|And while that's how much Penner was prepared to spend on naturalizations for new citizens, nationalities are only a small part of the immigration story. The other part is visa's - which were bring given out by the bucketful - principally to Chinese nationals - often times with letters of recommendations from Ministers.
They were so plentiful, it's not a stretch to conclude that it was a money making enterprise. Senator Courtenay says that's why the testimony that monthly visa activity reports were sent to cabinet is worth further examination.
Now, Penner was very critical of Courtenay for attempting to probe him on Cabinet business in last week Wednesday's hearing.
That's because Cabinet business is usually confidential, but in this instance, the Committee wants to learn the nature of these reports.
Senator Courtenay explained why:
Hon. Eamon Courtenay - PUP Senator
"What we have heard is that there was a bucket sale of visas in particular and you had ministers, you had other area representatives, you had senators, you had other ranking members of United Democratic Party in and out of immigration department in a way that is questionable. It is clear that the cabinet became aware of this and became concerned and that is why the system started of making a report to the cabinet on a monthly basis, in order that they can monitor the amount of visas that were being processed. You will recall the Prime Minister saying "for God sake stop it." the reason I believe he was saying that was because there were already monitoring and were aware that there was a fast business in the sale of visas to persons who did not qualify. It's not a matter of saying there are a lot of people visiting Belize and that is to be criticized. That's not what we are criticizing. What was happening and this is why we get a black eye for other things. What was happening was that people were using our visa process illegally to get the ability to leave where they are to come to Belize and then to illegally enter other countries. So it was a trafficking operation that was taking place and from my perspective, I want to know what was cabinet role in this. If cabinet was aware that month after month they were seeing all of these visas being issued, what then did cabinet do? Did cabinet allow this to continue?"
Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the media last week that he has no recollection of such monthly reports.