BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. Nov. 15, 2017–Substantive Minister in the Ministry of Immigration, Senator Godwin Hulse, appeared today to make his second appearance before the Senate Select Committee tasked with investigating widespread corruption in the Ministry of Immigration.
While in the hot seat, Minister Senator Hulse was grilled about the Guatemalan nationals who received Belizean nationality without properly denouncing their Guatemalan nationality.
Hulse explained the difficulties in the nationalization process involving Guatemalan nationals. He went a step further to claim that those who received their nationality in a flawed fashion should not be allowed to vote in the impending referendum to determine if the longstanding Belize-Guatemala border dispute should be settled at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Here is an excerpt from Hulse’s testimony:
Senator Eamon Courtenay: “Are you aware of the requirement of a national of Guatemala who must renounce his or her nationality before taking Belizean nationality? What is the procedure in Belize to satisfy yourself that that has been done lawfully?”
Hulse: “I engaged that issue when I first became the Minister and through the Foreign Ministry there were a lot of back and forth communication with the Foreign Ministry of Guatemala and the process to do this — the now deceased Fred Martinez, at the time ambassador for Belize in Guatemala and CEO Alexis Rosado. There was a point at which it was advised that once the person does the renunciation form and it was lodged at the embassy and the embassy received it together with the passport that that was acceptable as the state having accepted the renunciation of the person. So we proceeded on that basis. Subsequent to that, it was made clear to me by the new ambassador in various discussions that the process was wrong and that in fact while that could be assumed it was not factual because the state of Guatemala, notwithstanding the issues with Belize etcetera, would not allow their citizens to be stateless. And as a consequence if the person renounced before they got the Belizean nationality, in that little period, that hiatus, they would be stateless and they could not accept that. That created a problem because our law says they have to renounce before. So almost chicken and egg. That having happened created a whole new issue. And as I understand it, as of this moment it is unresolved but no new nationalities to Guatemalans by registration are being issued through the Nationality Committee. That is my understanding because of that issue.”
Courtenay: “Have you as minister sought officially legal advice from an expert on Guatemalan law as to how a Guatemalan can effectively and lawfully renounce his or her nationality?”
Hulse: “Yes, we have sought it through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to engage their Ministry to get a proper determination of how that process goes. I know for a fact that it can happen because a communiqué was sent to us last year which said that some 62 Guatemalans had renounced their Guatemalan nationalities so it can happen.”
Courtenay: “Here we have evidence from Guatemala emanating from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically saying I think that it was 62 or 68 persons had renounced their nationality. If we check how many Guatemalan nationals became Belizeans and it exceeds that number, one, that is clear evidence that something illegal may have happened. Two, you would also have to check to see that the 62 or 68 are on our books and they correspond. Has anything been done?”
Hulse: “No, not to my knowledge.”
Courtenay: “Have we requested data on any other years from Guatemala?”
Hulse: “Not to my knowledge.”
Courtenay: “Any reasons for this?”
Hulse: “No. It’s an exercise to be done but I have not.”
Courtenay: “You said that your ministry has followed up with Foreign Affairs seeking advice. Has Foreign Affairs procured, obtained?”
Hulse: “We’re still waiting.”
Courtenay: “You accept that any Guatemalan who did not effectively and lawfully renounce his or her nationality and became a Belizean is not a true Belizean?”
Hulse: “That would go back from Independence.”
Courtenay: “I don’t care when, is not a true Belizean. You agree?”
Hulse: “If that is the process and it was not accepted legally, properly contrary to what we understood, then that would be so.”
Courtenay: “What is to happen to those persons?”
Hulse: “It’s difficult to answer.”
Courtenay: “Well. We cannot tolerate a state of illegality and unconstitutionality, stare it in the face and just say we’re not going to get the legal advice as to what is to happen.”
Hulse: “I agree, Senator, but then that is a discourse that we have to advance through all the legal luminaries, the Cabinet and everybody to determine what is to happen. From where I sit, those persons who would not have qualified but by some misunderstanding or misrepresentation or misinterpretation of the filing of the things were qualified. If that position is reversed then they would have to revert to a status of perhaps permanent residence, perpetually because there is nothing to prevent that, but some determination has to be made. “
Courtenay: “This is a matter that is of serious concern to me. First of a matter of principle but secondly these people, a lot of them, have registered to vote. And do vote. What is your view with respect to Guatemalan nationals or former Guatemalan nationals being allowed to vote in a referendum on the ICJ?”
Hulse: “None at all. They shouldn’t.”
Courtenay: “You would support a recommendation for an amendment to the law to preclude them from voting in that referendum?”
On this matter Hulse assured the committee that he will get a legal opinion on the matter before the Senate Select Committee files its reports on the sittings.