Was former Minister of State Elvin Penner legitimately authorized to sign nationality and passport documents? Tonight, that is the question that still looms in one of the biggest scandals ever to hit our country regarding the illegal sale of the Belizean Passport. Although many details are still not clear, what was confirmed yesterday during a lengthy press conference held by the Ministry of Immigration and Nationality is that Penner began signing nationality and passport documents in May of this year. So who gave him the authority? Well, it came from no other than the leader of the nation, the Prime Minister of Belize. What the P.M did not reveal yesterday is why he had doubts of putting Penner in the Ministry in the first place.
Dean Barrow, PM of Belize
“Before I sit down I want also to say again how extremely sorry I am that what has now happened, happened under the watch of the United Democratic Party, how absolutely ashamed I am that one of my ministers was central to what in fact occurred. When I placed Minister Hulse in charge of that ministry it was because I knew that there was a problem in the ministry. A problem developed because at that time Penner had not been given the authority as I recollect signing nationality certificates. Penner complained to me over and over again that he felt as though he were a fifth wheel 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 minster of state in the ministry be respected. He particularly asked that he be allowed to sign that he’d be given the power to sign nationality certificate. 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 the legal advice came back that this would certainly be legally in order. As it turned out and it was on that basis that in fact I agreed and the cabinet supported me that he should be given the power to sign nationality certificate. It is a decision that I came to rue, it is a decision that I will regret until the end of my days, but that is how that took place. I will say again Sir that clearly Mr Penner has embarrassed me, has embarrassed the administration, and has embarrassed all of us.”
Despite the fact that the Government of the day has admitted that Penner has brought shame to the United Democratic Party by being involved in the passport scandal, he has not been criminally charged. In fact, in order to keep his ship afloat the Prime Minister has stated that the party will rally behind Penner and do everything in its hands to avoid his recall.