This afternoon at 2:30 at the Biltmore, the Ministry of Immigration and the Prime Minister held a marathon press conference dealing with all the immigration issues that have cropped up in the last three weeks since the Citizen Kim scandal has emerged. As you might guess, that's a lot of issues - and in fact, the press conference ran for two hours and twenty three minutes, which is the longest in memory. It finished an hours and a half ago, and we've put together the most important bits.

We start with the opening remarks from Minister Godwin Hulse where he outlined the dramatic new penalties that are proposed for those who violate immigration laws in the future:...

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"There are those who believe that the Belizean nationality and passport is a commodity to be traded on the open market to any bidder. To those we say this game has ended. We will start with a vigorous re-organizing and re-structuring of the department for better efficiency with the assistance and the expertise at the Minister of the Public Service."

"Two; we will create a nationality scrutinizing committee and I dear say that time has not permitted for us to consult with all the actors in the public sector but be assured that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet will ensure that you participate. If you have not heard it before - we apologize to you. But this is the action we intend to take."

"This scrutinizing committee will have as representatives a member from the Belize Council of Churches and we spoke with the church this morning and they concur. We will have a member from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and we will have a member from the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. We will have on the committee the CEO in the Ministry of Immigration, the CEO in the Ministry of Human Development, the CEO in the Ministry of National Security, a representative from the Sol Gen Ministry and the Director of Immigration as x-officio member."

"Never again the nationality request and files be scrutinized only by the personnel in the department. We have set about to revised the form C - that nationality form that you see being waved around in the media on a nightly basis. The new form C is intended to eliminate the possibility of a reproduction by any individual person and the signing of such certificate by the minister responsible prior to the completed process of granting of citizenship by registration to any person."

"We will strengthen the act by increasing penalties from what it is now of $500 to $50,000 and imprisonment for a period not less than 5 years but up to a maximum of 15 years. Both fine and confine for any violation of the proposed of this act. We will strengthen the passport act by including an additional section to ensure that the procedures involved in the recommendation, the acceptance of application, data capture and approval of processing are strictly followed and we are going to increase the penalty for violation for these provisions of the act from the current prescribe $500 to $50,000 and to include imprisonment for a period not less than 5 years but up to 15 years."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"This restart in fact be able to do very much better with respect to this question of trying to ensure that there is not this wholesale corruption that clearly has been the case here with respect to nationality and passports."

"The ingenuity and resourcefulness of people when mega dollars are involved with know no bounds and no system that you put in place can ever absolutely be fail safe. I am satisfied that we could not have had a better Minister of Immigration."

"I want also to say again how extremely 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. I believe though that the new measures, the new legislation will put us back on a path to sanity."

But for about 30 years, insanity has repeatedly revisited the often embattled and embarrassed department. And many have said that appointing Elvin Penner as a Minister of State as the Prime Minister did in 2012 was only ensuring that those problems would persist, and possibly worsen. And so they have.

Much of the mischief that Penner is believed to have created centered around his ability to sign nationality certificates - authority which he was given by the Cabinet in May of this year. But as minister of state and not the substantive minister - was he even legitimately authorized to do that? Today the Prime Minister was asked to squarely address that prickly issue:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I placed Minister Hulse in charge of that ministry. It was because I knew that there was a problem in the ministry and I felt and still feel who better to contain the problem - who better to solve the problem than Godwin Hulse."

"A problem developed because at that time Penner had not been given the authority as I recollect to signed 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 has 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 Minister of State in the Ministry be respected."

"He particularly asks that he be given the power to sign nationality certificates. 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. 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 certificates. It is a decision that I have come to rue. It is a decision that I will regret until the end of my days."

"If you are asking specifically in the case of Penner whether the law expressly says "a Minister of State in the Ministry of Immigration is entitled to sign nationality certificates," you are not going to find such a law. It is a matter of what is the constitutional remit of a minister and the Minister of State and what under that constitutional remit is able to be delegated from a substantive minister to a minister of state. I will say again sir that clearly Mr. Penner has embarrassed me, has embarrassed the administration, has embarrassed all of us."

And while Penner's signatures on nationality documents has caused lifelong regret for the Prime Minister, what's obviously caused him a heck of a headache is visa hustling. Indeed, there is no other word for it - and today the Prime Minister let his guard down - and told us how exasperated he is about it. First though we start with Minister Hulse outlining the new measures that will be taken to safeguard the issuance of visas:

Hon. Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration
"In addition to this the Prime Minister and your government and this minister has also decided to improve the visa issuing system. As you know there issues surrounding visas etc. - We will also create a visa vetting committee and that committee is going to be a little less compose. It will not have the social partners because visas are almost an everyday thing. That committee will comprise of the CEO in the Ministry of Immigration, CEO in the Ministry of Human Development for human trafficking, CEO in the Ministry of National Security for national security issues and the director of Immigration as an ex-officio officer."

"This committee will also be created administratively but the act will be amended to ensure that this committee must approved certain types of visas prior to the issuance by the department."

"There have been numerous reports of mischief, wrongdoing etc. But nobody wants to come forward and say it is Mr. X or Mr. Y or Ms. X or Ms. Y. It does us no good to say "they are hustling visas and we know, but its tall guy or a short Spanish somebody."

Jules Vasquez
"Have you been aware at the executive level of the involvement perhaps for your ministers in soliciting visas on behalf of persons of Asian, or Middle Eastern origin and is this something that was regulated by any quota system or any such thing?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Where is "Boots?"

Jules Vasquez
"He just left."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"In any event Minister Hulse will be here to attest to what I am saying. I have heard such reports and Minister Hulse and Minister Boots and all other ministers will tell you that I have repeatedly said in Cabinet ladies and gentlemen I think we are doing a fine job. We will have our problems; there are the second term blows. A friend of mine suggested that second term such be referred to as quick sand terms; but that I believe we can come through in the end and come through well. But 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."

"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."

"I have also said that I understand that politicians have friends and I know that processes can be slow. If a minister says 'I did ask the Immigration Department to bring some speed to the processing of an application for a visa for a friend.' It is entirely legitimate as minister.' I satisfied myself that the application for the visa was in order.' I can't say that that is not to happen, but if I hear you intervene 10 times and I hear you intervene 20 times - what I am to think? Except that you're involve in a hustle. If you hang out with Alibaba you must be one of the 40 thieves. I am glad you ask the question because if there are ministers who indeed are doing that sort of things apart from the new systems that are in place - it is nice for them to know that the media is in possession of those sorts of reports and so they will now if they have not believe me when I have been saying it to them previously, understand that it is the absolute truth that that is the kind of thing that would cause the government to fall."

And what could also cause the government to fall is the recall of a representative, which could arguably encourage another. No, we're not suggesting that a regime change is at hand, but it is certainly in the cards of a loaded deck - too loaded with political chance for the UDP's comfort, considering they only have a two seat majority in the House. And that may explain why they have fallen in so reflexively behind Elvin Penner. Today the Prime Minister - as party leader - explained that it is virtually an existential matter for the UDP that they must support Penner. First, though, he explained that Penner has no come back to come back as a cabinet minister:..

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Penner is not only removed from the UDP Cabinet, Penner can never return to the UDP Cabinet. Thus, there is no question of Penner being able to do any further harm to my administration or the governance of that administration."

"When our people go into Cayo Northeast and say to the electors to please do not recall Penner. We make it clear that we are asking this because we have an interest in preserving the government of the United Democratic Party. We do so on a basis that you might want to suggest a self-serving, but we do so on a basis that is anchored in our belief that we have done a very good job of bringing development and progress to this country. We do so on a basis that a part from the achievements that are already in the books - that are already on record. We have now been able to unlock this Petro Caribe largest, if you will, which will allow us to drive the infrastructure job creating development agenda in a way that as I said will usher in a hitherto unseen golden age of growth in this country."

"We believe that in the context of that larger picture we are entitled to go to ask the people of Cayo Northeast to help us preserve our government even if means thereby they are preserving Penner's seat. Ultimately they will decide."

Jules Vasquez
"The recall threshold is impossible high for anyone to mobilize 65% of the electorate in an off season. However, that entire process can be short-circuited if he simply resigns and he is perhaps no stranger to inducements - his history certainly suggests that he may be entertaining offers for such a thing. Is that something that you all have to guard against by flanking his with support and showing him that the party has not abandoned him although there is clearly a moral hazard for the UDP in so doing?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"You are a hell of a fellow and that's a hell of a question. There have been those suggestions that the other side is offering inducements to Hon. Penner to get him to resign. I have asks him about that and he has said no. Earlier I indicated that one of the reasons why we do not wish the recall mechanism to succeed is because we want to preserve our already slim majority. In that context it is a worry that perhaps Penner could go in consequence of that sort of an arrangement. I earnestly hope that it won't prove to be so."

Channel 7