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May 7, 2014

COLA attempts to prosecute Elvin Penner have been frustrated

The existence of that preliminary report has been kept under wraps, so what’s contained in it is anybody’s guess. As we said, it only came up as a side note in a letter from the Auditor-General to COLA, which has mounted a private prosecution against Elvin Penner. The case is set for disclosure on May twenty-ninth. But will COLA have anything to disclose? The private prosecution largely depends on evidence which has been gathered by different entities, but it appears those entities have either closed up shop or are out to lunch. That was the topic of a press briefing held this morning by COLA representatives and attorney Kareem Musa, who appeared frustrated, but still unwilling to back down. Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On March twenty-seventh Elvin Penner was finally called to face justice in a court of law. He was formally arraigned, and is set to reappear in court on May twenty-ninth, 2014, when the claimant, COLA, will disclose evidence gathered against him. Unfortunately, all that evidence is in the hands of government-appointed or affiliated bodies, so COLA isn’t making any headway where that is concerned.

 

Geovannie Brackett

Geovannie Brackett, President, COLA

“They’ve given us a ‘referendum.’ When the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage tried to use that avenue, it failed. They say they gave us a recall mechanism. When we tried that avenue, it failed. Now we’re trying a private prosecution recommended by the Prime Minister and if this fails, it would have been because the government has failed. We have a failed system and we live with a government that is conducive to failure. We are hoping that despite the challenges that we are facing currently, we want to assure the public, the Belizean populace that COLA is not giving up.”

 

Not giving up, but facing significant hurdles. COLA’s primary source of information theoretically should have been Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie, who was ordered by the Supreme Court in early March to launch an investigation into Elvin Penner. That certainly hasn’t worked out.

 

Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Attorney for Private Prosecution

“He has ignored our correspondence. He has not responded whether positively or negatively. He is saying nothing and doing nothing. And so what we plan to do under the Freedom of Information Act is to invoke…there’s a section which allows for the Ombudsman to look into the reasons why the Commissioner of Police would not want to respond to us.”

 

In the meantime, COLA then turned to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal.

 

Kareem Musa

“Our focus is on the Commissioner of Police and by extension the DPP. There has been a lot of back and forth. They have been turning over the file to each other, back and forth. The latest meeting we had with the DPP just this Friday that passed…she informed us that once again she has sent that file back to the Commissioner of Police. So I don’t want to cast any aspersions but in fact I am becoming very wary that every time we’re supposed to be getting the file, supposed to be getting copies, we are not getting anything and we are not getting anywhere. So the DPP on Friday assured me, and I have written to her again this past Monday referring to that assurance that in fact she will deliver at least copies of the file which she will now seek to get back from the Commissioner of Police.”

 

So from there it was on to the Auditor-General Dorothy Bradley.

 

Dorothy Bradley

Kareem Musa

“It is sad for me to report today that we have received a response from the Auditor-General which I find to be totally unsatisfactory in that she is saying she will not provide the material evidence which she has gathered because of two things. Firstly she refers to a report. I have handed copies to you guys. She refers to her Auditor-General’s report which she says under the Constitution she cannot deliver to us until she tables it in the National Assembly. We at no time, and I want to make that categorically clear – at no point did we ask the Auditor-General for her report, so she is now mixing up two things. What we asked for in our letter was for material and evidence gathered…something separate and apart from her report.”

 

The second basis is that the report is not final and complete, and therefore is exempted. Musa says he can find no section in the Act which supports that rationale. But blocked there, they turned to the Ombudsman.

 

Kareem Musa

Allen Whylie

“Based on a review of the documents and information abovementioned the Ombudsman hereby affirms the decision of the Auditor-General to deny access to information requested by COLA. Again it is important for the nation to appreciate that these two entities, these two institutions, are functionaries of the government. The Auditor-General is appointed by the Prime Minister. The Ombudsman is appointed by the Prime Minister. The buck stops at the Prime Minister…the very same Prime Minister that recommended to COLA, recommended that there be a private prosecution utilizing this very Freedom of Information Act. We are now three weeks away from the disclosure date and you can see how the functionaries are setting up the blocks for us.”

 

With time running out, Musa says that while they will not back down, it is very likely they will need to ask for an adjournment when the case is called on May twenty-ninth. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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3 Responses for “COLA attempts to prosecute Elvin Penner have been frustrated”

  1. Joe Blank says:

    The predicted dog and pony show is under way. This is simple. Penner walks free as long as the red flag flies over the country. All we need is a commitment from the PUP leadership that Penner and all those who collaborated with him and those obstructed justice will be arrested and criminally prosecuted when there is a change of government. It’s that simple. What we don’t want is what we see: a dog and pony show of shaming the enemy, making a political career for one’s self, and making fools out of the rest of us as usual. There is only so much we should take from the political elite. And we are well pass that and totally cynical about the players in this thing.

  2. CEO says:

    This kind of information should be public documents that anyone can get a copy if they desire.

    Seems like every GOB only know what to do and what is correct and what is just when they are out of office.

  3. H@tari says:

    Revolution is the word that comes to my mind. Only the people can stop this abuse of power. But unfortunately, I do not think that the Belizean people have the will to do so. Shameful!

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