Before the Belizean public could fully digest the SIF blowout, we learned that Elvin Penner, who served as Minister of Public Utilities, Information and Broadcasting and Minister of State for Immigration and Border Protection tendered his resignation following some very grim accusations. The area representative for Cayo Northeast, we were told, was approached by a South Korean prisoner jailed in Taiwan, who was scheduled to be deported to Thailand. He was allegedly asked to facilitate a deal to give this individual a Belizean passport that would allow him to come here instead. But before the deal could be completed, we are told, the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL – stepped in and blew the whistle. Prime Minister Dean Barrow called both the Minister of Immigration the Hon. Godwin Hulse and the Junior Minister Penner, into an emergency meeting on Wednesday night. By morning, news broke that Elvin Penner resigned, on the request of the PM. On Friday, the People’s National Party issued a press release, commending PM Barrow, but also appealing that the penalty shouldn’t end there. We caught up with Leader of the PNP Wil Maheia, who expanded on the matter, in a wider context.
Wil Maheia- Belize Territorial Volunteers
“Yes, definitely we want to congratulate the Prime Minister for taking some swift action, but we believe that that’s just a first step. We would like to urge the Prime minister to do more, not only in this scandal in immigration at this moment but across the board. We know that corruption is rampant across the country. The funds at SIF…we would like them to do more. We can’t be living in a country that when you’ve done wrong, that you get a slap on your wrist and you’re sent home. That means that if you steal $500,000 and you can go home, that they can relax for a huge part of their life. So, for us, we want that they should take this people to court…you pay the price for it.”
In its release, the PNP “Urge the Government to undertake a comprehensive audit of the Ministry of Immigration and National Security to ascertain those individuals who got a most prized possession like a Belizean nationality illegal. We call on the Government to revoke those which were gotten illegally.” Wil Maheia is also the leader of the Belizean Territorial Volunteers, a group advocating for the protection and demarcation of Belize’s border with Guatemala. Recently, the Belize Guatemala territorial dispute has been thrust into national dialogue once again. Chiming in, Mr Maheia made some bold proposals, in regards to protecting our borders and the ICJ.
Wil Maheia- Belize Territorial Volunteers
“We would like the Government to move the military from the street s of Belize City and put them back on the border. They belong to Garbutt’s Falls and Cape Gracias a Dios. That is where incursions is taking place; and we know that last Wednesday, the government began its propaganda to encourage Belizeans to say YES to go to the ICJ. There is no reason why we should go to the ICJ. Guatemala have nothing to lose. Belize have everything to lose if we go to the ICJ. I don’t care how good a case they say that we have. There is a chance that we could lose if we go to the ICJ. I as a Belizean, we, as the BTV, we are not about to see not a grain of sand-not a blade of grass to Guatemala”.
If not the ICJ, what other avenues are available for us to once and for all put an end to this longstanding claim? We asked Mr. Maheia.
“I believe we could put a peaceful end to this dispute. We need to keep on dialoguing with the people of Guatemala, not necessary the Military Government that is in power, but the people of Guatemala. Increase our business, which we are doing right now. In Punta Gorda, the Toledo Business Association continues to dialogue on a daily basis with the business associations in Puerto Barrios. So we need to expand that. We need to grow economically. We need to increase our trade to Guatemala. We know that they are selling us a lot more than we are selling them. What we need to do is to step that up so that our people could benefit economically as well. We need to command the borders. We need to put soldiers or Belize Territorial Volunteers in the Toledo District. Every community along the border is willing to volunteer their time to man the border. The Government needs to take those people seriously. We need, as we go into our 32nd year of Independence, we need to defend our country. We cannot allow our country to be toppled over by Guatemala, or Guatemalans to come in and make milpas and take our resources. Last year over 20 million dollars worth of our resources were stolen was stolen from the Chiquibul alone. That could have put almost every Belizean in UB, or pay their high school fees. So we need to do things like that. We need to use our resources wisely. Most importantly, we need to man our border.”
The BTV will be unveiling its official logo next week.