At the last sitting of the House of Representatives, on August 16, 2019, the PM (Prime Minister) said the Cabinet supported the write-off of a loan of approximately $40,000 that was owed by Mr. J. (Joshua) Perdomo, a male offspring of the Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Carlos Perdomo. On August 27, 2019, four government ministers — John Saldivar, Hugo Patt, Elodio Aragon, Jr., and Edmond Castro — finalized what the Cabinet had approved — the exoneration of J. Perdomo from the debt he owed his country.
There has not been one voice outside of the government’s inner circle that has offered any defense for the write-off. Mr. J. Perdomo got the best of what Belize had to offer. He was a young man with a good job who got support from the government so that he could pursue further studies in a field where there was a national deficiency.
The field of study the young man pursued was forensic science, specifically Forensic Genetics. The government, in its manifesto, its contract with the people when it pursued office in 2008, had promised a state-of-the-art forensics lab. This forensics lab was sorely needed because criminals were making a mockery of our justice system. At the time J. Perdomo went away to study, his father was the Minister of National Security (one of his portfolios), the department most in need of the services he could provide after his studies.
Higher education is the proven pathway for anyone who wants to make a decent, honest living, and this kind of support from government is sought by many, many individuals. Only the lucky (well-connected) or the brilliant get this kind of aid from the Government of Belize. A government that is functioning properly would be willing to sponsor further studies for individuals not only out of concern for the development of the individual, but also out of an interest in what the individual, with increased knowledge, could contribute to the development of the country.
The individual, if he/she is married, receives 80% of their salary while away on studies. The unmarried student also receives a portion of his/her salary, reportedly 50%. It is an excellent arrangement. All the individual has to do is sign a bond and get someone to guarantee repayment, just in case he/she, for whatever reason, decides not to, or can’t, fulfill the agreement.
There are instances when an individual might not be able to serve out the bond. For example, if the individual can’t find employment in the government (or in the country), for whatever reason, the government is duty-bound to release the individual from his/her obligation. That was not the case with J. Perdomo. For his personal reason(s), he decided not to honor his bond. His service is sorely needed in Belize. He decided to abandon his country. He is gone, and we not only remain ignorant: we have decided to wipe his slate clean. This sticks in the craw of Belizeans.
The PM has been lost on much that has gone on during his watch. He didn’t know that his ministers and ranking members of his party were regularly visiting the Immigration Department. He didn’t seem to know where Sanctuary Bay was, and seemed unaware of the company’s business. The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Patrick Faber, says the PM might not have known that J. Perdomo, the recipient of the largesse, was the Cabinet Secretary’s son.
On August 23, Faber told News5: “I am able to tell you that the Prime Minister, that while he is the Minister of Finance, he has said that he was not aware that it was the Cabinet Secretary’s son. But you will have to ask him for his own answer … that is what he said to me.”
Hon. Faber said he thought the plum Perdomo received was unfortunate. He told News5: “I think it is unfortunate … I was not present in the caucus … I was away … Certainly if you ask me for my individual view, that is not something that I would have supported. You are right; it is a big pill to swallow. I don’t believe it is something that is feasible, but without getting into all of that and casting aspersions and jumping into conclusions, I think it is fair enough for us to put it back on the table at the Cabinet level and see what can be done.”
The matter apparently did not go back to Cabinet. The matter went to the Finance and Economic Development Committee, which decided to support the Cabinet’s write-off decision. Hon. John Saldivar went to his Facebook page and explained their decision this way:
“This motion, in and of itself, does not have the effect of relieving the debtor of his obligation to pay. That in effect occurred legally long before the motion came to the House, at the moment it became statute barred, the moment six years had elapsed without taking the matter to Court … The main evidence … was the legal advice of the Attorney General to the effect that collection is statute barred due to the amount of time that has elapsed … The monies cannot be legally pursued … and must therefore be written off the books. That is what the Committee was asked to consider, that is what the Committee approved.
“Now, if you want to question how it reached this point, why was time allowed to elapse without taking the matter to Court, why was the debtor or his guarantor not forced to pay, those are all valid questions for someone in some Ministry to answer.”
Amandala columnist, Ms. Audrey Matura, a lawyer who allows no injustice to this nation to slip by her, had some serious words for those in Cabinet who are washing their hands of guilt. “We need our elected leaders to know that they need to stand up for right. This seemingly small issue is NOT small,” Ms. Matura said.
There is a saying that the last straw broke the camel’s back, and in a land that has seen political leaders make bad and/or corrupt decisions over and over in the last two decades, this one, at a time when parents across this land are scrambling for every dollar so that they can get their child/children in school, so that they can have the opportunities of persons like the one in the crosshairs, was too “in-your-face” to slip under the rug.
The Cabinet Secretary is yet to make an utterance on the matter, and we are having difficulty understanding his silence. On a personal level, it is his name that is being trampled the most. His children, the one who went away to study and the one who guaranteed that he would serve out his bond, do not carry his weight in our society. They, the young ones, have seen this UDP that was so clean, become so dirty, and that might have played a part in their discredited deeds.
There are no saints in this world, but our country has been easy on Mr. Carlos Perdomo when his integrity has been questioned. He was brought before the Senate Select Committee in 2017, where he denied being involved in any wrongdoing during his time as Minister of Immigration. Certain other names were called when the Senate Select Committee met. There are some dots that seem to connect.
It is not impossible that Mr. Perdomo did not know about the write-off, or is too past his time to grasp the implications of what has happened here. He is not a young man, and in 2012 he declared that he would not be defending his seat in Caribbean Shores because he was in ill-health, and his wife was also ailing.
The next story connected to the write-off is that on February 9, 2020, Hon. Patrick Faber and Hon. John Saldivar are set to face off in a convention to determine the next leader of the United Democratic Party. John suggested that a person or persons in “some” ministry was/were asleep at the wheel. The sleeping ministry wasn’t his, so his hands are clean. He can gloat. The $40,000 is not his money.
Patrick said the matter should have gone back to Cabinet. It didn’t. We must point out that the UDP can still take up a collection and pay for this bond. What is for sure is that the people of Belize should not be left holding the bag.