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Justices of the Peace raise alarm over “disrespect”

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Posted: Monday, January 27, 2020. 8:37 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Association of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of the Supreme Court is upset over not being consulted with regard to new regulations that will come into effect on February 3, 2020, for recommendation of passport applications.

Mario Arzu, Director of Nationality and Passports, told Channel 5 News’ Open Your Eyes morning show that instead of two recommenders in two categories A and B (private and public sector), the Immigration Department will accept one recommender, who must be Belizean citizens (by birth or descent), 18 years old and over and in possession of a valid Belize passport, which must be submitted along with the usual endorsed photographs.

For minors (16 and under), the parent and child’s name appear on the endorsement with the recommender. Arzu says you can recommend your child for a passport personally if they are over 18 – in other words if they are adults. For those applying from abroad, you must be endorsed by a registered legal or medical practitioner.

Arzu says the change is intended to streamline the process and ensure that the applicant is known to the recommender and that both are Belizean. To apply, provide (for first-timers) your birth certificate, other identification, recommendation and photographs; to renew, simply apply and provide your expired passport and the recommender statement.

C.E.O. Edmund Zuniga says the Department has found that Belizeans invariably find the nearest Justice of the Peace, often in Belmopan, and have them sign when it is clear they may not know the person as long as is required, which is a criminal offense.

During its Annual General Meeting on Sunday, according to president Adrian “Danny” Madrid, his membership expressed a feeling of “disrespectful behaviour” by both the Ministry of Immigration and Nationality and Attorney General, which is responsible for JPs.

He told us in a telephone interview that they were not consulted, and up to Saturday had not even seen the Statutory Instrument approved. They have asked for a meeting with the substantive Minister, Godwin Hulse.

Madrid also raised concern in speaking with us that the Ministry continues to appoint Justices of the Peace without consulting or informing them as provided for under the Justices of the Peace Act of 2005. Madrid says his association has about 600 members, but there may be as many as four thousand Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of the Supreme Court scattered around the country, many of whom he says are politically appointed.

We contacted Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte who says his Ministry does recognize the Association but directed our concerns about the regulations and the Association elsewhere. We have also tried reaching Minister of State Beverly Williams, who has not responded as of this writing.

 

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