Published On: Mon, Nov 30th, 2020

Dismissal Prison Director ruled unreasonable

PHILIPSBURG – Justice Minister Egbert Doran was “unreasonable” when he decided to fire Pointe Blanche Prison Director Alwin Keli per March 24, 2020. The Court in First Instance ruled on November 20 that the country has to pay Keli 55,904 guilders ($31,231) plus de equivalent value of unused vacation days and the accompanying vacation allowance. The government also has to pay the costs of the court procedure, an amount of around 1,775 guilders ($992). The court declared its ruling executable with immediate effect.

Minister Doran gave Keli a warning on February 6, 2020, and already the next day he announced his intention to fire the prison director. This happened after a meeting whereby the ministry’s secretary-general Russell Ursula openly disagreed with the points the minister was making.

In this meeting, on February 11, 2020, Doran attacked Keli’s statement to Sjamira Roseburg, de attorney of the inmates association that he could not guarantee the safety of her clients. Keli acknowledge the statement: “It is very simply the truth. No prison in the world can guarantee the safety of any inmate. No government can guarantee the safety in no prison and no house. Not even the police can guarantee the safety of the people.”

Doran disagreed, but his secretary general Ursula supported Keli: “The director cannot give any guarantee on the safety of the inmates. You, minister, cannot guarantee the safety. You talk about firing Mr. Keli. What is it based on?”

Nevertheless, not even two weeks later, on February 24, St. Maarten government terminated Keli’s contract per March 24. Minister Doran stated that “your overall lack of management, control, oversight and your laissez-faire attitude towards the prison and direction of same is beyond concerning; it is negligent and dangerous.”

Keli asked the court to declare his dismissal null and void, to order the country to pay his salary-arrears with a 20 percent increase and to order the country to pay his salary until the end of his contract on March 31, 2022. Subsidiary he asked the court to declare his dismissal unreasonable or unlawful and to hold the country liable for damages.

The court declared Keli’s primary demands inadmissible because he had submitted his claims too late, but it admitted his subsidiary claims.

Keli was hired per April 1, 2019, on a three-year contract. In his warning letter of February 6 of the following year, the minister charged that Keli had been unreachable on two different occasions, that he had caused unrest in the prison because he had blocked some inmates from returning to work and that he had failed to react to a letter in which the minister asked his attention for more than twenty different issues. The letter also noted that Keli had taken a vacation without permission and that he had allowed third parties to tour the prison.

All these allegations became irrelevant because the court focused on the legality of Keli’s dismissal.