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Witnesses no show delays Senate hearing

Today’s Senate hearing was delayed for more than two hours. It was scheduled to begin at ten o’clock but the enquiry did not start until after midday. Initially the Senate Special Select Committee decided to delay the Senate hearing for an hour and this was because the two witnesses who were supposed to show up in the morning did not. They are immigration officer Ady Pacheco and Benque’s former Port Commander, Edgar Cano. Pecheco did not appear due to personal medical reasons and Cano decided not to appear because his legal counsel Richard “Dickie” Bradley was not available to make it. However, the Head of the Nationality Department when the audit was being conducted, Senior Immigration Officer, Gordon Wade, did show up. We will tell you how his interrogation went but first back to Ady Pacheco. Pacheco’s name appears numerous times in the Auditor General report and she had been questioned by Belmopan police when the Elvin Penner passport scandal broke. It was reported that investigators considered Pacheco a crucial witness in the Wong Hong Kim passport investigation because she was the second in command in the Nationality Department where the Wong Hong Kim file was. Members of the committee also consider Pacheco a vital factor in their inquiry. According to the Chairman, Senator Aldo Salazar, Pacheco provided a ‘doctor paper’ and they are satisfied with that. However, Senator Salazar explained that they will have to explore powers of the Senate if any witness refuses to appear.

Senator Aldo Salazar

“Well if any witness willfully refuses to appear, if we are not satisfied that there is a good reason, then we would have to consider what powers the senate has and I believe the senate does have some power to compel witnesses to appear before it so then we would consider it at that point. This morning that wasn’t the case, so we didn’t have to consider that or we didn’t have to exercise the powers of the senate in that regard. We are satisfied that the reason why she could not attend was for medical reason.  I don’t want to go into what that is, that’s personal to her, so we are satisfied. I don’t know if it’s safe to say that we won’t be able to interview her or to speak with her or have her testimony any at all; it depends really on how long we continue and what the committee decides. Certainly it would be our preference to hear her testimony because she does appear in the report prominently. In terms of Ms. Pacheco we do have a medical certificate and we take that at its value that she is incapable of coming for medical reason. I think that what would operate in our mind would be if there is a continuous refusal or a reason that is not satisfactory to us or a habitual nonattendance for reasons that we find unsatisfactory then we would feel that the person is refusing or doesn’t want to come before us for whatever reason and then at that point I don’t want to speak for the committee, but at that point we would consider what our powers are to compel that person to attend. Right now we are sending out a notice asking them to appear. When there is a refusal, it is then at that point that we will examine the steps we will take to compel people to appear. So if there is a refusal then there is going to be a process by which we can compel that appearance.”