BELMOPAN, Cayo District, Wed. June 14, 2017–When the UDP became the ruling administration in 2008, Carlos Perdomo, a one-term Cabinet Minister, was the first person inside Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s Cabinet with responsibility for the Immigration Department.
However, his name would become entangled with questionable Immigration processes in the Auditor General’s audit of the Immigration Department for the period 2011-2013.
Last Wednesday, Perdomo appeared before the Senate Select Committee after retired immigration officer Therese Chavarria told the committee that he had instructed that a passport be issued to an applicant who applied with a suspected fraudulent Belizean birth certificate in 2011.
Today, Perdomo was again summoned to appear before the Senate Select Committee, as Senator Mark Lizarraga, of the business community, had more questions to ask him.
During the interrogation, Perdomo firmly denied having any involvement in any wrongdoing or irregularities at the Immigration Department.
Thereafter, he threw a mini-tantrum, conceding that he had no idea what was happening at the Immigration Department even though he was the Minister in charge.
Here is an excerpt of the exchange that ensued following Lizarraga’s opening questions.
Lizarraga: “Do you agree that you implicitly, and it can be said, explicitly, tolerated wrong-doing under your watch?”
Perdomo: “I don’t agree.”
Lizarraga: “Would you agree that you either implicitly or explicitly nurtured wrong-doing under your watch?”
Perdomo: “You just talked about casting aspersions, you’re back to it? I don’t agree.”
Lizarraga: “Do you agree that implicitly or explicitly, wrongdoing grew and blossomed under your watch as Minister of Immigration?”
Perdomo: “I don’t agree.”
Lizarraga would then turn to the issue of Ministerial interference at the Immigration Department which, according to the Auditor General’s audit, was commonplace and led to many irregularities.
Here is an excerpt of the exchange that took place:
Lizarraga: “There are ample cases highlighted in the documents before us where other ministers were seen in the department of which you were in charge. You agree with that, that ministers would frequent the department?”
Perdomo: “My office is not at the Immigration Department, so, if I heard I heard, but I wouldn’t see that. Of course, the report talks about it, but I am not involved in that.”
Lizarraga: “I didn’t say that you were involved in anything. I am only saying, did you know at the time that your colleagues were frequenting offices that you were in charge of?”
Perdomo: “No, I didn’t know, I heard about it, but I didn’t know until we read the report. “
Lizarraga: “Nobody informed you?”
Perdomo: “Nobody briefed me, nobody said somebody coming too much or blah blah, when I was minister. I guess they showed respect to whoever went there. There was no need to be reporting to me.”
Lizarraga: “This is my concern — that you were responsible for this department, all of these things were happening and you appeared not to know anything about anything.”
Perdomo: “Well, it appears so.”
Lizarraga: “Except in joke. Because you’re saying in jest.”
Perdomo: “I can only tell you the truth from my point of view, but sometimes, when people share the truth here, like you are doing right now, you then proceed to lash people. I am telling you the truth so now you will bring up a lot of things about this and that, and so forth. I’m telling you I didn’t know, so why continue at it? I said I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
Lizarraga: “I am not trying to lash you. I am trying to see how policy is formulated in this country and where responsibility begins and where responsibility ends. I think if we’re going to move ahead as a country, we have to hold not only people responsible, but we need to know what systems are in place to fix the things that are wrong.”
After one hour of ‘not knowing anything,’ Perdomo was allowed to leave today’s hearing.