PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel is of the opinion that government’s lack of empathy towards the people of St. Maarten and its disconnect from the common man has been re-enforced through its words and actions over the past few weeks. He said the insensitive words that the Council of Ministers continues to use towards people whose income they have cut “is a sad indictment against themselves and the lack of care they have for people. People who have been made to suffer while coalition members show off in videos playing golf and eating lobster,” the MP said.
The MP said Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion and Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in particular, behaves as if they didn’t grow up on St. Maarten and have family legacies that weren’t forged here. He pointed to Irion’s comments during a recent Council of Ministers Press Briefing in which he said he is looking forward to establishing processes that would eliminate the “practice of asking for favors” in government.
“In one broad stroke, the Minister of Finance implied that something is very wrong when citizens might ask for a little help in getting something done. They might run into you in church, or in the supermarket, or your children might attend the same school. They might ask for some guidance or intervention in something that might be stuck in government administration. We are a small community. We are supposed to help, not brush people off.
“These are the same people who you do not mind doing favors for when you are asking them for votes. But when they need you, you send them through a process. This is not how we are accustomed to speaking to and living with each other in this country. When did it change that we as elected representatives can blatantly tell people not to look to us for simple help? But once again, we can’t expect any better from people who feel as if they live above the rest of us and move in circles that have no connection with the common man,” Emmanuel said.
MP Emmanuel also criticized Irion for being one of the architects of depriving citizens of income and benefits, while finding the nerve to go on social media advise citizens how to access assistance from the United Nations. He explained that Irion is touting the United Nations free New Year Bonus Grant to users on Facebook, asking them to contact him for instructions on how to apply.
“Meanwhile, this is the same Minister of Finance whose Tax Department is levying liens on the pensions of senior citizens on St. Maarten. The same Minister of Finance who can’t produce a budget on time and who did not investigate any other options other than cutting people income by 12.5%. This is a government that cannot find a locally relevant and/or creative option to lower the cost of living for its people. But here is the Minister, sending seniors and others to apply for a foreign grant to make up for something their own government took away. A local government that is supposed to protect its people and ensure a decent quality of life,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP said that the current government has not offered any relief in the Christmas season other than an extra day off for civil servants. However, after the Christmas and New Year break, he continued, the same government that took away bonuses will expect its citizens to find the money to pay for road taxes and license plates.
“In the meantime, you have a Prime Minister that states that the country package is to be seen as a vehicle to set administrative processes in order and should be seen as a collection of structural solutions in the form of restructuring of government. The restructuring that the PM so proudly defends is coming on the backs of the people. More and new taxes will come, levies on your land will come, we will be paying loans forever and there is no indication when the so-called ‘temporary laws’ will be repealed. You are not hearing anything about easing the burden on the people. In fact, all indication points to the opposite. Are these the greener pastures the coalition is so proud to announce?” MP Emmanuel concluded.