Reader’s Opinion: Confusing

POSTED: 06/22/14 10:56 PM

Dear Editor,

I am writing on behalf of my client Ms. Regina LaBega concerning the article you published on page 3 (bottom right hand corner) of your edition of June 19, 2014, under the title: “Investigation into Tourist Bureau embezzlement: Prosecutor’s Office confirms Regina Labega is a suspect.”

I mailed the Public Prosecutor and she did NOT confirm that client was handled as a suspect. She (the Prosecutor) refers to her remarks saying that she “can and will not say anything about my clients position”. So the heading of the article is not in accordance with its content. That is very confusing and in my opinion also for the Public Prosecutor. That is a pity especially for your all over respected newspaper.

We (my client and my person) take serious exception to this article and the slant it is given, especially given the fact that in the same article (paragraph 5) your paper states: “Former marketing director Edward Dest – now interim director – former Director Regina Labega – now director at the airport – and former Commissioner of Tourism Frans Richardson – now an independent Member of Parliament – have been identified as suspects in this case.”

If this were established facts, why was only my client’s name mentioned in the headline and the opening paragraph of the article? When were they “identified as suspects in this case”? If a case of “embezzlement” has been established at the Tourist Bureau, as your headline suggests, when was this done and how much was “embezzled”?

In fact, the last two paragraphs of the article are just conjecture cloaked as “facts” and indicate that your esteemed paper has already tried a case that, at least, with regards to my client, has not even reached the courts yet, and determined that the former head of the Finance Department, Mr. Bas Roorda had “discovered that the suspects fiddled with the compensation they are entitled to for each day they spend abroad on business.”  These are allegations but there is no proof as yet.

The closing paragraph sums it all up: “They would sometimes leave later, or return earlier, but still claim compensation for each day of the original travel schedule.”

In my opinion: this article is playing Prosecutor, Judge and the Executioner (the “butcher”) at the same time in a case that has not even been heard in court! It is the height of tendentious reporting.

Suffice it to say that my client has not even been officially notified by the Public Prosecutor’s Office or anybody else in the judicial chain that she is a suspect in any investigation. Yes it is screamed around but there is no proof at all.

My client’s good name is being tarnished by this kind of “reporting”. For what reason? If that is “news” how come similar focus is not placed on the Member of Parliament your paper says has also been identified as a suspect?

It is a fundamental principle of justice all over the world that one is innocent until proven guilty. This principle obviously does not apply to your reporting. And that is disappointing and sad (in Dutch they would say: bedroevend).

After I finished watching the movie ”Diana” it was said: “Somewhere beyond right and wrong there is a garden. I will meet you there.”

What is right and what is wrong in this (small) world named Sint Maarten.

Cor Merx,

Attorney at law.


Editor’s note: An email we received from the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday, June 18, opens with the line: “It is correct that Labega herself is also a suspect.”


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