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Feb 10, 2014

Hearing of suspended immigration officers postponed

Marvin Blades

A hearing by the Public Service Commission was scheduled for Tuesday, but is now postponed to next week Tuesday. The three employees of the Immigration Department who have been on suspension since September, 2013, will have their day before the Services Commission. Those public officers: Sharon Neal, Erwin Robinson and Omar Phillips will answer to charges made against them in the production of a Belizean passport for South Korean national Won Hong Kim on September ninth. The six-member Commission, headed by Chairman Patrick Bernard, has the authority to discipline the officers, up to and including dismissal from the service. Today News Five spoke to Public Service Union President Marvin Blades, who says he was not aware that the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. But based on arguments prepared by the three officers on suspension, he believes that they have a strong case.

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Marvin Blades, President, PSU

“The officer at the beginning had to bring up what you call a ‘show cause’ letter that was presented to them from their ministry…in this case Immigration. And then that officer has to give a response, which we had assisted them to give a response. After that response is given, the Commission would then deliberate on it to see if there is any reason for a hearing. As you’ve stated now there will be a hearing, so there was reason for a hearing. Now the government side, or the officer or the person who will be presenting the case has to present the case showing their witnesses who can authenticate or make the case stronger for saying that these officers did do what they say they did. And the officers would also have their opportunity to carry their three witnesses to do the same. And of course the person representing the government can ask their witnesses some questions, and likewise the other way around.  I would say that they have a good case, however, as most people don’t understand, the Commission does not rule by evidence, the law of evidence. It means, as it is clear in the Commission’s Regulations thirty-one, in disciplinary proceedings or other deliberations, each Service Commission may inform itself in such manner as it thinks fit without regard to rules of evidence or other technicalities or forms. So looking at whatever is presented from those officers, I believe that they do have a strong case. Of course the Commission looks at probabilities more than rules of evidence, and if the case be that the decision comes from the commission that the officers be dismissed, they have recourse at the Belize Advisory Council which actually looks at rules of evidence.”

 

The Services Commission has ninety days to deliver a judgment in the matter. If they are dissatisfied with that ruling, the public officers can take it up with the Belize Advisory Commission. Meanwhile, they remain on suspension at half-pay.

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