The Leader of the Opposition People’s United Party, Francis Fonseca, was the main presenter at a press briefing Thursday afternoon at the party’s Independence Hall headquarters. Fonseca discussed matters of national importance along with newly appointed PUP senator Anthony Sylvestre and the Cayo North East PUP standard bearer Orlando “Landy” Habet, who is one of three persons challenging the Chief Elections Officer’s decision not to admit over 300 signatures in the petition to trigger a referendum for the recall of the disgraced former Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration, Elvin Penner.
Fonseca told the media that the police’s investigation into the Elvin Penner passport scandal has been stalled, even after Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin had ordered Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, to proceed with and conclude the investigation, when he issued a writ of mandamus against the Commissioner in a judicial review last month.
The Government, however, has since appealed the Chief Justice’s mandamus order. But as far as is known, the acting Solicitor General has not sought a stay of the court’s judgment, which means that Commissioner Whylie is still bound by the Chief Justice’s order.
“We are deeply concerned that despite the order of the court, despite the ruling of the Chief Justice of Belize, there does not appear to us that there has been any effective compliance with that order,” Fonseca told the media.
“We have heard that investigations have been taking place. We have even heard that investigations have concluded, but it is very unclear what those investigations amounted to, and what has been provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions”, Fonseca said.
From the Penner passport scandal, the PUP leader moved the discussion to the recent appointment of Anwar Barrow, the prime minister’s youngest son, who now heads the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) as its executive committee chairman.
“The PUP,” Fonseca said, “repeats our condemnation of the appointment of Anwar Barrow to the executive chairman [post] of the BTL management committee. We call on the BTL board of directors to rescind this appointment. “
Fonseca said Prime Minister Dean Barrow should do the right thing and have his son step down.
Anwar Barrow’s appointment as the executive chairman of the BTL management committee is the latest in a series of appointments of Barrow family members, Fonseca declared, naming the relatives of the Prime Minister who have benefitted from various high profile appointments to various statutory bodies.
He added: “The point is not to impugn the character of any of these family members, or even to call into question their integrity. This is no longer desirable. This is the message we want to send: nepotism is a form of corruption.”
Moving from the Prime Minister’s “acts of nepotism,” the PUP leader castigated the National Security Minister John Saldivar for his ownership of Mytheon Solutions Limited, a company which allegedly sells phone credit to the government departments that fall under Saldivar’s portfolio.
“Who authorized such an arrangement? Is the Prime Minister of Belize aware of this arrangement, and what is he going to do about it? On behalf of the Belizean people, we demand answers to these questions that need to be answered responsibly and they need to be answered immediately,” Fonseca concluded.
Senator Anthony Sylvestre, who is also the PUP’s legal advisor, addressed the issue of the permission granted today by Supreme Court Justice Courtenay Abel for the pursuance of a judicial review of the Chief Elections Officer’s rejection of 337 signatures on the petition to trigger a recall referendum of Elvin Penner.
Sylvestre said “we were able to get the court’s sanctioning for us to move to the next level, that the Chief Elections Officer’s decision was illegal, irrational and unreasonable.”
According to Sylvestre, there has been no update on the police’s criminal investigation. He said that without this investigation, Citizens Organized for Peace through Liberty (COLA) would not be able to successfully prosecute Elvin Penner in its private lawsuit.
“The state should not use the legal process as a way to stultify the criminal investigation of Elvin Penner. The difficulty and the problem with that is that the government has no right of appeal with respect to matters of this nature. Section 14 (a) of the Court of Appeal act is very clear. It says: ‘A party to a proceeding which has as its substance and its character a criminal nature cannot appeal’,” Sylvestre explained.
Sylvestre ended saying that the Commissioner of Police, having received the order from no less than the Chief Justice, should have updated the nation on the steps that have been taken to ensure that the investigation is being done.
During the question and answer session which followed, Fonseca confirmed that the former three-time Lake Independence area representative Cordel Hyde will return as the Lake Independence PUP standard bearer. Hyde is expected to be endorsed at a convention in the coming weeks, Fonseca confirmed.
Fonseca said his party’s national executive has instructed all of its members to file the necessary papers with the Integrity Commission. There has been no Integrity Commission under this government for the past three years now, he said.
“We take the Integrity Commission very seriously and our parliamentarians must file,” Fonseca said.