Foreign Affairs Minister says employee dismissed in visa incident

An employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was dismissed recently after a relative was reportedly caught with seven Chinese passports in Cuba. It is an example of the growing concern over a visa and passport racket with tentacles around the world. Minister Wilfred Elrington says that despite a lack of hard evidence to tie the two together, the decision was swift and merciless.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

 vlcsnap-2013-10-18-10h05m34s107“It is so much unfortunate in relation to the relative of an employee because a relative of an employee is caught, but the employee is not caught.   But the suggestion that’s spun by the media and the rest is that this poor relative is supposed to be responsible or in some way involved, when there is no factual basis for it.   But nonetheless, and very regretfully, as soon as that information came to my desk, we terminated the services of that poor employee…you know, without having any more information than that in fact that that brother was supposed to have been there involved in the transporting of passports.   I don’t know whether that is actually and totally fair to her, but this is now the climate in Belize, where, if your brother do something wrong, you’re supposed to be responsible because you…I can’t see how that…the two is connected!”

According to Minister Elrington, they acted expeditiously to address the matter.

Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

 “We were told that there were two people that somehow, because this person was a sister to a person who was found in Cuba, that person is supposed to be involved.   I did not get any credible information nor was furnished to me, and I was also told that there was a driver who has been with the Ministry for a long time it seems, and he also is supposed to be involved and I know that we’ve gotten instructions to get rid of that driver as well because there is a zero tolerance.   Prime Minster makes no bones of it.   He wants zero tolerace to this kind of thing.   So, pressure is brought to bear on us and when we get that instruction, we pass it through the office and has to be dealt with and I think they are in the process in dealing with that”.

After the Prime Minister’s bombshell report last Thursday about the shadowy existence of a cabal of Ministers taking advantage of the system to facilitate friends and associates with visas for a payment, the country wants to know: who was involved, and how? As a senior Minister with direct responsibility for international relations, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General falls under scrutiny. On Thursday Wilfred Elrington flatly denied any involvement.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington- Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I have no knowledge of that and I don’t know Mr. Murga. If he were to come before me right now I wouldn’t be able to tell you who he is. I personally don’t know what involvement if any our ministry had in the Murga affair.   I honestly don’t know.   It was not anything that the CEO briefed me on.   I get my information from the CEO.   He would only brief me on these things.   I’m not aware that in fact the ministry did anything for Mr. Murga.   I have received from our ambassador on other matters but not in respect to the Murga case

As for the Ministry’s alleged involvement, the Minister wanted hard proof, since he says he has seen none.

Hon. Wilfred Elrington

 “I am not suggesting that at all and I am not agreeing with that because I don’t have any evidence on that.   What I can tell you I do have evidence that in fact in other administrations I know when I was in private practice that the sale of passport and permanent residences is brutal…it is rife!   And that came to my knowledge because of my connection as an attorney working in private practice.   I can honestly say to you that since I have been in office, I have had no evidence…I have seen no evidence suggesting that anybody is involved in Cuba in the trafficking of passports.   I have seen no evidence.   I have heard rumors, but I don’t have hard evidence to substantiate those rumors”.

After reporting that he has stopped getting requests for visa facilitation since he staunchly refused them at the start of his term in office, Minister Elrington took a look at the larger picture: how is Belize, with a population just past 300,000, going to develop without looking at certain factors?

Hon. Wilfred Elrington

“My own experience is that people want to come to live to Belize to do business; it’s a beautiful country!   They want to come to live, they want to do business; they want to invest in the country.   And if those away could be found to make people come, will help us in terms of capital; will help us in terms of technology; will help us in terms of market, and historically we have taken thousands of people.   We continue to give citizenship who are across the border legally or illegally…so, you see, so, I think it’s a matter that you look at rationally.   I also think, Jules, that given our population of 35,000 or 315,000; that’s the last figure I saw, we cannot really have a truly viable developmental program with a population that is so small.   So, it is urgent and imperative to seek to do something to expand our population, so that we can have a critical mass business based on people, viably”.

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