Today’s Opinion: Fabrications {Bas Roorda}

POSTED: 04/12/11 12:16 PM

On Friday we were stunned to learn that the dismissed head of the finance department Bas Roorda had to leave the island to protect his personal safety. Yesterday we were equally shocked about statements Justice Minister Roland Duncan made in the media about the Roorda-case.

Stretching the truth is not the right expression to describe the Minister’s views. It’s far worse.

What we learn from Duncan’s media-rant is that the government is extremely upset about the fact that Roorda filed a complaint at the public prosecutor’s office about possible embezzlement at the Tourist Bureau. The more members of the cabinet – first Finance Minister Shigemoto, now his father-in-law Duncan – deny that this is the reason for Roorda’s dismissal, the clearer it becomes that in fact the opposite is true.

The dismissal letter mentioned violating the oath of secrecy as reason for the dismissal. No, Duncan said yesterday in the media, this is about insubordination. But if that is the case, then why is this reason not mentioned in the dismissal letter Roorda received?

It is obvious, as Roorda’s attorney Le Poole says in a story on our front page, that the reasons for the dismissal are fabricated. First it’s one thing, and when it is clear that it won’t fly, it is something else.

And then there is of course the apparent circus in the Council of Ministers where Roorda was pressured to provide proof of the embezzlement complaint he brought to the attention of the prosecutor’s office.

Are civil servants who report irregularities (let’s just call them what it is: embezzlement is a crime) to the prosecutor’s office obliged to question people who are mentioned in the complaint? Yes, Duncan said, implicating that there is a law governing civil servants that contains this requirement.

Rights and obligations of civil servants are regulated in the Landsverordening Materieel Ambtenarenrecht, the LMA. But civil servants, like everybody else, are also subject to the law. And the penal code states exactly what civil servants have to do when they become aware of a crime. They have to report it.

They are not required to quiz the people they suspect of wrongdoing. They simply have to report their findings to the prosecutor’s office. Failing to do so, we’d think, would make them an accomplice after the fact.

Attorney Le Poole noted that, with all this mud-slinging, the case is becoming one big mess. So we noticed.

The Minister has called Roorda a notorious liar and an incompetent civil servant on an ego trip. That’s heavy artillery in a civilized country that is, according to Duncan’s son-in-law “not a banana republic.”

There will of course be a law suit, probably in early May. Roorda simply wants his job back, but the government might have a problem with that, given the strong language Duncan has used.

Looking past the strong language we cannot help but wondering who is doing the lying here.

Roorda does not strike us as a hyped up Dutchman on an ego trip, but rather as a financial expert of the sort that St. Maarten desperately needs to clear up the mess at the Finance Department.

The cabinet is flip-flopping, and grabbing at straws in an attempt to justify the way it dealt with Roorda so far.

In the end, this war will not be won or lost in the media. It will end in a court room. Next month it will be in civil court. And if the prosecutor’s office finds sufficient grounds for it, it may also end up in criminal court. That’s where the truth will come out, sooner or later.

But before we get there, the Roorda-case will keep making waves, not only in St. Maarten, but also in the Netherlands. Ronald van Raak, the spokesman for the Dutch Caribbean in the Second Chamber let this newspaper know yesterday morning that he would use the information from Saturday’s interview with Roorda in the upcoming debate about the 2011 budget with Minister Donner. Other members of the Kingdom Relations Committee also received a copy of the story.

Minister Duncan apparently is of the opinion that people like Roorda “and other people living in St. Maarten” give information to the Dutch government and the financial supervisor Cft to discredit the country and to make it look bad.

Nor the Dutch government, nor the Cft, needs Roorda or other people to learn about what’s going on in St. Maarten. There is, for instance, an office of the Dutch representative in Philipsburg. One of the tasks of this office is, as Minister Duncan knows very well, to keep the Minister of Kingdom relations informed about what’s happening in Philipsburg.

This way, Donner will learn that, as Duncan told the Daily Herald yesterday, that former commissioner Frans Richardson is mentioned in the embezzlement complaints Roorda filed at the prosecutor’s office.

In this whole melee, we should lose sight of an important principle: the presumption of innocence. Roorda filed a complaint, based on what he learned through his work at the finance department, and he did what the law expects him to do. But judging the merits of the complaints is up to the prosecutor’s office, and after that, to the court.

 

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