The UDP says it will no longer support Elvin Penner

vlcsnap-2013-10-15-08h40m50s162The future of Elvin Penner as Area Representative for the Cayo Northeast constituency is uncertain. After weeks of having quite the active support of the United Democratic Party, Mr Penner is now on his own. On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Dean Barrow hosted an impromptu press briefing with a star-studded attendance, as Cabinet Ministers, members of the Senate as well as the National Assembly, CEOs of various ministries and the Clerk of the National Assembly were present. Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow wasted no time in getting to the nitty gritty of Tuesday’s gathering, stating that investigation has uncovered  further alleged irregularities by the former Minister of State.

vlcsnap-2013-10-16-08h10m30s116Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Over the long weekend, the Minister and the Director and I believe the CEO invested some long hours on this exercise, and the result is that the Minister was obliged to inform me yesterday, and was obliged to inform Cabinet this morning that more evidence has surfaced of the involvement of Elvin Penner in other instances of what , to us, is impropriety”.

 

So, the PM declared that the party can no longer put its neck out for Elvin Penner.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

 “The Cabinet, as in fact the essence of the parliamentary party or certainly the essence in the party in the House of Representatives has decided that we, can, in the circumstances, no longer continue to support Elvin Penner, meaning that in our view, he cannot any longer continue to represent the people of the Cayo Northeast Constituency as, and in the name of the United Democratic Party. We hereby invite Hon. Penner to resign his seat, to resign in fact from the United Democratic Party.”

According to the PM, this is merely a call for Elvin Penner’s resignation and that ultimately, whether he follows through or not is on him.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

…”but I make clear that while we are acting now with the same regard to the norms that this party is sworn to uphold, we cannot expel Penner from the House of Representatives.   We can expel him from the Cabinet, and we gave done so in terms of this new development.   The constitution is quite clear”.

But how damning are these new findings – data that  Minister of Immigration, the Hon. Godwin Hulse affirmed will be handed over to Police? Enough to warrant Elvin Penner’s resignation by his colleagues, but how would it stand in court? Well, though the PM said its ultimately up to the lawful authorities, he did present an illustration on what he refers to as a difference between factual and legal evidence.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

 “There is a clear difference between factual evidence and legal evidence; documentation that might speak to a particular state of affairs, may for on e way or another simply not be admissible in court under the very technical rules of evidence by which we are governed.   So, I want to make clear that the material presented to Cabinet was and is enough for us to feel that Elvin Penner was involved in additional instances of what I will term irregularities.”

Since the PUP launched its operation recall Penner, the UDP has been combating these efforts with on the ground campaigns – in fact, up until this weekend, the PM and his team were hosting public gatherings in the Cayo Northeast division. And even though they are no longer riding the Penner wagon, they are still encouraging residents to preserve the party’s small margin. A reserved candidate for the UDP has yet to be announced, but speaking with him this weekend, Barrow stated that such a decision would be for the UDP supports of Cayo Northeast.

Following the press conference, the media pressed the Prime Minister further on the party’s decision and if there were any other underlining reasons not mentioned in the briefing. The PM assured that the straw that broke the camel’s back was indeed new revelations from the investigation. He also revealed that on the occasions he spoke with Elvin Penner, the former junior minister seemed to have had intentions of inching his way back into Cabinet.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

”In terms of Penner, being a dead weight or the consideration of his perhaps being induced by the Opposition to resign, well, I did hear that, but I had a couple of meetings with Penner, and quite frankly, I was satisfied that Penner isn’t going to go.   Penner obviously was auguring thoughts of perhaps being able at some point to make his way back into the Cabinet.   I put paid to that on Thursday, and I think that upset him.   Penner was auguring thoughts of in any event, being able to run again at the next general elections.   This has now been put paid to that.   But all I’m saying is that in all those circumstances, I was convinced that he wasn’t going to go on the west.   So, really, it is the honest true, what has changed now is what Hulse found over the weekend.”

Elvin Penner, says the Prime Minister, is currently in Guatemala, receiving medical treatment for hypertension and chronic headache.

On the question of whether or not the Prime Minister had the lawful say-so to authorize Mr Penner to sign nationality certificates and conduct other business in the Immigration and Nationality Department, persons, including attorneys weighed in on the conversation, citing their legal opinion that the PM’s actions were unconstitutional. On Tuesday, after doing his own homework, defended those actions.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

 “I know there was somebody on the occasion of Thursday’s meeting who questioned the fact that that authority was delegated to Penner as Minister of State.   I’ve gone and check my constitution…I’ve gone and relooked at the circumstances.   I’ve recollected that way, way , way back when I was Minister of Immigration, Sam Rhaburn, who was the Deputy Minister was in fact given the same authority and it is absolutely clear that the delegation of that authority from the Minister to the Minister of State is perfectly within and squarely within the four corners of the Constitutional remit.”

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