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Senator Fitzgerald Accuses Foulkes Of Negligence

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net PLP Senator Jerome Fitzgerald accused Senator Dion Foulkes of negligence in his presentation of allegations against PLP MP Fred Mitchell. This came during Mr Fitzgerald's contribution to the Senate debate on amendments to the Parliamentary Election Act, during which Mr Foulkes admitted he was not aware of the police investigation into the foreign affairs official who accused Mr Mitchell, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, of attempted visa fraud. Mr Fitzgerald said he is "offended" by the way the Senate has functioned over the last two sessions. He said rather than debate important legislative matters before Parliament on the eve of an election, the governing party is using the Senate for political purposes. Mr Fitzgerald said: "It appears to me that unfortunately the Senate is being manoeuvred and used to play a political game." Referring to the visa fraud allegations, Mr Fitzgerald said Mr Foulkes should have been aware of a report on the police's investigation into Mr Mitchell's accuser, issued on May 8, 2007, which showed who was at fault and where the corruption really lay in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He added that based on the report's findings, the civil servant who accused Mr Mitchell was removed from the department by the newly appointed FNM Foreign Affairs Minister. On a point of order, Mr Foulkes rose to say he was unaware of the police investigation or its findings at the time he tabled the Wikileaks cables in which Mr Mitchell is accused. He said: "I never knew about the report from the police, as a matter of fact the first time I read the report was when it was revealed by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Fred Mitchell, and that's the first time I read the report," he said. Either Mr Foulkes knew about the report, or neglected to research the matter properly, Mr Fitzgerald said. "It was a dereliction of duty on his (Mr Foulkes') part to come and talk about an incident without speaking to the minister responsible to get the facts," he said. Mr Fitzgerald said the Fox Hill MP nor his colleagues were given an opportunity to defend the allegations made against Mr Mitchell prior to the suspension of the Senate. He said the Senate should not be a place to scandalize members or attack their reputation. On February 15, Mr Foulkes tabled a US Embassy cable released by Wikileaks, in which it was claimed the Fox Hill MP pressured Foreign Affairs staff to grant visas to 30 ineligible Chinese nationals. The document details a conversation between a former US consular chief and a senior Foreign Affairs official, who claimed the visa applicants were sponsored by former PLP MP Sidney Stubbs. The civil servant accused Mr Mitchell of "complicity in visa fraud by pressuring his staff to issue visas to ineligible visa applicants and, specifically, to unqualified Chinese nationals," the embassy official wrote in his cable to the State Department. Denying the claims, Mr Mitchell produced a police report showing his accuser was herself suspected of issuing visas in return for cash. A statement issued by Mr Mitchell called the allegations "well worn stories" issued by a "disgruntled employee." He said: "The allegations are in every particular untrue, false and misleading. I demand a retraction and apology from the minister (Mr Foulkes) from forthwith for repeating these false statements in public if he has any decency."

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