Politics — 28 February 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks

They also need a lawyer, free

On February 17, Prime Minister Dean Barrow suggested that the Opposition PUP, if they feel so strongly about the Penner passport scandal, could launch a private prosecution. That suggestion has gained traction, not from the Opposition, but from the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), which announced that they will file a private prosecution in the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

COLA made the announcement at a press briefing today, Thursday, at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.

COLA’S move to initiate private prosecution against Elvin Penner for his role in securing a Belize passport and nationality document for the imprisoned South Korean Won Hong Kim, would be a first for Belize’s judiciary, if the information and complaint form that they have filled out succeeds in making it to a court hearing.

COLA’s president Giovanni Brackett said that the mere fact that Elvin Penner has not been made to come forward to face some kind of committee, is an insult and disrespect.

“When you are in high office, then you ought to face the public and give an explanation. That already makes COLA angry. But what even more aggravate us is the fact that we have three immigration officers who are being made to put out there, who may face termination, lose their benefits, yet Elvin Penner has not been made to face even a Select Committee,” Brackett said.

He added that the three immigration officers have to get their attorneys to represent them.

“Penner does not even need an attorney, because he is not even being investigated,” Brackett said, “and that for us is appalling.”

Jihad McLaren, the Commoners’ representative, said that every branch of investigators failed in the Penner matter.

“He [Penner] betrayed the country of Belize when he sold passport. Belizeans deserve to have Mr. Penner removed,” McLaren said, “he is to be removed and charged like any other criminal. He is a crook. He did what most people cannot even think of doing.”

“’I personally escorted Mr. Kim to have the process expedited;’ — those are some of the words of Mr. Penner, incriminating words”, said the COLA vice president Gilroy Usher, Jr.

Usher said the sale of Belizean nationality is a crime, yet some have stated that nothing wrong was done.

“We, the members of COLA, in consultation with the people, will initiate a private prosecution of Penner,” Usher declared.

Rufus X said Elvin Penner was made to do wrong. All this could have been prevented. Mr. Barrow, the Prime Minister, could have prevented Elvin Penner from doing anything wrong, if he had done the right thing, Rufus argued.

Rufus X said that during the General Elections Penner paid for the nationality certificates of hundreds of Guatemalans out of his own pocket.

“But when they won the elections, he made Elvin Penner a junior minister. A man who had just confessed to a crime; that was the first crime he committed, registering mainly Guatemalans to become citizens so they can vote in the elections. Mr. Penner should have been disciplined by his party leader. He should have been sacked,” Rufus X said. “The institutions failed us.”

COLA is also asking for a lawyer to take the case, “pro bono.”

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