BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Thurs. May 18, 2017–On Wednesday, former Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration, Elvin Penner, appeared once again before the Senate Select Committee.
He again read a statement indicating why he was not required to furnish answers to the questions posed.
According to him, the Constitution states that not only did he not have to respond to those questions posed by the committee, but he also did not have to provide any reason for his refusal to respond.
However, when the Senate Select Committee asked him to locate that specific piece of legislation, he could not do so.
Senator Eamon Courtenay indicated to him that there was nothing in the Constitution that exempted him from answering a question if he had no reason for not doing so.
Penner then went on to accuse Senator Courtenay of using the hearings to gain political mileage for the Opposition People’s United Party.
Penner read, “Senator Courtenay has really proven to me and to the vast majority of the listening public that this hearing has become a platform for him. A political platform not only to undermine and discredit past and present ministers of the UDP administration, but also to do likewise to career public officers. I believe that he’s also making every effort to represent his party in this Senate to the best of his ability. Let the record show that I do not intend to answer any further questions which in my views are posed with overt political bias.”
When the chairman of the Senate Select Committee, Aldo Salazar, asked Courtenay if he had any questions for Penner, he responded, “I had, but I guess I will get a lashing this morning from my daddy, Mr. Penner, You’re paying attention, or are you texting? Let me just say something to you right for the record; nothing that you said just now frightens me or will change the questions I have for you, alright?”
He added, “You know why I am here, you know why you are here, and as long as we keep that in mind, we won’t be here for too long, but believe me, I will ask you the questions that I have because you were the one who was volunteering all along that you wanted to come here and tell this Senate committee all that you know about the scandal of the Immigration Department. All of a sudden, for some reason, you are now coming up with reasons why you do not wish to answer questions. I have some questions for you, and I hope that good sense will prevail and you will answer them.”
Following that brief exchange, Penner agreed to answer the questions posed, as best as he could. The first line of questioning was in relation to a list which recorded ministerial interventions in the processes at the Immigration Department.
Former Acting Director of Immigration, Maria Marin, had previously told the Senate Select Committee that a list was kept and forwarded to Cabinet so as to track Ministerial interference in the Immigration Department.
When he appeared before the Senate Select Committee last Wednesday, Penner confirmed that there was such a list.
However, in his interview with the media last Friday at the meeting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said, “I don’t remember that.”
Here is a brief excerpt from Penner’s testimony on Wednesday into this matter:
Courtenay: “Reports were sent to Cabinet, remember? Do you remember?”
Penner: “Yes, I do.”
Courtenay: “Were you truthful?”
Penner: “Yes, I was.”
Courtenay: “Have you seen what the Prime Minister has said about that?”
Penner: “Yes, I do.”
Courtenay: “What do you hear him saying?
Penner: “That he doesn’t recall that Cabinet had requested any such reports.”
Courtenay: “Do you confirm that they were sent?”
Penner: “Well, the reports were sent to Cabinet.”
Courtenay: “And, as you told us, they were sent through the substantive Minister, not through you; you recall?”
Penner: “That’s right.”
Courtenay: “And you confirm that?”
Courtenay: “So it’s a matter of the Prime Minister’s lack of recalling? You are confirming that in fact those reports exist, and the Cabinet got them?”
After an eventless testimony, Penner was allowed to leave the hearing. Next week Wednesday, whistleblower Alvarine Burgess will appear before the committee to testify about the hustling in the Immigration Department.