In Thursday’s newscast we aired part of Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s response to PlusTV’s Louis Wade’s question about how, when, where and from whom Elvin Penner received the authority to sign nationality certificates and conduct other business in the Immigration and Nationality Department. We now review the entire response, beginning with the Prime Minister’s explanation of how Mr Penner came to him asking for the authority to act.
Hon. Dean Barrow- Prime Minister of Belize
“A problem developed because at that time, Penner had not been given the authority to as I re-collect, to sign Nationality Certificates. And Penner complained to me over and over again, that he felt that as though he were a fifth wheel on to a wagon…that he was Minister of State, but that he had absolutely no authority, and he asked that he be brought more into the picture, that his position as a duly elected representative and as a constitutionally appointed Minister of State in the Ministry be respected. He particularly asked that he be given the power to sign Nationality Certificate”.
As we noted, the Prime Minister’s decision was backed by legal advice he received. To his eternal chagrin, the power Elvin Penner was given was badly misused.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I thought about it and I sought advice as to whether, as a Deputy Minister, whether as a Minister of State, he could be given such authority. And legal advice came back that this certainly be legally in order. As it turned out, and it was on that basis that in fact that I agreed and the Cabinet supported me that he should be given the power to sign Nationality Certificates. It is a decision that I have come to regret for the rest of my days, but that is how that took place”.
The Prime Minister pointed out that there is no law that constitutionally grants powers of a Minister to a Minister of State. The matter of delegating those powers, especially in a Ministry as large as Senator Hulse’s is another matter.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I am not quite sure of following you, pastor…you seem to certain extent also to be looking at what the Minister has said, will now happen in the future. We’re talking about three signatures now as a way trying to institute a safeguard. With respect to, if you are asking specifically in the case of Penner, whether that law expressly says whether a Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration is entitled to sign Nationality Certificates. You are not going to find such a law. It is a matter if what is the constitutional remit of a Minister and a Minister of State and what under that constitutional remit is able to be delegated from a substantive Minister to a Minister of State”.
Law student Marlon Robinson called into this morning’s Rise and Shine to share his legal knowledge on the Prime Minister’s decision and what he understands all of this means to those perhaps otherwise legitimate documents signed by Penner.
Marlon Robinson – Law Student
“For somebody to have delegated powers like what everybody is mentioning and like Attorney Arthur Saldivar has mentioned, this had to be gazetted There a case of Caribbean Case Gatherer and Gomez that clearly states that the procedure for you to delegate powers and so on, must be gazzeted, okay? And also, they don’t have an onset of discretion Minister to say, Okay, I can give this one power to sign, I can allow this one to do this and so on. There are clear, clear cases of pletural cases, right, that you must do according to the law. It is clear to be seen that Mr. Penner does not have any authority to sign those documents, so, all of those are null and void, and those passports must be cancelled forthwith, right? And those are in the pipeline as well”.