Published On: Sun, Mar 10th, 2019

Will Theo Heyliger spend his birthday in prison?

Theo Cartoon - Not my AA Flight to Atlanta

PHILIPSBURG — On Thursday, March 7th, 2019, it was reported that the leader of the United Democrats Theo Heyliger (48) will be spending another 8 days in pretrial detention as the Judge of Instruction granted the prosecution their request to extend the pretrial detention for the third time since Heyliger’s arrest on February 19th, 2019.

Upon Heyliger’s second extension last week, the member of Parliament has since been considered automatically suspended from Parliament as is legally stipulated in article 50 of the Constitution of St. Maarten. On the 1st of March the Chief Prosecutor sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, Cornelius De Weever, informing him of this suspension. The minister in turn requested the prosecutor to inform Parliament of this as well. This was done on Monday, March 4th.

On Friday, March 8th, Parliament convened an urgent public meeting to handle this notification. It took two attempts before a quorum could be reached to hold this meeting and discuss the incoming document from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The United Democrats will have to put forward their replacement candidate, which according to the last election results is Jules James, who with his 213 votes is the next person in line to take up a seat in Parliament. The Electoral Council will now have to officially inform James of his selection and if he accepts, he will first be vetted by Parliament in order to be sworn in by the Governor. Henceforth, he will temporarily be deputizing for Heyliger per the stipulations of article 50 of the Constitution, while the latter will continue to receive his monthly remuneration as well.

With the possibility available to the prosecutor’s office to have Heyliger’s pretrial detention, as a suspect in the ongoing corruption investigation dubbed the “Larimar” case, extended periodically up to a maximum of 120 days, the question now is if Heyliger will be spending his birthday in prison. His birthday will be on Saturday, March 30th, when he will be turning 49 years.

It has come to light that Heyliger is presently not in the best of health. Apparently, he is suffering from a number of illnesses. Given the stress that can be caused by his detention and interrogation and the lack of medication it is no surprise that he has had flare ups that have resulted in a bad case of gout and abdominal pains. According to reports, he was seen limping when he was being transferred to Bonaire. The desperate attempts of his wife to get his medicine to him before he was hauled off to Bonaire sheds a new light on her actions, which subsequently resulted in a complaint letter by the family to the minister of Justice.

Unfortunately, whether Heyliger is being detained in a police cell in St. Maarten or in Pointe Blanche, he will not be able to receive visits from even family members as the fear of collusion is the main reason why he must remain in seclusion while in pretrial detention. Transferring Heyliger to Bonaire is a direct result of the need to not violate his human right to humane detention as the situation the police station and at the Pointe Blanche prison have not been deemed acceptable for his continued detention according to the Prosecutor’s Office, who also said that his housing in Bonaire is a temporary measure. The Judicial Institution Caribbean Netherlands (JICN) facility in Bonaire was the closes facility to St. Maarten with sufficient capacity.

In Parliament, member of the United St. Maarten party (USp) and faction leader, Rolando Brison, questioned the legitimacy of the transfer of Heyliger to Bonaire on a US-registered aircraft and asked whether proper authorization to do so was obtained from the US authorities.

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