“Irrational, unreasonable and unlawful.” That trio of words was used this morning by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin to describe the decision of Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie not to further investigate the procedure used to grant South Korean businessman Won-Hong Kim a Belizean passport and nationality certificate between April and September of 2013.
In granting a writ of mandamus to Hon. Francis Fonseca, leader of the political opposition, he directed the Commissioner to continue, accelerate and conclude the investigation in a timely manner. The Leader of the opposition exited the courtroom today flanked by his supporters.
“It is a victory for the people of Belize and this is why we came to court, not just for the People’s United Party but for and on behalf of the Belizean people. That is why we are here in court, seeking justice for the Belizean people. As I have said on many occasions, this is a matter where, clearly, the great majority , the overwhelming majority of the Belizean people have been on the very clear view that we needed to have an investigation in to this matter. So, it’s a victory for the Belizean people, it’s a victory for the rule of law, it’s a victory for our democracy. The chief justice ruled in our favour, in my favour. He has order that the writ of mandamus be issued against the defendant, the Commissionero of Police in this case, ordering him that an investigation be completed if has been started into this UDP Immigration scandal”.
The Chief Justice pointed out that he could not direct the manner in which the investigation is conducted as Fonseca wanted, including taking statements from specific persons including Mr. Penner and a definite laying of charges.
It is not quite the sweeping judgment Fonseca wanted, but he told us today that for now, it is more than enough since the Commissioner of Police must now carry out the investigation.
Hon. Francis Fonseca: “The Chief Justice of Belize has ruled today that that position is unlawful, it is arbitrary, unreasonable, it is unfair, and he has ordered him to in fact, carry out that investigation. The Chief justice has of course, tempered our own…they ordered that he cannot compel the Commissioner in respect of the specifics of that investigation. We had ordered that the Commissioner make sure that that investigation include taking statements from the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Immigration, Mr. Elvin Penner and other interested parties. The chief justice did not go that far, but it is a clear victory for us, it is a clear for the people of Belize”.
The statute of limitations of one of the offenses the PUP believe was committed, runs out today. The other one ends on the 9th of March.
But Honorable Fonseca says attention must now turn to who, in fact, gave the instructions referred to by investigator Superintendent Julio Valdez in his report to DPP Cheryl-Lynn Vidal to stop the investigation almost in its infancy.
Hon. Francis Fonseca: “It has now been revealed in court and if it were not for us coming to court, we would not have found out any of these things, but it’s clear that an investigation was started and someone instructed that that investigation be stopped, and that is a matter we can’t allow to just simply be swept under the rug. Even though the courts have ordered that an investigation be carried out and the Commissioner must do that investigation, the Belizean people deserve to know who intervened, who sought to halt this investigation, who instructed the Belize Police Department not to continue that investigation. They are the ones who have tried to subvert our justice system and we need to know who gave those instructions”.
The Commissioner was not present in court today. The Chief Justice agreed to have DPP Vidal, who was named as an interested party, removed from the claim, as none of the reliefs sought were against her office.
The Chief Justice noted in his judgment that the February 20 inter-agency memo from the DPP to Supt. Valdez contradicts the Commissioner’s statements that no investigation had been started, because there were no credible reports on which to act.
To learn that the investigation had been stopped, he said, gave the court “considerable pause,” and because the matter was “in abeyance,” the court could intervene.
The press received a short response from Acting Solicitor General Nigel Hawke who appeared to be still upbeat despite a loss which he says was not a loss at all.
Mr. Nigel Hawke- Deputy Solicitor General
Reporter: “But sir, he made or used some very strong language like irrational…and…”.
Mr. Nigel Hanwke: “Those are ordinary language you use in administrative proceedings. I don’t think that are strong!
Reporter: “Do you consider this a loss to the government”.
Mr. Nigel Hanwke: “No, not at all!
What Mr. Hawke means remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that by the end of today the stalled investigation must be seen to have recommenced, and the other half by March 9.