BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 25, 2017–Whistleblower Alvarine Burgess, who in 2013 alleged that NEMO and Transport Minister Hon. Edmond Castro was involved in a visa hustle, was scheduled to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Wednesday.
Former Ambassador to Taiwan, Cherie Nisbet, was also scheduled to appear before the committee on Wednesday. She was in Taiwan at the time when efforts were being made by former Belize City Deputy Mayor Eric Chang to contact South Korean national Won Hong Kim, who was jailed in Taiwan.
However, those widely anticipated testimonies were postponed at the eleventh hour for “security reasons.”
Information to our newspaper is that UDP chairman Alberto August would have led UDP thugs to Belmopan under the banner of his newly formed group, “Belizeans Against Courtenay.”
However, the Opposition was also mobilizing its troops in support of Senator Eamon Courtenay.
In a statement penned to the media by the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño, he indicated that on Tuesday, he contacted Prime Minister Dean Barrow concerning the behavior of UDP officials during the Senate hearing last Wednesday.
“I told him if he could not take control of his people, then we would not sit back and allow for any situation that would put our senator at risk. The PM agreed that we did not want an escalation of the situation, and said he would speak to the chairman of the committee,” Briceño wrote.
However, on Tuesday night when Briceño contacted the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee, Senator Aldo Salazar, Salazar indicated that the Prime Minister had not spoken him.
According to Briceño, Salazar also expressed concern over the impending hearing, because he learned that the PUP was planning to bus its supporters to Belmopan.
“He then expressed very serious concerns and proposed that we consider postponing [the hearing] for a week to have things cool off.” Briceño added.
According to Briceño, just before midnight he joined Salazar in postponing the hearing to prevent a major clash between UDP and PUP supporters that would undermine the intent of the committee.
“We cannot get lost in the fact that the UDP do not want this Committee to continue and is looking for the slightest excuse to try to shut it down. We must not give them a reason; we must be clear and levelheaded,” Briceño went on to write.
On Wednesday, our newspaper spoke to Chairman Salazar on this matter.
He told the media that, “There were reports that people were going armed to Belmopan, and that thugs were going to be there to cause disruption.”
“Personally, I did not want to have a delay today. I want it finished, we’re all very busy. I don’t want it to become a political circus,” he added.
Salazar went on to comment on the witnesses who were to appear before the committee. According to him, former Ambassador Nisbet “is an appropriate witness. She can give some insight into what transpired in Taiwan with the Won Hong Kim issue and when Mister Eric [Chang] was there and they had communication.”
However, Salazar did not express the same appreciation for Alvarine Burgess’ testimony.
“I have no idea what her purpose is,” he said.
He continued, “I don’t see how any testimony from her can elaborate on my report as to how we can improve the processes and procedures that went wrong in the Immigration Department.”
When Amandala asserted that Salazar was disinterested in Burgess’s testimony because it would add to the political hemorrhaging of the UDP, Salazar told our newspaper, “Your comment would carry much weight if I could block Ms. Burgess. I absolutely cannot block Ms. Burgess if she is going to come.”
“I don’t have any problem with Ms. Burgess coming to testify; my issue is personal; I don’t feel that it is assisting me,” he went on to say.
Burgess and Nisbet will appear before the committee next Wednesday.