PHILIPSBURG – In Wednesday’s, January 18, weekly Press Briefing, Prime Minister William Marlin provided clarity on several issues.
He said that at a general shareholders meeting of TelEm, several agenda points, had to put off due to some information being received the day before, and the Council of Ministers having to attend a swearing-in.
However, the new CEO for TelEm is Kendall Dupersoy, who previously worked for TelEm, then went to work at the airport. His first day on the job will be February 1, and the board will finalize arrangements with his contract.
Three other new board members of the board are: Arnell Brown, John Richardson and Jimmy Challenger.
On the issue of the appointment of a quartermaster for the proposed Integrity Chamber, the Prime Minister stated, “my first reaction to it mentally was I would have said it’s an April Fool’s joke.”
“So officially I have not responded because officially the government of St. Maarten has not been notified. We have a representative to the Dutch government stationed in Philipsburg, who visited the government just recently. Not one word was said about it. We have received no official communication. It is not that my phone number is unknown to the Dutch minister, or even of the Dutch cabinet ministers. So there is no communication neither officially or just a phone call,” Marlin stated.
“I can’t recall if the press statement or what was in the papers came as a press statement or a release from the Dutch government. It has to be some joke or some mistake, but in the event it is not, then I say we are heading definitely in the wrong direction, because this is not the way communication is supposed to take place within and between the governments of the kingdom,” he stressed.
“We are supposed to be four countries in the kingdom and each of us with our responsibilities and it does not fall within the scope of the Dutch government to take it upon themselves to appoint a quartermaster to an integrity chamber,” Marlin continued.
He stated that the faction of the National Alliance had vehemently opposed the integrity chamber as proposed because “we believe there are enough mechanisms within the government… So the government and, this government for sure, is committed to tackling integrity issues and cleaning up whatever mess we may have, wherever we may have it. We do not believe that an Integrity Chamber is necessary particularly not in the manner in which it was proposed at the time,” he explained.
In addition, “the ombudsman put forward the approved legislation on the integrity chamber to the constitutional order, and after many meetings and postponements finally came to a judgment and the judgment was unacceptable. This violates the human rights of the citizens of the country government,” Marlin stated.
Then “government sent it back to a Legal Affairs Department and said, look at the decision, the verdict of the Constitutional Court and prepare an advice. This is known to all parties basically in the Kingdom. So to read on a given morning that the Dutch just appointed somebody, and it looks as if the appointment is to help out somebody who has not been able to find a resting spot within the Marechausees, to help out somebody, ‘let us give him an appointment’ and ‘let’s see what is available,’” Marlin continued.
“This should be considered a breach of integrity and that is not the way to go. I’m kind of flabbergasted,” he stated.
“So one of the things I want to make crystal clear, we are not saying we do not have to deal with integrity issues. We are dealing with them, but we do not think that we need an Integrity Chamber with people appointed by the Dutch government, to police any and every decision that is made and particularly in the manner in which it was set out to function,” Marlin stressed.
According to Marlin, there are integrity issues in all countries, however, “not Holland, not Curaçao, not Aruba have an Integrity Chamber. Why St. Maarten?”
Prime Minister Marlin also expounded on St. Maarten clearing its debt “to the detriment of development and progress on the country.” Several major projects in education, infrastructure, and ICT, were derailed or put on hold due to negative recommendations from the CFT.
He assured that the Council of Ministers is working across the board. “All of us put our heads together to find solutions for education, etc.…We need to find alternatives, but if we cannot borrow money, we (have to) generate more income…So what will be left to invest in education, to invest in the road infrastructure, to invest in housing, to clean up our environment, etc,” he explained.
He mentioned that St. Maarten has more cars, but no new roads, which is why discussions for Link 6, with the Plantz family are ongoing. “We are still committed to it, and it is one of the roads that we want to definitely put on. They are all on our priority list, but this one will be high up on the priority list,” Marlin assured.
In closing he stressed the Council of Ministers’ commitment to realizing several projects, which would “bring with it new opportunities for development…as well as other investment opportunities that would benefit from it.”