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Jan 26, 2017

Ex-Immigration Director Says Department “Rushed” Nationality Files Before 2012 Elections

Wednesday was a big day at the Senate Special Select Committee as former Director of Immigration Ruth Meighan closed her testimony. We have full coverage of the many revelations coming from that meeting in tonight’s newscast, but perhaps the biggest one was reserved for the tail end of the hearing, which concluded just before two in the afternoon. It has to do with the 2012 general elections, won by the skin of the ruling United Democratic Party’s teeth, and the long-standing allegations that it was “stolen” through the creation of at least two thousand new citizens, a majority Guatemalan, through registration and documentation at the Immigration Department. In December, new information surfaced: a list of at least two thousand alleged illegal immigrants who were assisted to get their papers. And on Wednesday, Meighan confirmed that in their haste, corners were cut and the Belizean nationality compromised, many times over. A special meeting of the House of Representatives has been called for Friday in Belmopan. This pre-empts a planned press conference by the Opposition People’s United Party for this afternoon in Belize City, as both sides hunker down for what is expected to be a bitter day of debate in Belmopan. But first, News Five’s Aaron Humes revisits the P.U.P.’s allegations and Wednesday’s revelation.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

It may not be completely forgotten, but few may remember how only a month ago, Leader of the Opposition John Briceño revealed a list of more than two thousand new citizens created by the Dean Barrow administration and the Immigration Department in those torrid months before the 2012 general election. In at least three divisions, as Briceño reminded during his appearance on Open Your Eyes last week, that tide swamped a party fractured, divided, and lacking resources; but the subsequent eye-opening hardly restores the Dean Barrow administration’s lost lustre.


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“Just in December, I managed to get a copy of two thousand nationalities that were given between October 2011 and February 2012, just before the elections. Remember, that election we lost by about five hundred votes – there were three divisions that a little over a hundred votes would have turned things around. So again, it’s not because he’s so great; he was forced to be able to take on that action, to do that investigation, so I don’t give them credit for that.”


Now comes confirmation from the biggest fish in the Immigration pond: former Director Ruth Meighan, who conceded to P.U.P. Senator Eamon Courtenay that indeed, the Department acted on an expedited basis to rush files that were glaringly incomplete so that the future citizens could register to vote in a pivotal election.


Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator
“Those persons, whose files were not complete, did not qualify at that time to get Belizean nationality?”


Ruth Meighan

Ruth Meighan, Former Director, Immigration Department
“Those persons did not qualify, but the file that was presented, and I could clearly remember my minister coming back and telling me – because we were concerned that the process that the files, they were requesting a lot of files. And we said that we have to ensure that all the applicants meet the requirement for nationality. And that was clearly stated throughout the department, and so, any files that came to us for approval, they were presented as qualified applicant.”


Eamon Courtenay
“You now know, Miss Meighan, that many of them were fraudulently prepared?”


Ruth Meighan


Eamon Courtenay
“They did not qualify for nationality?”


Ruth Meighan
“Yes, according the…”


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay
“And obviously did not qualify to be registered to vote?”


Ruth Meighan


Though it was not known or perhaps ignored then, Meighan says now that of the cases she has perused in the report, quite a few applicants did not meet the major requirements to be called truly Belizean.


Ruth Meighan

“Based on the report we have here indicating that they did not have the five-year requirement, some of them, and other information that the Auditor General has in the report.”


Aldo Salazar

Aldo Salazar, Chair, Senate Special Select Committee

“But was this a specific reference to nationality before the general election as Senator Courtenay has asked?”


Ruth Meighan

“That’s what he was asking, questioning about, and those were the ones I was making reference to, yeah.”


Aldo Salazar

“But I am asking if there is anything in the report which says that those nationality documents that were processed before the general election were…?”


Ruth Meighan

“I think the Auditor General’s report made reference specially to some applicants from San Pedro, I think the Harmouch[es] – I don’t quite remember how much of them; but those were some of the ones that I cited as saying as indicated by the Auditor General’s Report that they did not qualify at the time that they get their nationality.”


How does the Opposition proceed? How does the Government respond? On Friday, Belize may be entering uncharted territory. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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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2 Responses for “Ex-Immigration Director Says Department “Rushed” Nationality Files Before 2012 Elections”

  1. Karl says:

    “I am shocked, shocked to find out that this is going on here” Here is what I propose.
    1. Any new citizen should not be allowed to vote, in the next elections following their acceptance.
    2. Special vetting should be given to all Guatemalan nationals, desiring the privilege to become a Belizeans citizen. The main question here is “will they still maintain dual citizenship of both countries” if so, no. Guatemala will one day rule this country without firing a shot because of dishonest politicians in both parties

  2. spike says:

    I’m not shocked at all. It’s almost as bad as all the dishonesty within the Lands Dept.

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