomfortable questions in recent weeks as it relates to a decision to suspend or remove background checks for persons seeking Belizean nationality, as well as former Minister of State Elvin Penner’s assertion that cabinet received regular reports from his ministry as to Immigration activities. Will the Prime Minister be made to reveal what he knows or can find out at the inquiry? The chairman also spoke about the committee’s decision to turn over all documentation of the hearing to Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal for a criminal probe of some witnesses, particularly Barton Middleton, who should not expect to be back before the committee either.

 

Aldo Salazar

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“The Committee hasn’t deliberated on that; so I can only share my view – I really don’t see why we’d have to call the Prime Minister. I think we are losing sight of what the report is really about. We are looking at the processes in the Immigration and Nationality Department, what went wrong and what we can do to fix it. We know as a fact that a decision may have been taken – I don’t know where – a decision was taken to do away with that; I don’t know the reasons for that. But I think we should look forward as to what our recommendation should be in that regard. We know it was done; I don’t think there was any devious plot behind it; so we should be looking as to whether we recommend that is should be continue, or whether we feel comfortable that the status quo should remain. We haven’t even heard from the department now as to what it has been doing; as far as I understand it, there have been many, many things that have come up in the course of the inquiry which the Department has already addressed and for my part, I am looking forward to hearing what has been done since the emergence of these issues in the Department, what has been done to correct it. And I feel that that, for me, would be more beneficial than some of the things we have heard.”

 

Reporter

“So it would be safe to say that the current minister of Immigration who was minister at the time of this, Godwin Hulse, who has not been heard from – I think he told us from back in May that he had been subpoenaed but he had not been called; and the current director of Immigration, Diana Locke, would be among those witnesses that you mentioned would be heard toward the end of August?”

 

Aldo Salazar

“Yes. I would have heard from Senator Hulse already, and he’s definitely going to be asked to come, and from my understanding he is willing to come; he’s just waiting for us to let him know formally. I don’t see any merit calling back Mr. Middleton – I think the usefulness of his testimony, if any, has already been presented. We already know the scenario within the Department, what transpired – for me I have a very good picture of what was transpiring. I don’t see it as my duty to catch any particular person in a particular lie, I am looking at more of a macro level, as to what transpired and what recommendations can be made. If at any time the view is that a witness has been untruthful, that is not a place for the committee; the D.P.P. (Director of Public Prosecutions’) will have transcripts of everything that has transpired. She is the one that determines who is prosecuted in Belize – that is her constitutional role; and that’s her prerogative to decide if there is enough evidence for her to go against anybody.”

 

Reporter

“Has she received certain of those transcripts, because Middleton was one individual who it was said would be referred to the D.P.P., former Minister Elvin Penner was another – I think there may be one or two others.”

 

Aldo Salazar

“I can say that a decision has been taken to forward all the evidence before the committee to the D.P.P. for her determination. Whether she has received it, I am not able to say; I can only say that we have decided that she is to receive the transcripts.”

 

While the St. George’s Caye Day holiday on September tenth is a Sunday and celebrated on the Monday, it is not clear if a hearing would be called for Wednesday, September twentieth, the day before Independence Day on the twenty-first.

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