Politics — 20 June 2014 — by Adele Ramos
PM in the eye of the storm over Penner scandal

Today, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, president of the Bar Association of Belize, referred to Prime Minister Dean Barrow as “a Penner-loving, Castro-hugging…” Prime Minister, as he fielded questions from the media on the ongoing schism between the Bar Association and the Barrow administration over the reappointment of Justice Samuel Awich to the Court of Appeal.

Courtenay’s provocative comments echo suggestions from Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca that the Barrow administration is covering up some underlying aspects of the passport scandal involving former Minister of State for Immigration, Elvin Penner, who Barrow sacked last September after receiving reports of improprieties from another Cabinet member.

In the National Assembly on Friday, Fonseca and Barrow had a back-and-forth on the Penner passport scandal, and more specifically, the recently unearthed preliminary report of the Auditor General, previewed last week by Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA).

In that report, the Auditor General complains of having been stonewalled during the course of her investigation, because she had not received vital documentation.

“Obstruction was the order of the day. It is not us saying that; it is the Auditor General of Belize saying it was obstruction. Obstruction is the order of the day! There is no cooperation from the Department of Immigration. Everybody is hiding! Everybody is protecting the other one and protecting their UDP cronies,” Fonseca charged.

The Opposition Leader said that Belizeans deserve to know what the Government knows.

“We understand Mister Hulse, Senator Hulse, has particular files in his possession; we understand again from COLA that particular files were taken out from the Department of Immigration that are a part of this proposed prosecution,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said that on behalf of the people of Belize, he was telling the Barrow administration: “Stop the cover up, stop the obstruction and come clean with the people of Belize.”

“To use your favorite expression, ‘That’s absolute nonsense,’” Barrow retorted.

He said that Fonseca knows that there are foreign governments which have told the Government of Belize, “Don’t you dare cover up anything.”

Barrow said that the Government intends to provide full disclosure of the audit once it is final. However, he noted, persons named in the audit have not had an opportunity to respond to the allegations or assertions in the report, and will be afforded such an opportunity, which is the usual protocol before the document is finalized.

“The report that I have makes absolutely clear that there is not another UDP minister that the Auditor General is able to point to in connection with any irregularity in the slightest degree,” Barrow asserted.

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