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Nov 1, 2017

How Late Leela Vernon Benefited from Cabinet Decision on Renewing Passports

Minister of Immigration and Nationality, Senator Godwin Hulse, made his first appearance before his Senate colleagues on the Special Select Committee this morning in Belmopan. He was questioned on various aspects of the work of the Department, which he has said he closely supervised with the assistant of junior Ministers like Elvin Penner and Beverly Williams, the various directors and deputy directors and others. And while Penner and Williams were the day-to-day chiefs, Hulse interfaced with Cabinet on key decisions. He cited one in 2014 that allowed the department to issue renewed passports to applicants with prior passports, but whose files were missing from the department. Citing the case of a famous, recently deceased individual, Hulse maintained the department would have been doing a disservice to keep holding up these applications.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration and Nationality

“This was discussed at length, because there were many, many, many, many requests for persons to renew their passports, but when they got to the Immigration Department, the Immigration Department could not find their file. Some of these people had been here twenty-five years, thirty years – I will give you a clear example. Now deceased, a woman by the name of Leela Vernon, who was known popularly as ‘Belize Kriol gial’, could not renew her passport, even though she had many passports, because they could not find her file. Apparently, she came to Belize as a very young person or a baby from Honduras, where many Belizeans were born, many people were born. And she had several passports, traveled around the world. Cabinet felt that persons like those should not be disenfranchised because the department could not find a file for them. And that is why it said, previous passports and original nationality certificate – that is why the instruction was given. And it said, ‘however obtained’ – it didn’t mean obtained fraudulently, and I heard you, honorable minister, make that point on KREM Radio somewhere around January fourteenth, but anyway – ‘however obtained’ simply meant whether it was machine-readable or handwritten, because in the past passports were handwritten, not all were machine-readable before 2005 I think it was. What happened there is, the Attorney General at the time suggested, and I will not get into the legal wrangle – as you know I will demit to Senator Courtenay on that one – but it did say that you refuse to give me my passport and there was no logical justification, I could get an order of mandamus to get it done; there was also a suggestion that I could sue. I will not get into that, but the whole concept of this, which I am sure the director understood – and I’m not sure the current director agrees, because I heard her pretty much saying she doesn’t but I’m pretty sure Miss Marin understood – was that persons who came to Immigration Department, who had been in this country twenty years, twenty-five years; who had passport one, passport two, passport three and these were only renewed because of the facial recognition and this sort of thing, because you got older and so it was renewed. The state said in the original passport, ‘I certify that this is Godwin Hulse and that he is a citizen of Belize.’ Passport two: I may have had visas in there from the U.S., visas from other countries I traveled; passport three, passport four, I have my original nationality file, signed by a proper minister at the time – the department says, ‘oh no! I can’t renew because I can’t find your file.’ I proffer that if we audit those people they still will not be able to find their file because of the archives and it would be hard to do a forensic on them. Unless you want to say now that all persons who were in this country back a certain number of years but who were not born here, we will have to audit.”

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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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