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#476195 - 11/01/13 01:39 PM Fire Works Expected At Tomorrow's House Sitting
Marty Offline

The House of Representatives will meet in Belmopan Tomorrow and we are sure that with the latest scandals surrounding the Government of the day there will be a number of fireworks. While we are sure that the Passport, Nationality and Visa scandal will be the Oppositions main ammo, majority of the items on the agenda have to do with finances and will start with an introduction of bills to amend the Criminal Code (Amendment) 2013.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs will also take legislation to the floor of the house, seeking to amend the Customs and Excise Duties.

Also on the agenda for tomorrow’s house meeting is the second reading for the High Seas Fishing Bill which seeks to make new and improved provisions for the management and control of fishing on the high seas. Prime Minister Dean Barrow will also bring to the floor a second reading for the Medical Practice Bill, 2013 which seeks to provide for the control and regulation of the practice of medicine in Belize by medical practitioners; to repeal the Medical Practitioners Act, Chapter 318 of the Substantive Laws of Belize. Other matters including write-offs and motions relating to the business or sitting of the house will be discussed. Friday’s House of Representatives meeting starts at ten o’clock in the morning at the National Assembly Building in Belmopan and CTV3 News will be right on the front line capturing all that takes place inside and outside the House.

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#476347 - 11/03/13 10:44 AM Re: Fire Works Expected At Tomorrow's House Sitting [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Immigration, Belizean Nationality and Passport Bill Introduced In The House

If you expected fireworks to go off today at the House of Representatives then you are in for a treat. Several motions were introduced but the primary business had to do with the introduction of 3 amendment bills namely, the Immigration Bill, Belizean Nationality and Passport Bill. Amidst the uproar about the Immigration and Visa scandal involving two Ministers of State, it was nothing short of exciting as supporters from the Peoples United Party protested at the foot-steps of the National Assembly building. We’ll bring that story for you later on in the newscast but first here is what took place inside the House.

As per usual, the sitting brought much tension between the ruling and opposition parties as their membership battled it out in the halls of the National Assembly. Prime Minister Dean Barrow spoke first on the Criminal Code Amendment Bill.

One controversial piece of the legislation that went through the House is the Belize Nationality Act where Prime

Minister Barrow vowed on better governance and an operating system that would provide future improvements.

Honorable Dean Barrow- Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker in view of recent developments the government had, a couple weeks ago, announced its intention to introduce changes to the law dealing with the whole subject of immigration and nationality. This is the first of three bills we will be introducing today to give effect to the government’s effort to reform the system and to make the procedures as failsafe as possible. With respect to this first bill the Immigration Bill, the amendments include the addition of a new section covering the issuance of permanent residency permits. Most importantly it provides for a visa vetting committee which will consist of the CEO in the ministry responsible for immigration, the CEO in the Ministry of Human Development, the CEO in the ministry responsible for national security and the Director of Immigration and Nationality Services. Previously, the approval of visa applications and the directive to issue the visas rested exclusively with the Director of Immigration and Nationality. So now there is a committee again with a view to try to ensure that a more robust safeguard is in place in order to try to deal with applications for visas that might not meet the requirements. So this committee then is charged with the responsibility of reviewing and approving the application of visas and the committee will look at applications from nationals of any country or every country in respect of which a visa will be required under the act. The Director of Immigration and Nationality or any other consular officer shall not grant a visa to any person without the approval of this committee. Additionally, the penalties for offences against the act are strengthened by increasing from five hundred dollars, the fine of which is currently provided, increasing that five hundred dollar fine to up to a one-year term of imprisonment or currently it’s a fine of five hundred dollars and up to one year imprisonment and we’re increasing that to fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for a term between five and fifteen years. Mr. Speaker let me just make clear that the introduction of the amendments to the legislation are being done against the backdrop of administrative changes that have already been made by the minister, by the ministry, by the department in an effort to provide improvements. In relation to permanent residency and the issue of visas and to provide for matters therewith and incidental thereto. Mr. Speaker in view of recent developments the government had, a couple weeks ago, announced its intention to introduce changes to the law dealing with the whole subject of immigration and nationality. This is the first of three bills we will be introducing today to give effect to the government’s effort to reform the system and to make the procedures as failsafe as possible. With respect to this first bill the Immigration Bill, the amendments include the addition of a new section covering the issuance of permanent residency permits. Most importantly it provides for a visa vetting committee which will consist of the CEO in the ministry responsible for immigration, the CEO in the Ministry of Human Development, the CEO in the ministry responsible for national security and the Director of Immigration and Nationality Services. Previously, the approval of visa applications and the directive to issue the visas rested exclusively with the Director of Immigration and Nationality. So now there is a committee again with a view to try to ensure that a more robust safeguard is in place in order to try to deal with applications for visas that might not meet the requirements. So this committee then is charged with the responsibility of reviewing and approving the application of visas and the committee will look at applications from nationals of any country or every country in respect of which a visa will be required under the act. The Director of Immigration and Nationality or any other consular officer shall not grant a visa to any person without the approval of this committee. In relation to citizenship by registration and to provide for matters therewith or incidental thereto, the bill has the recommendation of the cabinet and if you would allow me a few words in explanation. What we’re trying to do here Mr. Speaker is to provide for the streamlining and enhancing the requirements to obtain Belizean nationality by registration, including the provision that henceforth all applicants for nationality must be in possession of a permanent residency permit declaring their status as a permanent resident for five years of continuous residency immediately prior to applying to be registered as a citizen of Belize. The amendments provide for increased penalties for violation of the provisions of the act and these increased penalties would include a fine of fifty thousand dollars and a mandatory term of imprisonment from five to fifteen years I believe is the range that we set out in the bill. Now there’s one aspect of the bill to which I must speak and I want to do so very soberly and clearly. As we had first drafted the bill, it was proposing that the establishment of a nationality scrutinizing committee would be put in place and that would have the responsibility of vetting all applications for citizenship by registration and advising the minister on qualification and suitability of persons for registration, having looked at the files.”

But even before responding to the Bill, all members of the Opposition collectively walked out of Parliament. That is because the ruling party had to appease a throng of its supporters who staged a protest at the footsteps of the National Assembly Building showing their discontent to the latest scandal surrounding the Immigration and Nationality Department.

Honorable Francis Fonseca- Leader of the Opposition

“I want to know, I want you all to know today that this is just the beginning. The P.U.P. our great party has always led the fight for Belize it is the P.U.P. that has always taken the lead in making Belize a better place. So my friends we have a lot of work to do together. But we will stand shoulder to shoulder, we will stand head to head, we will stand heart to heart, we will stand together united in bringing down this U.D.P. government that has been so bad for Belize.”

Honorable John Briceno- Orange Walk Central Area Representative

“Hoy la lucha para el pueblo de Belice comienza porque ya estamos cansados de Dean Barrow, del UDP, ya es tiempo que se vayan porque ya estamos cansados de la corrupción necesitamos a Francis Fonseca y el partido unido del pueblo así que señoras y señores hoy es el comienzo de la lucha hacia Belmopan, hoy la maquina azul empieza el trabajo juntamente con ustedes y con eso regresaremos a Belmopan."

After the opposition members returned to the house, Fonseca reconvened on the motion to employ a senate inquiry into the Immigration Fraud scandal.

Honorable Francis Fonseca- Leader of the Opposition

“We are going to look at the amendments presented by the Prime Minister with an open mind and anything that we can do to support the process of fixing the problem we will do. If those amendments are moving towards fixing the problem, closing any loopholes that exist, creating as best as possible a full proof system, it is not likely that you can ever create a system that is completely full proof but if those amendments are moving in that direction we will have no difficulty in supporting them but absolutely we will not support any cover up so that senate inquiry Mr. Speaker is absolutely necessary. Mr. Speaker this is not just politics this is about Belize and we on this side of the House stand firmly with the Belizean people and on the side of our Belizean Nationality and identity.”

Honorable Dean Barrow- Prime Minster of Belize

“We are absolutely delighted that the auditor general is going into the immigration department now. And we in fact endorse her commitment to conduct a full scale audit. The leader of the opposition is talking about some senate inquiry. Man wait at least until the auditor general has produced her report. There must be an audit, there must be a report before the senate can inquire into anything; otherwise they’ll be chasing their tails. Or what they will hire an auditor to send in there. The auditor general from whom we do not hide, from whom we do not dodge, is conducting this full scale audit report which I say again Mister Speaker, we absolutely welcome, we absolutely endorse. When the lady produces her report that will be the time to talk about the next step. So I am not in the senate and I can’t speak for what will happen, but in my view, that is misconstrued. It is an attempt on the part of the opposition to grandstand with respect to this issue and I am saying Mister Speaker they have absolutely no moral authority to grandstand in view of the history of their party with respect to immigration.”

The Senate Inquiry motion is scheduled to be presented on Wednesday in the Senate.

CTV3


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