Sunday, April 13, 2014

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Could general elections be imminent in Belize or is it wishful thinking on the part of the growing numbers who are disenchanted with the Barrow administration?

That is what sources within the Belize Police Department say the impending resignation of Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie suggests. A source from within the Department confirmed to NBZLive on Saturday morning that Whylie’s letter of resignation has already been written but has not been submitted as yet.

But don’t shed any tears for the ComPol because his actions are solely motivated by self preservation. Whylie, we are told is making the move to secure his pension since he may not have a job under a PUP administration. With a writ of mandamus hanging on to him, Whiley would lose whatever he has accrued in benefits for his years of service, thus his decision.

Remember back in February, Prime Minister said that he may have to make the difficult decision a second early elections because of the scandals rocking his administration?

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“There is no doubt at all in my mind, that the scandals have threatened to swamp us, that they have threatened to cause us to come undone, and natural that is a source of great regret because to some extent, it is self-inflicted. I have been personally, extremely hurt because I at the top of the pyramid, run completely straight, and that, I believe is well-known. But, when indeed, I have to defend or appear to be defending behaviour that is the opposite of straight, my personal credibility takes a great hit,” Barrow said.

How straight Barrow is – is a subject for discussion in another issue because Barrow has been suffering from self inflicted wounds. His practices of nepotism has disappointed staunch supporters and the Belizean people at large. Those supporters have been withdrawing their support in droves and openly voicing criticism of the entire Barrow administration. Just one week ago, Barrow’s son, Anwar was appointed to the top position at BTL. Other members of Barrow’s family have also been appointed to top most lucrative positions by none other than Barrow himself. We shall get into that some more in another issue. For now the focus is on ?Commissioner Allen Whylie and the implications of his impending resignation.

About one year and three months ago, Whylie was baptized by fire as Commissioner of Police when he had to deal with the murder of four men at the corner of Dean and Plues Streets in Belize City. Violence broke out between police and residents in the area who accused police of executing the gruesome act. The four men, said to be members of the notorious George Street gang were discovered in the bedrooms of the apartment where they lived with their throats slashed. So far, no arrests have been made for the murders and the case has all but faded from the memory of the Commissioner.

Eight months in and Whylie was once again confronted by another major catastrophe – this time, the Penner passport scandal dubbed “Pennergate”. Just like the murders of the four men on Dean Street, Whylie acted with same indifference. Only this time, public outrage wasn’t going to let him get away with it. The media was in hot pursuit and as Pennergate gushed more tales of rampant corruption within the top ranks of Barrow’s cabinet it became more and more apparent that the government could become undone.

The Opposition, PUP would also feel some public pressure and after a failed attempt to recall Penner, calls for him to be criminally charged for selling a Belizean passport to a South Korean who was detained in Taiwan only ratcheted.

But the UDP while they were trying to appear to be doing the right thing, having fired Penner from cabinet and purportedly launched an internal investigation at the Immigration Department could not quell the firestorm that erupted. The scandal broke on September 19, 2013 and by mid October Barrow was feeling the pressure – people wanted Penner in jail!

The charade wasn’t working. New “stringent” laws were later introduced and passed but did nothing to appease because the horses had long left the stables and galloped away. Beyond admitting that Penner lied and firing him from cabinet, Barrow and his pompous appointee for Minister if Immigration weren’t giving much more and they suffered the backlash for it.

While the police stalled, the media was vigorously pursuing an investigation and much if not all of what transpired that led up to a bogus Belizean passport being made and delivered to Kim Won Hong was out in the open.

The scandal that erupted from the Kim Won-Hong passport would only further explode during a press conference given by PM Barrow and top officials of the Immigration Department at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel in October last year, it surfaced then that there was an ongoing visa quota hustle among members of Barrow’s cabinet. The bottom was about to fall out. We here at NBZLive put it that Barrow damn well knew but played the ass!

“If there is one thing that can and would bring down this government it is hustling in Immigration. I have heard that ministers are procuring visas for people. I’ve said pretty much in every second Cabinet – if you are doing so (I have no proof) for God sakes stop it! Stop it! That is what would cause the government to fall,” Prime Minister Barrow said at the press conference on October 10th, 2013.

“It is as Minister Hulse says though ‘I hear the stories but nobody is prepared to come to me and to say here is the evidence that minister so and so was paid so much for procuring a visa for Mr. so and so.’ Hopefully there new system will help to put a stop to any ministerial intervention that may have been taken place in the past in relation to visas,” Barrow elaborated.

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Well Barrow and the nation were about to get ears and eyes full days after when a witness in the person of Alvarine Burgess came forward on national television and said just that! Burgess had been courier for Transport Minister, Edmund Castro. She told the nation and Belizeans in the diaspora who were glued to their television sets and watched live on stream from Channel 5 that she had processed about 200 visas at $2000 BZD a piece over a six month period for Edmund Castro! Facebook which most Belizeans use to communicate was going nuts! With all that – no semblance of an investigation by police because there was a purported ongoing internal investigation.

Trying to appear unphased by the audacious accusation, Castro flatly denied and threatened to sue if Burgess didn’t withdraw her statement and apologized…well she didn’t so Castro commenced action. As the days progressed, it would be exposed that other ministers of government were involved, including the Minister of Police, John Saldivar. His sister Candelaria Saldivar is the CEO in the Ministry of Immigration – thus why no faith was placed that whatever internal investigation would yield anything at all and that was pretty much confirmed.

Meanwhile as Penner and his wife Rocio were monkeying around, people were becoming more impatient both at the government and the opposition, People’s United Party. (PUP) The PUP moved to recall Penner but that failed when in January of this year, the Elections and Boundaries Department declared that the PUP presented a shoddy petition and failed to meet the threshold to recall Penner. We shall not get into the details of what transpired now.

The PUP did not relent and applied for Judicial Review of that decision and just last last Thursday, April 10 were granted leave for the review, thus breathing new life into the recall.

Prior to the granting of leave for judicial review, a writ of mandamus was secured by the PUP in the Supreme Court. On Monday, March 3rd, Chief Justice of Belize, Kenneth Benjamin ordered Commissioner Whylie to immediately commence investigation into the scandal. In ordering Whylie, Chief Justice chastised his inaction, calling his decision not to investigate, “irrational, unreasonable, and unlawful”!

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Things seemed to finally be firing on all cylinders when Penner was finally taken to court on Thursday, March 27th and criminally charged on two counts. One, for “vouching the fitness of Kim Won-Hong” without having met him. The dullard Penner earlier lied about that in an email to Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez. The second count was “for making a statement which he knew to be false.” Still Compol Whylie was chasing the wagon on the matter. His tardiness threatened to derail efforts by Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action, COLA who were actually responsible for burning the charges. In a sudden move, the Government of Belize announced just a day prior, on March 26th it was announced that the government was appealing the order given by Chief Justice Benjamin.

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Kareem Musa, attorney for COLA – “It is totally unbelievable. It is a sad state of affairs that you have the executive arm, which is the Commissioner of Police; he is represented by the Solicitor General, who also, by the way, represents your Prime Minister, and represents all Government Officials, that office has decided to appeal. They are telling you outright; we are going to defy this order from the Supreme Court. We are defying it. We will not investigate this Minister. They are telling you point blank. I don’t think you need to hear anything else from him. It is totally unbelievable!”

Whylie had once again done like his namesake the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote and escaped (if even for the time being) another round in court and at the same time stalled whatever was to be the outcome of COLA’s action. Nevertheless, COLA went to court in Belmopan, Penner presented himself and was read the charges. He was granted bail for $2000 each and is to return to court on May 29th.

But this might be the end of the road for the Commissioner who himself has been under pressure to cover for the indiscriminate bunch in government. His impending resignation may have also been coerced or diplomatically advised. Take your money now and run because shit is about to hit the fan. It’s a damn if you do and damn if you don’t situation for Whylie because being on the outside will not immune him from further action, we think.

Fast forward to February 5th of this year – Barrow seemingly punch drunk from all the scandals appeared confounded in an interview with the media following a House meeting that day.

“I am distraught on behalf of my party, and I am distraught on my own behalf. I’ve said to my colleagues, over and over and over again that we really need to get on top of this. I will never be able to stop people from behaving in a way that is untoward. All I can do, is to repeat my promise that when it happens, and I learn of it, I will take action. I fully understand that if it happens once, twice, thrice, 4 times, 5 times, 10 times, it doesn’t matter what action I take. It will cause my administration to come unstuck,” Barrow agonized.

Barrow’s real concern was having to make the fatal, embarrassing and politically suicidal decision to call early elections a second time – this one barley two years into a premature second term. “Every time I take action, as I tell you am sworn to do and as I am telling you I will continue to do, there are political repercussions because of the slimness of the majority. I bear that well in mind as I take the actions that I take…..ultimately if I have to take more actions and it results in two persons or perhaps three persons who are in the House, resigning from the party thus triggering either bye-elections or a general election, I will simply have to do what my duty and conscience tell me I must do and live with the consequences, which will no doubt be a loss of the consequent general elections. I am not going to go there easily as I said, but if I have to, I will go there.”

So we here at NBZLive surmise that the events of the last seven months or so had a lot to do with the impending resignation but Whylie is looking out for himself. While the Commissioner’s career is in repose we can only await final word that his career has come to an anti-climactic end. Whylie has been out of the country over the pass week. We have been unable to confirm whether he has returned.

On a more positive note, Whylie’s departure would be a relief for the people of Belize and the Belize Police Department. However some within the department are already expressing trepidation at the prospect of Russel “Bogo” Blackett taking up command. We too wince at the thought. We shall keep you posted as things continue to unfold.