PHILIPSBURG – At Wednesday’s, February 15, Council of Ministers Press Briefing Prime Minister William Marlin spoke to the press after being away for approximately 2 weeks.
He had been in Colombia for a medical checkup, where he also visited St. Maarteners who were there for medical reasons as well.
The Prime Minister talked first about the dispute surrounding Captain Oliver’s Marina. “I thought it was important to bring you up to speed with the fact that last week we had the meeting with…The Hague, Paris, Philipsburg and Marigot…It had to do with the entire issue surrounding the conflict over the Captain Oliver’s Marina…Towards the end of the meeting, the Prefét apologized for actions undertaken. It was based on a misunderstanding,” Prime Minister Marlin informed.
In addition, “The Secretary General of VROMI Louis Brown was talking to his counterpart Mr. Fleming of the French side for them to draft a letter on the way forward as it pertains to the contraction activities at the Captain Oliver’s Marina. But the French have agreed to basically continue observing the status quo, which would basically entail that the jurisdiction over Captain Oliver’s Marina and Oyster Pond remains on the jurisdiction of the Dutch side,” Marlin explained.
“Because what you have is that the land-border demarcation treaty, and the negotiations for that have not even started yet. We have concluded the sea-border demarcation negotiations and treaty. It was signed right here in the old government building last year…But the land-border demarcation treaty is nowhere close to being in place because negotiations have not yet started,” Marlin stated.
“And one of the issues surrounding that or involved in that is that the Oyster Pond area is under dispute particularly on the part of the French as they are claiming that they should own half of it, but we are not yet there. So you can’t start acting as if you own half if there is no agreement on your ownership of half,” he continued.
In any event, the owners and operators of Captain Oliver’s Marina will get a letter explaining the way forward, and the operating or repairing of the facility would be able to continue, and business would be able to continue as well.
In regard to continued discussions on the Integrity Chamber, Prime Minister Marlin said he will have a discussion with Minister Ronald Plasterk on the way forward, while on a visit to Aruba next week.
He stressed, “That the issue of integrity is of paramount importance to us, but the Integrity Chamber as envisioned by the Dutch…to say to St. Maarten that St. Maarten has not done anything since the agreement, since a protocol of 2015, is absolutely incorrect.”
“Because St. Maarten back then, the government and by extension Parliament, did everything. Dutch government was involved in the drafting of the Integrity Chamber’s legislation that was presented to Parliament. Parliament with a majority vote, voted for the legislation and it would have become law. But the Ombudsman filed a case with courts,” Prime Minister Marlin explained.
“We are reviewing the steps forward. We see now again the Ombudsman has decided now they will start investigating the so-called institutions such as the Kadaster and such institutions, (which function) independently,” Marlin continued.
“Guys, we have to get our act together. Because we have the Audit Chamber that has written reports on the integrity of appointments, and it is up to government to deal with it. It is up to Parliament to question government; it is up to Parliament to amend legislation that would be necessary. No, I’m not saying to have to draft them, but have to approve them, and if you get information from the Audit Chamber that is not going in the right direction…,” the Prime Minister stated.
“Yes, we have to do things and we have to do them do right…” The Prime Minister asked for time and space to set things right, because of the large amount of work that still has to be done. “It is a humongous task and we have been able to move into this new government building. Is it a smooth transition? No. Is everything done the way we would have wanted it to? Not yet. But at least we have cleared the whole issue with a debt to SZV, and a debt to the pension fund, and we are moving. So we intend to piece by piece build this nation, and build to restore integrity, and bring it up to an acceptable level, because when we just look at the most powerful country in the world and look at the highest office in the world, there too we have seen integrity breaches…” Marlin stated.
According to Marlin, “Parliament has an important role to play and the government has to execute. If Parliament passed a motion condemning the actions of the Dutch in terms of the appointment of the gentleman to be our quartermaster to put Integrity Chamber in place…let it be a bilateral discussion, not one where you stay up in The Hague and shoot your orders down to St. Maarten.”
In addition, Marlin mentioned that a 4-member delegation from the United States would be here in St. Maarten to start discussions and negotiations on the pre-clearance at St. Maarten airport. “The pre-clearance agreement is an agreement between the United States and St. Maarten…once you have an agreement and an understanding as to how this will be implemented in your country, under which conditions will be allowed and St. Maarten, what is expected by it, and what are the conditions, then you move to phase 2, which would be the discussion with the facility where the pre-clearance can be carried out, because it is not only maybe the airport,” Prime Minister Marlin informed.
This move may also bring other benefits like homeporting in St. Maarten, and increased flight capacity.
The introductory meeting was yesterday, Thursday, February 16, at 3:00pm and continued this morning 9:00am.
“We will be happy to share with you immediately thereafter where we are at, what the next step would be, because for us it is something very important. I think St. Maarten once again is taking the lead or is pushed at the top of the ladder in the region where this is concerned,” Prime Minister Marlin said.