In yesterday’s interrogation of Elvin Penner at the Senate Select Inquiry, he was asked by Senator Eamon Courtenay about an interview that he had given back in 2012 when there appeared to be a rush for nationalization in time for general elections. More than two thousand names collected by the Immigration Department are suspected of having obtained Belizean nationality without the proper procedure and requirements. This was admitted to by immigration officials who have so far testified in the senate hearings. Penner was asked about that and as he answered, his apparent fan club, comprised of the hecklers in the gallery, cheered him on.
Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee: Do you recall a rush for the processing of Nationality in 2012, early 2012?
Elvin Penner, Former Minister Immigration: I am not sure as what you would classify as a rush. All I can say that as a Minister, as an Area Rep, as a political figure, as somebody who is there to help the people, that when the persons–when any person at all comes to me and I am convinced that that person qualifies for a nationality, I will do my best to assist that person because at the end of the day if you want to continue your career as a politician, your success will be largely based on how well you have performed in assisting people in your constituency and in the general public. I’d never purposely just made it clear that I would only help people in my constituency, I would try to help anyone. So in that case which you are referring too; I was simply trying to assist persons that needed my help because as a politician I believe it’s in my best interest to do that.
Penner was also asked about his payment for some of those nationalities that were processed.
Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee: In this interview, you are saying to the media that in trying to assist these people, you indicated that the fee was $300.00, and you tried to assist by paying $100.00 for these applicants who came to seek your assistance. Do you recall that?
Elvin Penner, Former Minister Immigration: I don’t recall as to saying a figure of how much I would be willing to pay.
Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee: Do you want to see this interview?
Elvin Penner, Former Minister Immigration: Again I don’t see why it’s relevant in the sitting, but that’s up to you. It’s the senators of the committee that controls what happens in this house.
Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee: Right. Just a few more questions, I’m just trying to get clear from you this 2012 interview that you gave where you were saying that you were assisting people who came for nationality by paying a portion of the fee. Would that be accurate?
Elvin Penner, Former Minister Immigration: It could be the portion, it could be the entire $300.00 As long as I am convinced that I am helping a person in need of that assistance and I have the means to help that person. I have in the past and still, even though I’m not a politician at the moment, will still help if I can.
Eamon Courtenay, Senate Select Committee: Right, and you also said in this interview that you’re hoping to get most of these people registered for the election.
Elvin Penner, Former Minister Immigration: Again that’s something that any politician will do. You will do anything that you legally can that will give you the edge over your opponent to win an election.