Features — 01 November 2013

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” EXODUS 20:7

Thus it seems that when you call the name of God, it better not be in vain… it better mean you really want Him to intervene and mete out His justice.

I have heard that there are Ministers who are procuring visas for people. I have said pretty much every second Cabinet, if you are doing so, I have no proof, for God’s sake stop it, stop it! That is what will cause the government to fall.” PM Barrow October 10, 2013

Well, not only did the Honorable PM use God’s name in vain, he also spoke in vain, since clearly, if at “every second Cabinet” meeting he implored his Cabinet members to “stop it” and even did so for the sake of God, and they did not obey… it is no wonder they are not guiltless.

But a look at the PM’s word is very telling of so many things, and the first is that the honourable leader of our country had already “heard that there are Ministers who are procuring visas for people.” Now that is a serious admission and one he clearly believed; that is why he said to them, “for God’s sake stop it, stop it…”

Now there are several dimensions to his imploration to them:

1. He heard about the visa scandal, yet did nothing to stop it, other than just telling them stop it;

2. I am sure he heard names and could have easily asked Godwin Hulse to have a senior official check the records to see on how many of those recommendations he could find the names of his Ministers – that would have been his proof;

3. But if he gave his caution and imploration “pretty much [at] every second Cabinet” meeting then it has to be for a long time now that he had been hearing about the developing scandal;

4. And finally, if he believed this could “cause the government to fall,” why didn’t he act?

Why didn’t he act?

I have many reasons I theorize the Prime Minister, Dean Oliver Barrow, the great, did not act. Be patient with me as I put forth my views.

Firstly, the reason criminals keep committing crimes is because they honestly believe they will not be caught – do you think they would do it if they knew they would be caught? So, these Ministers, even when they knew it was wrong what they were doing, did not even bother to stop because in their minds, they are in power, they are above the law, and they would never be caught. If people feared being caught they would not commit crimes. There is no deterrence – nothing to make them feel that jolt that if they do not comply with the call of their leader they will suffer grave loss or penalty and even face conviction and imprisonment… Serious, they have no reason to comply.

You see, for people to feel compelled to obey they need to believe there is a COMPETENT system that will monitor them and catch them, and then there will be a process so effective that their likelihood of conviction is almost sure, and then that there are penalties so grave that just the thought of it scares them and deters them from taking the risk.

It is like the reason why murderers don’t stop killing in this country… because if caught, they seldom are convicted and if convicted, they will not be hanged to death, only get life imprisonment, which they most likely will win upon appeal. Yep… NO deterrence!

Party of a second chance!

Secondly, even if claims, allegations or suspicions are cast on any of them, they know they are guaranteed the cover of the party because political preservation is prized above national stability! It is amazing, but for me if the PM had already been telling his Cabinet members (which now includes Ministers of State) to stop it every second meeting, why would he be asking the nation, the Cayo North-East constituents and even the Belizean Diaspora, to give Elvin Penner a SECOND CHANCE?

To me, correct me if I am wrong, Penner got more than a second chance. He got a chance at every other Cabinet meeting… That is the evidence given by the PM! So the new government was formed in March 2012. From January 18, 2012, Penner was giving media interviews that he is helping to pay for the nationality of his constituents with hopes they will vote for him. Why not, it’s pay back of a favor. He is made Minister of State, and we are not sure if there and then he is given signatory powers, but we know for at least one year he has been signing.

So being generous, if for the past 52 weeks he has been in Cabinet and Cabinet meets almost every Tuesday, and the PM tells them, Penner included, to “stop it” every second Cabinet meeting, then it means that at least 25 times and 25 chances Penner had to rethink, desist and stop it! So sorry, by my lenient estimation, Penner is asking for a 26th chance! If not more.

Recently our Prime Minister and the UDP’s Party Leader was in Los Angeles meeting with the Diaspora and we got a review of his remarks from Hubert Pipersburgh to this effect: “Mr. Barrow remained defiant as ever that Penner should be given a second chance because we are a nation that forgives, he said. Mr. Barrow said that he hasn’t quite made up his mind on whether he should appoint a commission of inquiry, but as of now, he doesn’t believe that it would serve a purpose. That’s a repetition of his stance that he doesn’t believe an investigation into Mr. Penner’s activities is necessary, and that enough has been done to him already. “

PM lenient with Penner!Mr. Barrow remained defiant as ever that Penner should be given a second chance because we are a nation that forgives he said. Mr. Barrow said that he hasn’t quite made up his mind on whether he should appoint a commission of inquiry, but as of now he doesn’t believe that it would serve a purpose. That’s a repetition of his stance that he doesn’t believe an investigation into Mr. Penner’s activities is necessary and that enough has been done to him already.

There is a problem from the start for me where I believe that the leniency of the PM on Penner can be pointing to something more. Why would he seek to still protect the one man exposed of doing what he says “will cause the government to fall.”? I would think that such cancer would be operated on. Why would he want to go abroad and ask for a second chance? Yes we are a forgiving nation… And since when the PM is the DPP to determine if there is legal evidence to convict Penner? And by the way, the same factual evidence once admitted in a court of law becomes legal evidence, and then using the rules of law and applying them to the facts, the judge and jury decide the verdict.

But then on the issue of the verdict PM tells the Diaspora that “enough has been done to him [Penner] already.” Really? Really? So which investigation determined that? And why shield the very man causing the fall of your government? I said it last week and I will say it again – Penner can call names and since his ship is sinking, he can decide to sink alone or bring with him the rest of Cabinet.

Do my readers wonder, how come the PM seems to be reading from a script that says Penner is done with the UDP, yet he pushes no investigation, forms no commission, does not support a Senate inquiry and still would not vilify Penner, who is the cause for the fall of his government? This is what he says: “We are not going to go out there and slaughter Penner, we are not going to do it, but to ask us to actually join some sort of a street campaign against a former colleague, we believe, is asking us to go too far.”

So, if to join the public court of opinion on the streets, is asking for too much, what must the PM be saying as the nation demands an investigation, inquiry, arrest and possible conviction? You must be cursing the daylights out of us! I wish such leniency would be shown to the Maya, whose land and rights are being trampled, and the unions, whose salaries will not see an increase, and the families whose 13 babies died and they got no compensation; and the hundreds now afflicted with cancer but Social Security cannot cover their medical bills, or the pensioners, or the man convicted with a stick of weed who will do time!

The investigation

Our nation is so forgiving that our leaders get away without even a slap on the wrist. Our own PM, an attorney and a man of verbosity, evaded the press for the first time and is indecisive as to whether he is to appoint a commission of inquiry? Hmm, that “no sound right.” But to help him I only need remind him that if the police are allowed to do their work and bring in expert help if needs be, and the DPP is given a proper file, the problem is solved… no need for the inquiry, which will be headed by some stalwart anyway… It’s not as if they would ever ask me to head such investigation!

But beyond the investigation, our leaders keep getting away with “bloody murder” because the system, process, mechanism, and entities that should be in place are NOT in place. Let me give you a simple example why the police CAN NEVER do a proper investigation:

1. Because to do so would mean they have to investigate themselves – they would need to start to explain how come those people who got nationality got their police record so fast, within hours;

2. They would have to reveal which politicians applied for these expedited police reports… and indicate if officers were pressured to comply or given a financial incentive to cooperate;

3. As is now revealed in the Edmund Castro visa-approval scandal, the cop who was the contact of the whistleblower is no other than a relative of Elvin Penner;

4. Sufficient time is elapsing to destroy evidence, clean computer memories, discard files, fix records, etc., so by the time police or any independent investigator goes in – those are gone; and

5. Finally, because still at the helm of the investigation is no other than Godwin Hulse, his CEO and Immigration director: there is no telling how they will control what the police gets.

To make matters worse, we do not even have the recourse of going to the Integrity Commission, established under the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Cap12, which has been defunct since its head, BQ Pitts, was appointed AG. The Integrity Commission should be investigating Penner and Castro – but it only exists in law and on paper! Both Penner and Castro must provide “a sworn declaration of assets, income and liabilities” and the Commission could have inquired into these, if the Commission had existed!

God bless my people and deal with those who call Your name in vain!

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