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Oct 11, 2013

New measures to clamp down on hanky-panky at Immigration Department

On Thursday’s newscast, we showed you the highlights from a press conference which lasted nearly two and a half hours. The head-table was intent on looking to the future, while the media was just as intent on the here and now – specifically the ongoing immigration scandal and the involvement of former Minister of State Elvin Penner. Tonight, we take a look at the measures that will be put in place by the Ministry of Immigration. Mike Rudon has that report.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse has presided over what is arguably one of the worst immigration scandals to rock any government. Disgraced former Minister of State Elvin Penner was his junior, and the corruption occurred under his watch. But Hulse is unfazed, and opened up Thursday’s press conference taking jabs at the media.

 

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration

Godwin Hulse

“Perhaps it’s becoming of age of the media for if we had stayed so engaged and focused in the past during the scandal surrounding the social security which took me twenty-two and a half months to investigate and if the recommendations were followed, the lesson would have been learnt by those who continue to defraud the system with impunity. If the media had stayed engaged and the people of Belize, then perhaps you would not have had to wait so long for the vindication at the CCJ for some forty million plus dollars which was wantonly and negligently siphoned off from the people of Belize. If the media had stayed engaged and supported me and the other agencies at the time of our efforts to recover the funds given to private sector operatives in the UHS scandals, when I was the only individual who dared to put my name on a suit all the way to the Privy Council. And if we had instituted in law the severe penalty required for such actions, then perhaps we would not had this scandal today.”

 

But the reality is that we are where we are today because of the corruption of a U.D.P. Minister of State. And for that, at least, Prime Minister Dean Barrow was at least a little contrite.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I want also to say again how extremely sorry I am that what has now happened, happened under the watch of the United Democratic Party. How absolutely ashamed I am that one of my ministers was central to what in fact occurred.”

 

There will be new measures put in place immediately to ensure the least likelihood of a reoccurrence of the travesty in the Department of Immigration.

 

Godwin Hulse

“We will start with a vigorous reorganizing and restructuring of the department for better efficiency with the assistance and the expertise at the ministry of the public service. Two, we will create a nationality scrutinizing committee and I dare say that time has not permitted for us to consult with all the actors in the public service but be assured that the prime minister and the cabinet will ensure that you participate. So if you have not heard it before, we apologize to you, but this is the action we intend to take. This scrutinizing committee will have as representatives a member from the Belize Council of Churches and we spoke with the church this morning and they concur. We’ll have a member from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and we’ll have a member from the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. We will have on the committee the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Immigration, the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Human Development, the C.E.O. in the Ministry of National Security, a representative from the SolGen Ministry and the Director of Immigration as ex-officio members.”

 

That committee will be appointed immediately. There will also be new legislation which will make it mandatory for the committee to vet applications before the Minister approves citizenship. And there’s more, including a whole new nationality certificate.

 

Godwin Hulse

“At present, the form is a simple certificate with the minister’s signature and the date on which it was signed. And the picture is attached via some mechanical means. The new certificate will have the facial photograph of the person so destined to be a citizen of Belize scanned into the document. We will now take a finger print image of the said person using either his right or left index finger as the case may be. The signature of the officer in charge of nationality and permanent residence will also appear on the certificate; that is to ensure that the highest officer in the department has certified that that certificate is ready for issue. But it doesn’t stop there, the signature of the director of immigration and nationality services will also appear on the certificate. The signature of the minister of immigration and nationality services will also be on the certificate because it is the minister who issues and the date and time of signature. The oath of allegiance followed by the person’s signature who took the oath will appear on the certificate. And the signature of the commissioner of the Supreme Court who administers the oath will also appear on the certificate.”

 

The new procedure comes into effect with the next scheduled swearing in of new citizens. And if all that fails, there’s the prospect of a serious fine and imprisonment to deter those who will no doubt still try.

 

Godwin Hulse

“We will strengthen the Act by increasing penalties from what it is now five hundred dollars to fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for a period not less than five years, but up to a maximum of fifteen years—both fined and confined for any violation of this act. Ladies and gentlemen, we feel that that kind of deterrent will serve to caution those who dare to violate the act. The fine of fifty thousand dollars from the figures we hear being paid, may be able to be paid, but remember it is fined and confined.”

 

There will also be looks at new measures in the passport department and in the issuance of visas…areas which have been shown to be a hotbed of corrupt activity. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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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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3 Responses for “New measures to clamp down on hanky-panky at Immigration Department”

  1. belizeanheat says:

    Thank you Mr. Penner, now the general public will be further inconvenienced and have to jump through more hoops while waiting even longer for forms to be signed, all because of your selfish wanton greed and desire to line your pockets with some quick cash.

  2. Karim says:

    Minister Hulse cannot divorce himself from this open corruption. He knew about Penner action because he is the Overseer of the whole Immigration department. Not being elected allows Penner, John and Contreras to join together to bully him, but if he had any integrity, he should have openly resigned than to allow himself to be a part of the cover up, for to do so, is to say I am no better than them. I tell you Hulse, one cannot without disgrace be associated with this whole government. Even the police is afraid to touch the Penner case and need the nod from Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow if they are to act. What a mess we have this country in? Beside this same Prime Minister is sending his other corrupt ministers to intimidate the people of Cayo, so we understand he too has become worse than all the ministers put together. ALL EYES ARE ON YOU TO COME CLEAN HULSE, BECAUSE WE KNOW that YOU KNOW, AND YOU KNOW THAT WE KNOW YOU KNOW! Its time to save the tiny little bit dignity you have left in you. The rest of the country need to rally around Cayo North East to bring this corruption to an end once and for all.

  3. Beano for a falling government says:

    belizeanheat-

    Penner is peanuts, he signs undated official documents because someone higher up the food chain told him to do it.

    Who could that be? next up is Hulse, but since Barrow admits he has a special relation to Penner, I would say both.

    This new protection crap, this bigger fig leaf comes from the guys you created this whole f*** mess to begin with. Expect it to be better regulated for corruption purposes, it is what they do. It is a criminal government. Everyone one of the ministers has their action, their turf to squeeze.

    Penner is nobody, but a pawn in their game. He just got sucked into their machine, like the Mennonite boy last week. The only hope they have with Penner is to rig the recall. And do not put it past them. They are master thieves and probably can trick the country again.

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