Sarah: The Prime Minister’s refusal to Discuss Implementation of the Country Package of St. Maarten is Unacceptable

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Philipsburg, St. Maarten, – Members of  Parliament have received yet another postponement of a meeting to discuss the St. Maarten country package, the implementation agenda and the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO). From the latest response by the Prime Minister to discuss the COHO and the so-called country package, it is evident that the Government has no intention to discuss this very important program with the Parliament or the population at large, expressed United Democrats Member of Parliament, Sarah A. Wescot-Williams.

“At least, it appears that the intention is not to have this discussion at a stage where the input of Parliament and the public could serve to strengthen and unify St. Maarten’s position. The reasons given by the Prime Minister for not appearing in Parliament at this time are neither here nor there. The meeting date of February 22nd was set to begin with based on the Prime Minister’s schedule, still the Prime Minister asked that the meeting be postponed indefinitely, giving the reasons that the draft COHO Kingdom Law has not been advised upon by the Council of State and thus a discussion on this is considered premature and secondly, that the Government is still busy “aligning the country package components with the governing program and year plans  for translation into a proper implementation plan.”

The MP further stated that “with respect to the  issue of the draft COHO Kingdom Law, the forerunner of the COHO, namely the Temporary Work Organization (BZK) is already up and running. The Netherlands is also steadily proceeding with agreements on the basis of the country package, such as the Border Control Agreement and the agreement regarding the reconstruction of the prison.”

Wescot-Williams thinks it is naïve of the Government to believe that while they are engaging in this aligning of the country package as they call it and that because St. Maarten has until April 1, to – together with the Netherlands, establish the implementation agenda,   mean that the world has stood still, waiting for St. Maarten to “align” its plans. The Government has to admit that it is the country package that will dictate the pace and priorities for the coming years. While that might be a bitter pill for the governing coalition to swallow, that’s the reality. Moreover, she says, it needs to be recognized that many of the country plans, especially those of Curacao and St. Maarten are in essence carbon copies. In many areas we are tied to Curacao, many of our laws are the same, our healthcare, education and tax systems have the same origins”.

“Work that has already started for Curacao will not be duplicated from scratch to suit St. Maarten, unless we can make a compelling case in our defense.  Some of the areas where again we could be running behind the facts to have St. Maarten’s position taken along, are e.g. dollarization for the monetary union of Curacao and St. Maarten (D-3), and a new tax system with a proposed form of a Value Added Tax (C-1). The implications  of these reforms could be  far reaching”.

Would not any Government want to discuss its priorities and the way forward with its Parliament? questioned the MP. “But then again, the Prime Minister has in the past  observed that the Government is supported by a majority in Parliament. That’s no excuse though to brush aside a call from Parliament to defend Government’s position at whatever stage in the process.  The Government is presently dictating Parliament’s agenda and it will only get worse, once the implementation agenda is established.   It is clear from some of the timelines, that the Netherlands has no intention to let up on the speed with which they would like to see the country package implemented. The  St. Maarten Government’s current actions are therefore nothing more that stalling tactics”,  reiterated MP Wescot-Williams.

“What is being asked of the Government at this time, is to factor in Parliament in the preparatory work towards the implementation agenda from the onset. All of these matters are too important not to have good communication towards the general public and the relevant stakeholders from the beginning.”