PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Monday re-iterated his position that the COHO or COHO 2.0 is a construct of control that is unnecessary in the bigger picture of St. Maarten implementing government reforms.
He said the government of St. Maarten is gullible when dealing with the Dutch or being willfully deceitful in keeping the public in the dark in regards to changes to the COHO legislation. “We are approaching the end of the year and the entity known as COHO is still mired in controversy because in some shape or form it encroaches on the autonomy of the countries,” Emmanuel said.
He stressed that State Secretary of Kingdom Relations & Interior Affairs Raymond Knops is forcing the countries to accept the entity by pretending to remove problematic areas of the COHO legislation, only to disguise COHO’s true intent in other ways. “The government of St. Maarten compromised its autonomy by again accepting so-called changes to an entity that it knows is not necessary, but because of lack of conviction and political will to make financial sacrifices, placed itself in the current predicament,” the MP said.
He explained the Prime Minister of St. Maarten has yet to brief the public about the changes to the COHO and provided minimal info to Parliament in a closed door session. He said the main objective of the COHO has been and will continue to be control over St. Maarten’s finances, “and if this is not the case then neither the PM nor State Secretary has provided any evidence to the contrary.”
The MP stressed that the PM still cannot explain which funding the COHO will have control over, that of the COHO itself from the Ministry of BZK or will it be involved in St. Maarten budget process? Furthermore, he questioned if the CFT’s budget supervision will expand and what other roles the CFT will play in terms of the budget, loans, etc.
Additionally, it is understood that the COHO will need pre-approval of the countries before independently executing projects, but it is unclear if the countries will get information on these COHO projects before agreements are made for the same projects in the implementation agenda or action plans?
MP Emmanuel said that for people who have been dealing with the Dutch for a very long time, the government of St. Maarten is surprisingly gullible. “The COHO cleverly makes it sound like the Ministry of BZK, CFT and COHO are not part and parcel the same. It does not matter how they change the text to say control or supervision or evaluation will be moved from this entity to that. They are all the same. BZK acts on the advice of the CFT and in turn advises the Dutch government of the approach it should take with St. Maarten. Now they insert a third entity, the COHO, to actually execute project on St. Maarten outside of government’s control,” The MP said.
He continued: “I can guarantee that one aspect remains unchanged: State Secretary Knops’ power to withhold financial support and the blackmailing tactic to force the countries to pay back loans immediately if they do not do what the COHO, CFT or BZK expects. Once St. Maarten has to operate under those circumstances, then you have encroached on our autonomy and aim to render the Parliament useless.”
He said the people of St. Maarten are under the impression that the COHO specifically targets government reforms. “I have been saying for almost a year that the COHO and the country packages are all linked; the same country packages that are the foundation for income cuts and new taxes that will undermine our very way of living. The property tax is one example that I warned about, so is a VAT or retail tax. But this government still refuses to tell the people the truth about what is coming and how they are selling the country out while they do little to nothing to lift this country,” Emmanuel concluded.