Today’s Opinion: Stuff for conspiracy-buffs

POSTED: 05/10/11 12:38 PM

The attorneys of the government and of the dismissed finance department head Bas Roorda had their first courtroom encounter yesterday morning.

Roorda wants to hear witnesses, among them finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto and Justice Minister Roland Duncan, as well as at least two civil servants who were in the thick of things when the Council of Ministers pulled the plug on Roorda’s contract on March 31.

Judge Thierry pretty much nailed down the key question of the whole affair with the following remark.  “There was a Council of Ministers meeting and they said to Roorda: We disagree with your intention to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, but we are not able to stop you. On the same day he was fired. And one does not have anything to do with the other?”

Readers who support the philosophy that there are no coincident won’t have too much trouble to come up with the right answer. The government’s attorney did not need a lot of time either: “No.”

Obviously, Roorda and his attorney have a slightly different opinion – to put it mildly.

What we learned yesterday is that, according to the government, Roorda violated his oath of secrecy by giving information to the board for financial supervision Cft. That’s rich, because we always thought that Roorda was the key contact between the Cft and the government of St. Maarten on the civil servant level. Who knows? Maybe we got that wrong.

Anyway, apparently the information had to do with pension premiums. Nothing more surfaced yesterday, because the court hearing was primarily about Roorda’s request to hear witnesses.

And while the attorney for the government said that there is nothing to be discovered from hearing witnesses, his opponent strongly disagreed.

He may have a point, given the fact that Roorda’s dismissal letter gives violating the oath of secrecy as reason for the dismissal, while Justice Minister Duncan made a media statement saying that it was about insubordination. Roorda did not do what he was told to do. Finance Minister Shigemoto had yet another angle: Roorda had talked to the Cft and embarrassed the minister.

So here we have it: violating the oath of secrecy, insubordination and causing embarrassment.

Would it have been possible for Roorda to violate his oath of secrecy by talking to the Cft? We’re not sure about that, but if this caused embarrassment we have to start wondering what exactly Roorda told the Cft. Does our government keep secrets the financial supervisor is not supposed to know about? Stuff for conspiracy-buffs.

Roorda’s attorney made clear that the real reason for the dismissal is more mundane. The fact that he filed a complaint with the office of the public prosecutor about twelve cases of embezzlement at the Tourist Bureau that involves several employees as well as former commissioner Frans Richardson.

According to Roorda’s lawyer, the Council of Ministers had this to say when the finance department head announced his intentions. We are not able to stop you but if you go ahead with the complaint then this is the end of the exercise.

Roorda went to the prosecutor’s office and the same day he was fired.

Is one plus one two or is it three? It is tempting to jump to conclusions, so we’ll have to restrains ourselves here. After all, this is not a blog for wild and unfounded accusations.

One thing is certain: somebody is lying, or to put it in friendlier terms, somebody is not telling the truth.

Here is Roorda’s problem as we see it. While we do not believe for a second that he is, as Justice Minister Duncan put it, “a notorious liar and an incompetent civil servant on an ego trip,” we think that Roorda was outnumbered in the Council of Ministers meeting.

Will it come down to his word against that of several others? Or is there an unadulterated recording of the meeting to prove what happened one way or the other.

What concerns us apart from all this is the request by the government’s attorney to hear the witnesses behind closed doors. That will fuel rumors, no matter what anybody says in front of the judge. And there are enough rumors flying around as it is already.

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