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Feb 19, 2014

3 suspended immigration officers go before Services Commission

Elvin Penner, the disgraced former minister of state, who facilitated the illegal issuance of a Belize passport to a South Korean fugitive, has not been questioned much less investigated. But three public officers employed in the Passport Section of the Immigration Department today appeared before the Services Commission. Sharon Neal, Omar Phillips and Erwin Robinson have been on suspension with half-pay since late September soon after the scandal broke. All three have been singled out in an internal report dated November eleventh and signed by Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse. The Senior Officer, Sharon Neal, is accused of failing to scrutinize the systems approval properly and failing to sign the passport application form. Omar Phillips, who claims that he was personally handed the Won Hong Kim passport application by Minister Penner, is accused of failing to verify the applicant. And Erwin Robinson, the data capture clerk, continues to insist that Kim was the person whose picture he captured, even though Kim was in Taiwan at the time. Director of Immigration Maria Marin has recommended the termination of all three officers, and that is the matter being played out before the Service Commission today in Belmopan. The media camped outside the Edney Cain building; inside the hearing was handled discreetly and the three public officers were secreted out after the hearing.  But we did get a moment with Oswald Twist, veteran unionist and attorney for Phillips and Robinson. He told News Five that his clients have a very strong case, and while they may have committed errors of judgment, they should not be terminated.

 

Oswald Twist

Oswald Twist, Attorney for Two Public Officers

“We met at about nine-thirty with the Commission; the head of the Commission is Mister Pat Bernard. Immigration presented their case, the C.E.O., Miss Saldivar along with Marin; Marin was the only witness that was called. We were given an opportunity to cross examine her on various issues and at the end of the day, the Commission will make the decision on the guilt or innocence of these persons. But from a legal standpoint, I believe that we presented a good case and I believe that the eventual outcome will be favorable to our client. Well I don’t know what report came out, but all the report that was presented to us, as a disclosure.”

 

Mike Rudon

“And you can’t tell us anything about what was in that report; what they are alleging against your client and the other officers?”

 

Oswald Twist

“The report is basic; it involved the passport with Mister Kim. It says that the officers were negligent in processing the passport. That was the basic allegations against all three of the officers. But we don’t see the allegation as being something really serious. There may have been error in judgment, but not sufficient evidence of negligence to have them dismissed from the service; certainly not from my perspective at least.”

 

Mike Rudon

“Could you tell us sir if the name of the former Minister of State, Elvin Penner, was brought up at the hearing this morning?”

 

Oswald Twist

“Well at some point in time his name came up, but just briefly…nothing much.”

 

Mike Rudon

“So you wouldn’t be able to tell us exactly what…in what context he came up?”

 

Oswald Twist

“Well the only thing that was said was that he brought the person Mister Kim to the office; that’s what came up. Well I shouldn’t say Mister Kim, but the person who he brought to the office. I can’t say it was Mister Kim, but he brought a person to the office and that is no secret. A person was there along with Minister Penner.”

 

Twist represented Phillips and Robinson, while Sharon Neal was represented by Andrea McSweaney-McKoy. The case for the Ministry of Immigration was presented by Immigration C.E.O., Candelaria Saldivar. She declined an interview. We are told the only witness who appeared for the Minister was Director Maria Marin. The Commission has ninety days to present its decision in the matter.

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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 “3 suspended immigration officers go before Services Commission”

  1. Ali BaBarrow and his band of 40+ says:

    Don’t rat anyone out and your future JOB is back at GOB, maybe a ministers assistant.
    Or bootyman’s love interest if you deliver the bacon.

  2. Ali BaBarrow and his band of 40+ says:

    Terminate the government is the best solution.
    Put the government criminals in prison, and then the Halifax gibbet for the lucky leaders.

  3. hard woking Belizean says:

    As always the small fries are sacrificed to protect the rotten egg Penner and his other band of thieves!! I hope the union and the Belizean people for once stand up against this outragous & unfair situation!

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