Immigration chief Aron contests his dismissal

POSTED: 08/17/16 4:25 PM

ST.MAARTEN – The Court in First Instance rules on September 7 on the labor dispute between country St. Maarten and its suspended head of the immigration department Udo Aron. Hedy Kockx, Aron’s attorney, said during a court hearing yesterday that barring her client from his work place lacks a legal basis. The position of the country, represented by Richard Gibson Jr. maintains that Aron overstepped his authority on May 5 when he guided a woman from the Dominican Republic through immigration. Kockx contests this as well.

The justice ministry denied Aron access to his desk on May 21. Kockx said that this measure is based on the LMA – the rulebook for civil servants – but that the LMA does not apply to her client because he is an employee and not a civil servant.

Based on Aron’s labor contract suspension would have been possible, Kockx said, but only if this had been necessary in the interest of the department.

Aron denies that a suspension was necessary because he did not neglect his duties. Furthermore, suspension was not in the interest of the department because the minister of justice, Edson Kirindongo, was just a few months in office and he lacked “knowhow and experience about immigration matters.” The same is true for the recently appointed interim director, Kockx said.

The attorney pointed out that the visa-duty has no legal basis, because the kingdom law has never been established. “Thereforte, a Caribbean visa does not exist. Executing the visa-duty also violates several laws, Kockx said,.

The immigration department judges requests to enter the country based on a so-called “decision to allow entry” – a system that brings to mind the infamous re-entry permits that brought down the former head of the immigration department Marcel Loor and Chief Commissioner Derrick Holiday in 2008.

This decision to allow entry can be considered as an exemption from the visa-duty, Kockx reasoned.

The attorney addressed the assumption that the woman aron guided through emigration would supposedly stay at his hiome and that he would act as her guarantor. “There is nonly one statement from an immigration employee; she made this up to substantiate her claim of abuse of power. Aron does not have any relartionship woith the woman and he never stated that she would stay with him or that he would act as her guarantor,. The guarantor;s declaration was not in the name of my client.”

Kockx spoke of “vulgar gossip” that lacks any objective evidence. She also noted as typical that articles have been used as if their content represented established facts, “notably from the unreliable web site SMN news.”

Kockx concluded that the measure to deny her client access to his desk and the suspension are void because they lack a legal basis and because these measures were not necessary for the department. “Revoking the authority to take these decisions would have offered sufficient guarantees.”

“Today we heard that a criminal investigation has been initiated,” Kockx continued. “We are three months after the incident and my client has not been interviewed yet and he has not yet been labeled as a suspect.”

Public Prosecutor Martin van Nes attended the court hearing yesterday morning, but he declined to comment on the situation.

The country has announced Aron’s dismissal on august 9.

The country’s attorney, Richard Gibson Jr. told the court that aron had “overstepped his authority: “He was not authorized to issue visas or th grant exemptions. That happens on the kingdom level. He also is not authorized to reconsider a negative decision by an embassy.”

Gibson noted that so-called transit-stamps have mysteriously diasappeared from the immigration at the airport. These stamops are used to mark passports of travelers who indicate that they will continue to another destination the next day and they give permission to stay for 24 hours on the island.

There was also some discussion about the question whether aron was absent from work on May 5 or that he was in fact returning from a work visit. “”The director was absent and then he cannot take decisions,” Gibson said. In his absence it is the minister who decides.”

Judge Sander van Rijen asked about Aron’s performance history, but ministry-representatives had no clear answer. “We have not found a single assessment,” Stanley Kwidama, director of the cabinet at the justice ministry said.

“We can therefore assume that, until the incident, his employment was impeccable,” the judge noted.

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