BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. July 5, 2017–This newspaper has documented every single sitting of the Senate Select Committee since last year when the committee was established to investigate the findings of the Auditor General in the Special Audit of the Immigration Department.
We have documented the appearances of controversial former UDP Cabinet Minister Elvin Penner, embroiled in the Won Hong Kim scandal, which erupted after it became publicly known that a South Korean criminal was issued a Belizean passport and nationality certificate while in a Taiwanese prison.
UDP Senator Carla Barnett had no questions for her errant colleagues, Ministers “Boots” and Castro
We have documented the appearance of the elusive “Mr. Middleton,” an alleged visa agent, later identified as Orange Walk resident Barton Middleton, who had allegedly sold stolen visa stickers to former Belize City Deputy Mayor, Eric Chang, and the Financial Controller of the Belize City Council, Patrick Tillett.
We have documented the appearance of Chang and Tillett, as well as Lindsay Wade, the Immigration officer accused of giving the stolen visa stickers to Middleton.
Additionally, we have documented the appearance of senior Immigration officer Ady Pacheco, who, like Penner, was featured prominently in the audit of the Immigration Department.
Despite the serious nature of these sittings in which persons were accused of committing various illegalities and facilitating major irregularities, their behaviors before the committee were largely civil.
However, today, there was no civility, decorum or respect, but hostility and disrespect for the Senate Select Committee, as Port Loyola area representative, Anthony “Boots” Martinez, and Belize Rural North area representative, Edmond Castro, made their appearances.
They both refused to respond to questions posed to them and occasionally, chose to personally attack the Senators.
They also personally attacked whistleblower, Alvarine Burgess, who, in her testimony before the Senate Select Committee, accused them of being involved in a visa ring led by Assistant Superintendent of Police, Rochelle Chan.
Senator for Labor and Civil Society, Elena Smith, today served as the committee’s chair because the UDP-appointed Senator and Chair of the Senate Select Committee, Aldo Salazar, was absent.
Following today’s hearing, Senator Smith spoke to the media.
“It’s obvious that the Ministers who appeared before us today were not particularly keen on being with us today and so that was evident in their action towards the Senator…,” she told us.
She added, “I think that in particular, for the two Ministers who came before us today, they had issues with the testimony of Ms. Burgess and so we knew they would have had some negative reaction. However, we did not expect as Ministers they would come here and be disrespectful.”
During his testimony, Minister “Boots” Martinez appeared to have cracked under pressure, while Castro appeared deeply agitated as he lashed out against the Senators. Senator Smith told the media that the men had no reason to behave as they did.
According to her, “The questions that are being asked are in no way personal. We are not attacking any Minister personally. We are just going by what it is that we need to do as senators in this inquiry. I understand that some Ministers are unable to keep their cool, as best as some others would do. And so we would expect that some Ministers would become aggravated easier than others. That does not mean, though, that it gives them the right to act the way these Ministers behaved today.”
She revealed that the Senators did their best to maintain respect for the Ministers.
When Amandala approached UDP Senator Carla Barnett and asked why she did not pose any questions to her UDP colleagues, she immediately registered her disapproval of their behavior, but declined an interview.