Emmanuel questions construct Trust Fund steering committee

MP Christopher Emmanuel


~ Says Marcel Gumbs a failure for St. Maarten ~

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday said that considering the lack of progress on Trust Fund projects for St. Maarten, the entire construct of the Trust Fund Steering Committee should be re-evaluated. He also questioned if the three members of this committee will be replaced considering the slow progress on St. Maarten, going on four years after hurricane Irma.

MP Emmanuel pointed out that even State Secretary Raymond Knops has admitted that the World Bank was not the ideal entity to channel reconstruction funds through and criticized the pace of work being executed. Moreover, the MP continued, outside of not working efficiently, “nobody seems to know how this committee actually works, how they evaluate what has to be done, how they measure progress, nothing. It all feels shady because of a lack of transparency. We should be getting monthly updates. We get nothing,” the MP said.

With the terms of the current members of the Trust Fund steering committee ending soon, MP Emmanuel also questioned who nominates and appoints St. Maarten’s representative on the steering committee for the Trust Fund, and if St. Maarten has a say about the other two members. Former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs represents St. Maarten on the committee, Frans Weekers represents the Netherlands and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Tasheen Sayed represents the World Bank.

“In my opinion, we cannot equate Marcel Gumbs to anything other than a failure representing St. Maarten, four years after the fact,” the MP said, adding that it is important to hear from the members of the governing coalition what they think about his performance and if they have anyone else in mind to fill the post. Committee decisions are by consensus only. So since we have no information about who championed and prioritized what from the trust fund, I can only conclude that Marcel Gumbs has been a failure in fighting and prioritizing for St. Maarten.

“How are nominations made? Who decides ultimately? Impossible it will be Marcel Gumbs again. Will the UP/NA Coalition actually re-appoint him? That means they will simply see a continuation of no real work for the people of St. Maarten,” the MP said. He also questioned the numeration of the committee members and if they are in “solidarity” with the people of St. Maarten and the Jacobs norm.

MP Emmanuel also questioned the membership of Weekers on the committee. Weekers, a former State Secretary, is part of a group of officials held partly responsible for The Dutch childcare benefits scandal which led to the recent fall of the third Rutte cabinet. The actions of Weekers and others were branded as “discriminatory” and filled with “institutional bias”. A parliamentary inquiry into the matter, concluded that “fundamental principles of the rule of law” had been violated.

“But this person, who many have called a racist, is good enough for St. Maarten. Families were cast into hardship on basis of their color and ethnicity. The World Bank states proudly that it doesn’t work with people of ill-repute, alleged or otherwise. Here we have a Dutch politician on our trust fund committee with a questionable background. Again, who nominates? Who has a say?” the MP said.

The MP said even The World Bank representative leaves alot to be desired after crossing the line with blatant interference recently, trying to tell St. Maarten’s Prime Minister how to govern as it relates to the Princess Juliana International Airport. She (Sayed) had to later walk back the statement.

“I think it behooves the government just to provide some information about the construct of this committee moving forward. If the committee presented a report about Trust Fund activities this too should be made available and the process to nominate and appoint people should be clarified,” MP Emmanuel said.