Prime Minister Dean Barrow stood up to give his counterargument. Before he spoke on this though, he made sure to criticize Briceno’s argument by calling him, quote, “a shameless excuse for a leader of the opposition.”
The Leader of the Opposition was more than eager to start listing off the scandals that the Barrow Administration have been embroiled in since taking office in 2008. John Briceno kicked off the debates by expressing his concern for what he calls corruption in the Immigration Department. He made reference to the lines of people that were stationed outside Dianne Finnegan’s office in the Lake I area last week, seemingly getting their Belizean nationalities just before the 2020 elections. He also spoke about the Elvin Penner scandal and the latest Lev Dermen fiasco.
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader: “The real issue Mr.Speaker is not the shenanigans of what the UDP Standard Bearer from Lake I or the fact that even though the Penner Scandal greatly embarrassed our country, the UDP and the Prime Minister or that once again we’re seeing these images where the UDP is trying to rush to get people nationalized just before the national election, the real issue is that it builds on what we have been saying for such a long time; that this UDP government is corrupt. It was not the PUP that broke the story about Lev Derman- I hope I get it right because we get all kind of strange names right now from immigration or whatever his real name may be it was actually the media that broke this story. This story is now public, now what is really important and what Belizeans are really interested is that they want to know who are the two unnamed ministers that are accused of bribery that belong to the UDP cabinet. Who are these UDP ministers or who are the UDP offic3ials that have been mentioned Mr.Speaker? What Belizeans want to know is the massive corruption that was and could possibly still be happening in the Department of Immigration.”
Briceno did not stop there, however, as he continued by listing off a number of questionable people who received their Belizean nationalities under the Barrow Administration.
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader: “Maxim Poon Wong, a Canadian Citizen was granted nationality on the 30th of May 2013. He received his Belizean passport on the 26th June 2013. Maxim Wong is alleged to be connected to the Yellow Triangle Boys criminal gang out of Canada. Wong has been accused of drug trafficking and money laundering; a simple Google search you know ? Simple Google search. You have John Joseph Hurry, is an American who was granted his nationality certificate on the 10th June 2013, this is when they were hurrying you know those two thousand plus people that got nationalities just before the election. John Hurry was arrested and charged for fraud. Philip Thomas Kurber, a Canadian national was granted Belizean nationality on the 10th June 2013, he got his Belizean passport on 17th August 2013. Kurber is noted to be involved, now listen to this one Lev is playing he is a little boy compared to this one, he is noted to be involved in a $6 billion dollar securities fraud. The infamous Wong Hong Kim. The Deputy Mayor right, delivered the passport to Mr.Kim all the way in Taiwan special express delivery when the man is at jail – he got his nationality whilst he was in jail.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow stood up to give his counterargument. Before he spoke on this though, he made sure to criticize Briceno’s argument by calling him, quote, “a shameless excuse for a leader of the opposition.” He then clarified that the incident in Lake I was not a shortcut to a Belizean nationality, but rather Finnegan was providing assistance to those who needed it. The PM also stated that he did all he could in the Penner incident.
Rt.Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “In terms of the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that I have not acted he himself in coming to his conclusions with said with respect to Penner that except from his firing from Cabinet, well what is that if not the ultimate act –
Julius Espat, PUP Area Representative, Cayo South: “ That’s not the ultimate -“
Rt.Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Please sir shut up. Please sir. What is that Mr. Speaker if not the ultimate sanction that I as a Prime Minister could have imposed. I can’t prosecute anybody, I am not the police and unlike the People’s United Party I don’t at all distort the law and act as though I’m God almighty. The job of prosecuting people, the job of charging people is left to the police department and the job of prosecuting people left to the Director of Public Prosecutions. You tell me when in history has a People’s United Party administration ever fired a minister. I also warned you that there is a difference between factual guilt and legally provable guilt. We acted as we were obliged to because of the standards we have set ourselves and because of our respect for Belizean democracy in the way that was proper and righteous and dramatic and final fired Penner and he has never been seen since in terms of the United Democratic Party. As I said Mr.Speaker I warned you, we could not determine that this man was criminally liable. You refuse to accept that and you took some sort of private action or brought action in the name of some organization criminally against Penner; what happened, couldn’t even get to first base in terms of the court proceedings.”
PM Barrow assured the public that action against the Minister or Ministers involved in the Lev Dermen scandal will be dealt with as soon as their identity is revealed.