By: Caroline Cunha
PRESIDENT OF Região de Turismo do Algarve (RTA), the Algarve Tourism Board, Hélder Martins, returned to work on Wednesday May 9 following a month of leave. Controversy has surrounded the one month voluntary suspension of his mandate, with many speculating he would never return to the post.
Reports also surfaced that Martins already had a new job working as the commercial director for the Carlos Saraiva Group, a claim he strenuously denied. During his four week absence, vice president José Dias covered the role during what has been an intense period due to the high profile kidnapping case.
Martins said he took the time off to deal with some private matters which were unconnected to his role at the RTA. Hélder Martins had already announced prior to his leave that he does not intend to stand for re-election as President when his current term officially ends on June 2.
Martins’ detractors, which mainly include his Socialist political opponents, claimed that the one month suspension was not only unethical but also likely to be illegal. The socialists pressed for an extraordinary meeting of the Regional Tourism Commission, the entity which is responsible for electing the RTA President and Executive Commission, and this meeting is due to take place on May 18.
At the time of going to press, Hélder Martins was expected to represent the Algarve Tourism Board at the Portugal Marketing Awards ceremony in Estoril on Wednesday evening of this week, as RTA has been nominated for a prize.
A spokesperson for RTA told The Resident that Hélder Martins has a busy agenda between now and May 18 and that details would be released shortly. It was clear, however, that no one knows what the outcome of the meeting will be next Friday.
“Hélder Martins’ mandate officially ends on June 2,” he said. “By law, the Regional Tourism Commission has 60 days from the end of the mandate to elect a new President. You will soon start to see various politicians announcing their candidacy.”
The spokesperson defended Martins’ decision to suspend his own mandate for a month saying: “He had private affairs to deal with which he could not have carried out during his working hours, but he didn’t feel comfortable doing that, so he thought it would be more professional to take time off instead.”
Hélder Martins chose not to stand again due to the instability currently affecting the country’s regional tourism boards. From January 2008, a new law will be published which could see the number of tourism boards in Portugal reduced from 19 to as few as five. It is not yet known which entity will be in charge of these, or if this entity will be elected or nominated by the government.
One of RTA’s main concerns relates to how the re-organisation will affect funding. Hélder Martins has been frustrated at the secrecy surrounding the new law and the lack of answers to queries, and fears the planned centralisation will cause bureaucratic delays.
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