MP Emmanuel to govt: I warned you about COHO and conditions



PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel wasted no time on Friday to point out that the government of St. Maarten has once again demonstrated its deceit by withholding vital information from Parliament and not being transparent when it comes to the COHO.

Additionally, the MP said it’s laughable that the government of St. Maarten is all of a sudden acting shocked over provisions in the COHO construct that would severely limit St. Maarten and infringe on the country’ autonomy.

Emmanuel made his comments during the Central Committee meeting of Parliament to discuss the 2022 budget. Specifically, his comments were made after Parliament summoned the Prime Minister to provide an explanation on State Secretary Knops’ announcement that St. Maarten will not receive any further liquidity support and they will not be allowed to deviate from the balanced budget norm as long as the countries have not given their political commitment to the Consensus Kingdom Law to establish the Caribbean Entity for Reform and Development COHO.

“Today we see Ministers and the members of Parliament who support the government calling Mr. Knops all sorts of names for basically being who he is. Today they called him a spoilt child, vindictive, they accuse him of acting illegally. I found that especially funny and ask myself; didn’t they know he was all of these things before? This is the same gentlemen who insulted the PM by describing her as untrustworthy and a liar. How are you surprised at what Knops continues to do to St. Maarten,” MP Emmanuel said.

The MP said the government, after lying to Knops on previous occasions and having accepted condition after condition on St. Maarten, including cutting of income and benefits, should not be surprised over new conditions and the Dutch government infringing on the autonomy right of St. Maarten to pass a budget as laid down in the constitution. “At least this time, the government found a spine and said no to some COHO provision. But again we literally had to force the information out of the government,” the MP said.

He recalled that from December 2020 to present, he has repeatedly warned the government about the establishment of the COHO on St. Maarten and its indirect claim over what the country considers as its constitutionally based rights. The COHO’s construct, he added, infringes on budget rights and basically relegates the Parliament of St. Maarten to rubber-stamp status.

“But here we are discussing a budget, government knew of this impasse with the COHO, instructed its Minister Plenipotentiary on what to say and do during The Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, and did not have the professional courtesy to inform Parliament that its budget might have no legal standing,” Emmanuel said.

“In fact, the Minister of Finance blatantly lied to Parliament when he said he wasn’t aware of instructions given to the Minister Plenipotentiary. Today even the Prime Minister admitted that provisions in the COHO as is, would take away the decision making authority of Parliament. This is exactly what I have been cautioning about for more than a year,” the MP said.

The MP also said this latest development is yet another reminder that the people of St. Maarten are still burdened by a 12.5% cut on income and benefits that should never have been imposed by the government of St. Maarten. The government, he said, is apparently reserved to letting “temporary” laws become permanent, with no plan on how it will pay workers what they are owed. “This is an issue we will have to address sooner rather than later,” he said, adding that the National Alliance/UP government has once again placed the country in a status of uncertainty.

In the end, the MP said, “It is a good thing that the government is finally waking up and saying enough is enough. The government has finally found the courage to say no, because I have been saying it for a very long time only to be told I’m fear-mongering.”