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Jan 28, 2000

Jorge Espat Comments on Iqbal Singh case in House

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While residents of Maya Mopan dealt with the aftermath of a fire, it was business as usual at the Meeting of the House of Representatives. Bills were introduced to establish an autonomous board for the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, to create the University of Belize, and to register non-governmental organizations. Among those bills getting a second reading was the Belmopan City Council Bill and the amendments to the Trade and Investment and Promotion Service, changing it to the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service BELTRAIDE. Just before the adjournment, however, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister to comment on the controversy surrounding the arrival in Belize of Iqbal Singh. By his own admission, Singh applied, and got, a Belizean passport under our Economic Citizenship Investment Program while he was in a Canadian detention center pending deportation. The Canadian Intelligence Service alleged in Canadian Federal court that Singh was associated with the Babbar Khalsa, described as a militant Sikh nationalist movement. Canadian authorities say the BK may be responsible for the bombing of an Air India jet from Canada in 1985 among other activities. Singh has admitted knowing BK and BK International members but maintains he is not a terrorist and that Canadian authorities wanted to deport him because he refused to become an informant. Dean Barrow said today that the Belizean public deserved an explanation of the issue from the Prime Minister. He got his comment from Minister of Immigration Jorge Espat, under whose portfolio Economic Citizenship falls.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“Madame Speaker I call for a number of things to happen, I call for the Honorable, the Prime Minister apart from making a full and frank disclosure of what he knows with respect to this particular issue to immediately launch an inquiry, an official inquiry into the circumstances surrounding this, because I don’t want to hear that tha mi di civil servants fault. We want to know exactly how this thing could have happened so that a man in jail could have acquired Belizean citizenship and I further call on The Right Honorable Prime Minister to give us some indication of what is going to be done about the situation and finally and above all, I call upon him to for once live up to his promises and hold the referendum that he has promised on Economic Citizenship.”

Jorge Espat, Minister of Immigration

“Madame Speaker, The Belize Economic Citizenship Investment Program falls under the portfolio of Ministry of National Security and Immigration there are seven things that I would like to say to this Honorable House. That one, the application was submitted by a licensed consultant. Two, the scrutinizing committee vetted that application. Three the deportation notes from Canada said illegal entry, not terrorism or a terrorist, illegal entry. Four it is an allegation and there is no evidence. Five, Special Branch of the Belize Police Department checked with INTERPOL, and the report from INTERPOL was not adverse, did not indicate that the applicant was a terrorist. Six if the evidence from the investigation that is underway indicates that the applicant misrepresented his record, then we are likely to revoke his citizenship. And seven in the new policy document the issue of referendum is prominently featured as a commitment of this government.”

Area Representative for the Mesopotamia Division Michael Finnegan also raised an issue he objected to, a development project at mile twelve and a half on the Northern Highway. Finnegan had reported earlier this week that when he submitted the question to the Speaker of House Silvia Flores for inclusion in the questions section, her clerk returned it saying it and another question was out of order. Not to be deterred, Finnegan raised his concern during another section of the meeting and claims his investigation at the Registry Department raises questions about the land purchase and housing development. He maintains that the government purchased the land for an outrageous price and that the government, through the DFC will buy the homes after they are constructed by a private foreign firm for an inflated price. He says the deal is not only shady, but an insult to the residents of Southside Belize City who are desperate for low income housing. The Prime Minister, however, says Finnegan is dead wrong about the Las Lagos Housing Development Scheme and that it is not a government project at all.

Michael Finnegan, Area Representative, Mesopotamia

“They are still living in these conditions while a thirty million dollar housing project is being constructed, not on the South side of town, but on the North side of Belize City. Madame Speaker, finally I believe that the representative for Lake Independence, for Collet Division, For Albert Division, for Queen Square Division and the Mesopotamia Division and the Port Loyola Division have a moral obligation the those poor, depressed, people in those area, to stand up and to talk about this pork barrel deal. This is the most dishonest, and corrupt scheme I have every witnessed with my years in government.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Madame Speaker, we have listened to a tissue of slanderous and abusive lies against several people in this country and the whole point about…the whole point about what the member for Mesopotamia is saying means absolutely nothing, when you take into account the one very simple fact, that this entire project at Los Lagos is a private sector project. It is not the Government of Belize building these properties and the member well knows that, so for him to stand up in this house and deliberately mislead the house and the Belizean people, shows the kind, the caliber shows the reason why they were so trashed by the Belizean people in August of 1998. It is not true to say that the Government of Belize has paid thirty million dollars to anybody, for properties in Los Lagos, land or properties . That is simply not true it is to use the word a blatant lie.”

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