Saturday, July 22, 2017

Montero Says – “It Wasn’t Me”

Sunday, July 16, 2017, 18:36
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Rene-MonteroThursday, 13 July 2017 UDP Minister Rene Montero went before the Senate Select Committee on Wednesday to tell them that he wasn’t trying to order the Immigration Officers to do anything unethical or illegal. His letters of recommendation are very different from those of his colleagues who insist that they are only making “good suggestions”. His letter of recommendation for nationality resembles an order from a Minister of Government to a subordinate in the public service, but when that was put to him he completely disagreed with the Senators, not surprisingly. Readers are very much aware of the UDP party line that all these ministers of government have regurgitated when confronted with tough questions from the press. Their letters of recommendation for applicants seeking visas, passports and nationality are simply requests for consideration on that person’s behalf. They have insisted that letters usually ended with words to the effect of “if all is in order”, or “if the applicant qualifies.” The UDP Ministers would have you believe that with the inclusion of these simple clauses, immigration officers are being offered the choice to completely disregard their letters of recommendation if an applicant does not qualify. In these Senate hearings, it has been clearly established, by immigration officers who have testified, that in many instances, it doesn’t matter whether an applicant qualifies. A recommendation letter from a Minister meant complete disregard for procedures and protocol. On January 9, 2012, a few weeks before the 2012 General Elections, Montero sent a letter to the former Immigration Director, Ruth Meighan, directing her to “please facilitate me with the following nationality for the ceremonies to be held on the 13th January 2012: 26536, 26537, 26543, 27020, 23414, 22999 and 30743.” Obviously, Montero is completely exposed here, since there is no “if the applicant qualifies”. It lends credibility to the suspicion that UDP Ministers were throwing their weight around as part of the political directorate to get Belizean documents for people who did not qualify. So, when he was asked about it by the Senators, he launched into an almost unbelievable explanation by defining the words “please facilitate”. Listen to how he explained it. In the view of the entire nation, he said, “Please means basically to ask someone to consider my request and it is essentially asking a question, it is not a command and it is not stated that they must consider my request and to facilitate means just asking for an assistance for these nationality documents.” From his perspective, he was well within his rights to request that the Former Immigration Director “facilitate” the nationality for the 7 applicants. He sees nothing wrong with that letter he sent. When he was asked why he even got involved on behalf of these 7 applicants, he claims that the Immigration Department called his office to inform him that the nationalities for several of his constituents was ready. He said that he was told, “If I write a letter requesting for these nationalities, that it would have been processed.” The next big problem that Montero had when sending this letter is that he was recommending 2 of Manuel Heredia’s favourite people from San Pedro, the Harmouches. When he was confronted with that fact, he quickly asserted, “I maintain that I do not know the Harmouche, I never met them, never dealt with them, I have never done any dealing with them directly or indirectly, I have never received any considerations from them, I don't know them period.” Still, he recommended these people, and his explanation is that the Immigration officer who called was the one who gave him only nationality application numbers. There were no names attached, and that he trusted that the application files being referenced were for his constituents. He was asked why he didn’t check, and how comes he ended up recommending people he didn’t know. His explanation was that he trusted that the Immigration Officer was providing reliable information. He also added, “Maybe it was a mistake from immigration that they sent the 2 BNA numbers from the Harmouche, who can tell? I don’t know it was only BNA numbers we were dealing with, not dealing with names so it could have been a mistake from immigration.” All in all, Montero was just doing a good deed, if you believe that. When asked about his many interventions in Immigration, he said, “The people requested assistance from my office and at that time I thought that it was very important for the family unit to keep together because once the family is together, there is less crime, there is more productivity; as simple as that."
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