Election Rush: 500plus Naturalizations Of New Citizens In One Week 3


Today, a rush of immigrants wanting to be new Belizeans swarmed the immigration office in Belmopan. 300 of them were scheduled to be naturalized at ceremonies held this afternoon at the George Price center.

That’s after 225 were naturalized last week Friday. Make no mistake, this is what typically happens in the run-up to an election – where only Belizean citizens can vote.

Registration has been opened to the 20th. to facilitate new registrants – and before that we may even have another naturalization ceremony.

The undue haste to naturalize these new Belizeans has stirred controversy and raised eyebrows, but in the run – but, it’s another dirty little secret of Belize’s democracy that this is what happens in the run up to every general election in modern memory.
No one knows that better than Ruth Meighan. She took over as Director of Immigration after being the Chief Elections Officer. So she’s now experienced the pre-election rush at both ends of the process.


She told us that indeed it’s an anomalous number of new naturalizations, but she stressed that her office is not facilitating any kind of irregularities:…

Ruth Meighan, Director of Immigration

“Who is in the crowd- we have nationals from different countries who are actually here to get sworn in today as new Belizeans, so we are going to have a sworn in ceremony sometime this afternoon. What we do is accept applications for people who want to be Belizean. We are projecting that we could possibly have about 300 persons this afternoon.”

Jules Vasquez

“So then, I know you had a sworn in ceremony earlier this month as well am I right?”

Ruth Meighan

“Yes you are right. Last week Friday actually.”

Jules Vasquez

“So then how many were in that?”

Ruth Meighan

“In that ceremony we had about two hundred and twenty persons.

Jules Vasquez

“So then is this an unusually high number for one month or one week really, 8 days.”

Ruth Meighan

“It is, what we found now is that a lot of people who had applications sitting here from as far back as 2007-2008 for whatever reason, probably didn’t have all the requirements, came in with the necessary documents and those people are also being processed.”

Jules Vasquez

“Is all this being expedited because registration for the next election closes on the 20th of January?”

Ruth Meighan

“I don’t know Jules; I would be able to say that we are just doing what immigration does. I think people should understand by now, especially the political persons, is that we offer a service and as a result of that, the service requires that you do certain things.”

Jules Vasquez

“Would you agree though that there is a coincidence certainly in the fact that registration has, by statutory instrument, been extended up to January 20th, and two nationalization ceremonies are being held within that time?”

Ruth Meighan

“Jules I don’t think it’s for me to comment on that. I don’t know what the reason is why, if it is coincidental or not. I am only saying that if we have the applications to process we have a directive to process them so that we could swear these persons in – that is what we are doing.”

 

“In terms of the political aspect of it I cannot comment. I would want to because it’s not my place to say these things are happening.”

Jules Vasquez

“Who makes the decision to make two swearing ins within a month?”

Ruth Meighan

“It would be the government depending on the need to do so. It is alleged that we are processing applications for people who are not qualified, and that is not so. We have an instruction that, yes, we have the application, so, yes, let’s process it. The directive I got from my Minister, from the Prime Minister is that we process but we stay within the law and that is what we are doing.”

Jules Vasquez

“Okay, so you can assure me that all those persons I saw queuing up this afternoon and all those who will be sworn in are……”

Ruth Meighan

“They have all met the requirements.”

Jules Vasquez

“Are you all expecting that you have to do another swearing in before next week Friday? We know next week Friday is the cut off time for voter registration.”

Ruth Meighan

“We still have files that are not yet processed, so the likelihood does exist that we may have to, but it will be upon the instructions of the authority.”

Jules Vasquez

“Of the authorities meaning the executive?”

Ruth Meighan

“My Minister.”

Jules Vasquez

“Your Minister.”

And so now it’s left to be seen if her minister will call for one more round of naturalizations before registration closes on the 20th of January. 300 were set to be naturalized today but, still as Meighan noted, there are a number of persons who have been or are being processed but are pending naturalization.


We note that this is the first time we have been able to get numbers on the new citizens or speak to the Director, but PLUS TV out of Belmopan reports that just like in 2008 – they were not allowed to videotape the proceedings. In fact they were escorted out by police – which we condemn in the strongest terms as “very shady.”

Original Article

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