Opinion: Regina Labega as airport director

POSTED: 06/13/11 1:09 PM

Now we read that the Corporate Governance Council had come to the conclusion that it is a bad idea to appoint Regina Labega as the new airport director. The reason for their thumbs down is the fact that Labega is subject to an investigation that is currently carried out under the authority of the public prosecutor’s office into hanky-panky with expenses-claims for business trips at the Tourist Bureau. Last week Labega quit as the director of the Tourist Bureau.

The situation she finds herself in is unfortunate, to say the least. Everybody knows that the investigation is underway, but nobody knows what the outcome will be. We do not even know whether it will result in prosecution. The presumption of innocence applies to everybody who is under suspicion, until the court has ruled, so it is technically correct to say that at this very moment Labega has a clean record.

That does not mean that her appointment to the airport-position is a good idea – not at this moment. Vice Prime Minister Heyliger does not see the investigation as a problem. In April he said that Labega would do “the right thing” if the investigation results in prosecution and a subsequent conviction.

But why burden the airport with this particular directors-candidate right now? What’s wrong with keeping the interim-director at his desk until the smoke has cleared? At least then we know – one way or the other – what the situation is.

The investigation is the result of complaints filed by the fired head of the finance department Bas Roorda. Not only Labega, but also marketing manager Edward Dest and former Tourism Commissioner Frans Richardson are mentioned in the complaint. Details that have emerged over the past couple of months suggest that people were receiving compensation for being on the road for Country St. Maarten while in reality they were on the island.

At an estimated $300 a day the case is probably not about a shocking amount of money; but Roorda reported what he saw as a crime (embezzlement) to the prosecutor’s office. There is really no difference between pilfering ten dollars and collecting money at a pace of $300 a day. In both cases, embezzlement is the name of the game, and if this is done by civil servants or by politicians it becomes an integrity issue as well.

Especially because of the integrity aspect it is important for Labega to have her name cleared before she accepts the airport director’s position. It would be, to borrow that phrase from Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger, “the right thing to do.”

 

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