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The Penner questioning

EditorialThe Penner questioning

There are two things which jumped out of us as we listened to the Senate Committee question former United Democratic Party (UDP) Immigration Minister, Elvin Penner, through the course of Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

The first thing was that there was no need for the ruling UDP to tear down Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, personally and departmentally, the way they did in the weeks and months before public opinion forced an inquiry to be held into Belize’s immigration matters. The UDP behaved in an abusive and dishonorable manner towards the Auditor General.

The fact of the matter is that it was very well known, in political and business circles both domestic and foreign, that a huge demand existed and exists overseas, largely in Asia and especially in China and Taiwan, for Belizean visas, nationality documents, and passports. The United States of America, the most powerful nation on planet earth and a neighbor of Belize’s, has noted and indicated that there is such a demand in terrorism circles. Washington has expressed great concern. The matter of Belize’s visas, nationality documents, and passports is a humongous matter, and very few of our immigration officials have been able to resist the bribes and payoffs which are offered to them by interested parties. These are well known facts. Why should it, then, not have been desirable to follow up on the investigative discoveries which the Auditor General and her staff had made? We’ll tell you why it was not desirable. An inquiry was not desirable because the UDP had fallen so in love with itself that their leaders were unwilling for any documented dirt at Immigration to reflect on their governance. Better for the corruption beat to go on than for the Barrow government to accept any blame. So it was that Mrs. Bradley was vilified, venomously and viciously.

The second thing which jumped out at us was the fact that the enthusiastic, militant COLA prosecution of Mr. Penner was, in retrospect, ill-conceived, because it allowed him to tell the Senate Inquiry on Wednesday that he did not have to answer questions about the Citizen Kim passport scandal because he had already been cleared in court on criminal charges. The COLA prosecution was an absolute reach, doomed from the beginning, because the Commissioner of Police had refused orders from the Chief Justice to investigate the Citizen Kim scandal.

We think the people of Belize, on the ground, are very, very angry about the Citizen Kim scandal, about all the hustling at the Immigration Department, and about the toothless nature of the Senate Inquiry. At the end of the day, the reality is that we who thought we inherited a nation after self-government in 1964, not only had become a minority of the population by the time of independence in 1981, but now we surely realize that the nation of Belize has been taken over by Asian immigrants who bought our documents, who now control our elected officials, Police Department and other judiciary personnel, and who really do not give a damn about any of us “roots Belizeans.” Worse than that, they don’t give a damn what we think. They bought our country, but, more important, it is we ourselves who sold Belize to them. This is the lesson of the Senate Inquiry.

Ultimately, this has nothing to do with party politics. PUP, UDP: when it comes to immigration irregularities, it is six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. This really has to do, the newspaper submits, with how we Belizeans view ourselves as a people and in what self-esteem we hold ourselves. We all know that Belize is experiencing an existential crisis in the Chiquibul and on the Sarstoon. What we Belizeans have yet to admit is that we were selling our national souls to cold-blooded invaders when we were selling our nationality documents like fish in the market. This was an infamy thirty years ago; it was an infamy twenty years ago; and it remains an infamy today.

The PUP’s attack on Faber

The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has launched a television attack ad against the ruling United Democratic Party’s (UDP) Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Patrick Faber, which focuses on two different sets of abuse of women accusations involving alcohol consumption.

This is not material which has not been aired before, but it is now being used in a direct and distilled manner. UDP top brass are concerned, and we’ll tell you why. The days are dwindling down where the Dean Barrow leadership is concerned. The UDP at this point intend next March’s national municipal elections to be a kind of glorious swan song for Prime Minister Barrow, whereupon he would begin the transfer of party power to Mr. Faber.
If the PUP can succeed with this smear campaign against Patrick, however, and we know how sensitive the issue of domestic abuse has become in Belize over the last decade or so, Faber would be the third proposed successor to Mr. Barrow to be disgraced in less than two years. The first such was the former UDP Deputy Leader/Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Gaspar Vega. A series of events began when Vega was replaced as Minister of Natural Resources following the general elections of November 4, 2015. In a matter of months, scandal following scandal, Vega resigned from the Deputy Leader/Deputy Prime Minister posts, and a convention was held to choose between Belmopan’s Hon. John Saldivar and Collet’s Faber. Faber won, but Saldivar, supported by Vega, remained powerful and credible until the William Danny Mason revelations of last year blew up his “dolly house.”

Now, the PUP has decided to zero in on Faber.

To whom could the UDP turn? Sedi Elrington is embattled because of his controversial Foreign Minister performance. Erwin Contreras, it appears, prefers to operate in the background. For now, it does look like Patrick or bust.

Mr. Barrow’s decision to delay re-registration once again, until after the March 2018 national municipals, exposes how important these seemingly minor elections are. The Prime Minister’s legacy is a growing concern of his, and he cannot afford to go out with egg on his face. March 2018 is critical.

Mr. Barrow’s leadership credibility, despite his health issues, remains intact. The problem is immediately below him, in the matter of succession. In electoral politics, as in gambling, there is such a thing as the “smart money,” which, in the case of Belize’s politics, is the business and investor people who bet their campaign donations on the winning horse. If doubt creeps in where the question of UDP leadership succession is concerned, some of this smart money may begin to hedge their bets and look to Independence Hall. We’re just saying.

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