~ Has video surveillance of incident ~
MAHO–The Sonesta Maho Group of Companies has condemned the “shameful” and “aggressive” manner in which a joint control was conducted on its property last week Thursday, noting that guests were intimidated during the process, a legal employee shackled, an officer refused to show his identification and management was not notified of the control.
The Group said it had video surveillance of the entire incident, which it called “a violation of the rights” of its guests and staff.
The company said that when the joint inspection team entered Sonesta Ocean Point and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, no one from management had been presented with a court order, a warrant or any other official document that it said would have justified or allowed the authorities to enter its premises.
The company said plainclothes officials “not visibly displaying their identification [and at least in one instance refusing to show their identification when asked – Ed.] and [officers – Ed.] in uniformed full combat-like gear, including bulletproof vests and armed with weapons, entered the hotel in a ‘raid’ format, aggressively making their way down hallways of the hotels and into restaurants, pools and other areas.”
Maho said the officials had not requested permission to enter the premises, which the resort said was required as its premises are private property and only employees and registered guests are allowed on the premises. The establishment also was not informed as to the purpose of the raid.
“It was only when we realised what was happening that we asked the official(s) what they were doing on our property and we were then told that they were conducting some kind of inspection,” the Group said.
“The officials warned guests of the hotels saying, ‘You need to always have your passport with you.’ Officials were intimidating to guests and staff, going as far to say, ‘Do not mess with me.’ Further, another guest was forcefully interrogated three times to prove she was not working illegally. The officials told her this was taking place as a result of infractions on the part of the Resort, which is incorrect since no infractions were found now or in the past.”
One guest gave an account of the manner in which he was harassed during the process.
“The officials took managers away from the floor while the managers were trying to attend to guests’ needs and temporarily detained them as if they were criminals, until they could show them identification and papers. This was done in plain sight in public areas, embarrassing the managers even further.
“If any manager complained [as did Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten’s Director of Business Development Eliska Hesova – Ed.] about the brutality and lack of tact and respect toward our guests and staff, they were immediately handcuffed. Ms. Hesova was released after being paraded in handcuffs in front of guests in the hotel, as she has legal status on the island,” the Sonesta Maho Group said.
Regarding The Point restaurant, the Group said that because of what was happening at the time with the raid, its managers were unable to accompany the inspectors and therefore did not have the opportunity to answer any questions regarding any “alleged” infractions.
“However, we immediately took remedial actions based on the comments received by the inspectors, and although all remedial actions were completed by Saturday, February 6, it was only today, February 8, that we received the clearance to reopen The Point. At no time did The Point reopen without proper authorisation,” the Group said.
“We have been and will continue to be cooperative with Government inspections as long as said inspections are conducted lawfully and with respect for basic human rights.
“We would like to underscore that no immigration infractions were found as a result of this raid, because there are none to be found in the first place, and we believe the methods used in this raid were shameful and a violation of the rights of our guests and staff, and we do have video surveillance of this entire incident.”
The Group said its attorneys were exploring all legal remedies available to protect the rights of its guests and staff.
“We furthermore believe that such conduct by Government officials negatively affects the reputation of our beautiful destination, especially given that the country promotes itself as ‘The Friendly Island.’ For more than 40 years and now with a team of approximately 900 individuals, The Maho Group has been a responsible employer providing an overwhelming benefit to the country’s economy and growth as a leading tourism destination in the Caribbean,” the Group said.
Source: The Daily Herald Maho condemns ‘aggressive,’ ‘shameful’ raid, visitors harassed, management not informed