“One politician involved in embezzlement at Tourist Bureau”

POSTED: 04/11/11 12:21 PM

Roorda back to the Netherlands for personal safety reasons

AIRPORT St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The dismissed head of the finance department, Bas Roorda, boarded a KLM flight for Amsterdam yesterday afternoon, after he had been advised to leave the island in the interest of his personal safety. Roorda confirmed to this newspaper that this is the reason he leaves the island, and said that there have been threats in the past, after the suspension of the head of the Tourist Bureau, Regina Labega, and head of marketing Edward Dest on November 5 of last year. In December, the suspension was lifted.

“Somebody set the car of Miguel de Weever (the secretary general of the Ministry of tourism – ed.) and that same day somebody pointed a laser at my house. The message was: we know where you live and if you don’t stop there will be consequences,” Roorda said.

De Weever’s car was fire-bombed on November 15, ten days after he served suspension letters to Labega and Dest. No results of the investigation have been made public so far.

He added that his complaint at the public prosecutor’s office concerns “twelve cases of systematic embezzlement at the Tourist Bureau by several employees and one politician.”

Roorda did not mention the name of the politician. Currently, Minister Franklin Meyers is responsible for tourism. His predecessor is National Alliance parliamentarian Frans Richardson.

In last week’s meeting of the Council of Ministers, Roorda was put under pressure and urged not to file his complaint at the prosecutor’s office. “I told them that this is not the authority of the Council of Ministers,” Roorda said yesterday. “I became aware of embezzlement through my work and I have an obligation to report this. If I don’t do that, I become an accomplice.”

When it became clear that he would not back down, Justice Minister Roland Duncan declared according to Roorda: “In that case this is your last appearance in the Council of Ministers.”

Roorda’s statement contradicts a public statement by Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto, who said Wednesday that lining the complaint at the prosecutor’s office with the dismissal is “ridiculous,” and even added that “nobody is above the law.”

Roorda acknowledges that the government does not have a valid reason to fire him. “But they are looking now to find something,” he said.

Roorda said that he will return to the island at the beginning of next month. “I have a personal interest here, because I lost my job, but there is also the interest of St. Maarten to think about. The government is unable to balance the budget, and people are stealing money.”

As the head of the finance department, Roorda said, “I signed for every quarter the departments spend. But when I came across certain things that were incorrect, I refused to sign for them.”

In May, Roorda will file summary proceedings against the government to fight his dismissal. During those court proceedings more details about the alleged embezzlement at the Tourist Bureau will become public.


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