PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Members of Parliament are playing a dangerous and irresponsible game with the lives of the people of St. Maarten by hinting that they intend to accept funds from the Dutch, but not support the law that supports the COHO and the country packages with reforms. So says Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel who added that MP’s are now stating that they have little to no information and are confused about what the Prime Minister signed with State Secretary Knops.
“When you listen to MP’s supporting this government who have been in the media making comments and on the floor of Parliament, you can deduct in what direction they are heading. All of a sudden, tones have changed and there is this attitude of let’s take the money and run,” Emmanuel said. “It is an irresponsible direction to take especially since this government has no other plan,” he added. The MP was present during Tuesday’s meeting of the Committee of Kingdom Affairs and Interparliamentary Relations (CKAIR) regarding the preparation for a virtual IPKO on January 6 and 7.
He used the opportunity to remind the public that he has been cautioning government for weeks not to sigh any agreement before it knows the details and before Parliament has had the opportunity to fully examine the COHO legislation and supporting reforms and country packages. “Today, we hear MPs in the media saying they will wait until the law gets to the floor of Parliament to have a real position. Then you have other MPs saying that at no time did Parliament agree with the content/context of the COHO. But they gave the PM permission to sign. Think about how backward this is. It’s a dangerous and irresponsible game,” MP Emmanuel said.
He said Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion and Minister of TEATT Ludmilla DeWeever have had months to come up with an economic plan for St. Maarten and to date nothing has been done. “So in the absence of that, we placed ourselves in this position due to the failure of this government to have a self-dependent plan. The Finance Minister doesn’t even have a budget for 2021 yet,” the MP said.
The MP wasted no time in telling committee members who seemed confused about the content of a particular agenda topic, that “Knops is not coming to St. Maarten to sing kumbaya. He is coming with a technical team to execute what was signed for. That’s it. There are already several aspects of the country packages already in execution. Parliament doesn’t even know which. Government has given the organization specific instructions directly regarding the country packages. What are they? Parliament doesn’t know and we are going into IPKO as blind as we were when MPs gave the PM their support to sign the agreement with Knops,” MP Emmanuel said.
MP Emmanuel said MPs who are now confused about what the role of the COHO will be apparently are not aware of the full administrative control that they gave up. The principle of the agreement, he explained, is that the Netherlands will provide the countries with long-term financial assistance in exchange for the promise that they will implement a series of reforms and measures, controlled and supervised by the COHO, an independent body that answers to the State Secretary and the Dutch Council of Ministers. “It clearly and literally states in the COHO legislation that since Dutch taxpayer money is going into this, that is who will have the control,” Emmanuel said.
He continued: If the COHO is of the opinion that a country is making insufficient effort to comply with the obligations imposed it may determine that stricter financial supervision will be instituted and/or financial support withdrawn. Throughout the legislation this is a recurring theme.
For example, administratively, the COHO can initiate its own economic projects. The COHO legislation states that for the realization of such a project, it may be necessary, for example, to issue a specific permit. In such a situation, however, the relevant government body is expected to cooperate to issue of a permit. Should this not be the case, the COHO may decide to suspend the granting of aid, in accordance with specific articles of the legislation. “So even if St. Maarten’s Council of Ministers and civil service advises against, that can be over-ruled. And there is very little regard for Parliament in any decision making process. If MPs are confused now about administrative takeover, they are very late,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP concluded by asking, again, what is government’s position on decolinization since one of the conditions of the Dutch was for government to distance itself from this issue, which was initiated by National Alliance MP Solange Duncan and Alliance coalition faction leader Grisha Marten Heyliger of the UP party.