Closure of meeting hampered discussion of motion on long-lease land, says PFP

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~MPs to request public meeting~

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — While creating a draft policy on long-lease land is commendable, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert J. Doran did not comply with the motion submitted by the Party for Progress (PFP) and passed by Parliament in October 2021. The follow-up meeting to discuss the resolutions that the motion brought forward was abruptly closed before it could truly start.

This is why several MPs – including PFP’s Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson – have requested a public meeting of Parliament to discuss the motion’s resolutions, especially in light of last week’s verdict of the Court of First Instance, which ordered the VROMI Minister to cease from issuing long-lease rights in Vineyard Heights. If the Minister contradicts this order, then the government would be fined US $500,000.

The MPs have requested the following agenda points:
Status of the Over the Bank case, with regards to Resolution #2 and Resolution #4 of the Peterson Motion and in consideration of the court case with verdict dated 28 January 2022, regarding the same Over the Bank land;
Status of the draft policy on Land Issuance, as it relates to the recommendations that appear in the abovementioned court verdict.

The request is in response to this week’s public meeting of Parliament to discuss the motion, as well as a motion submitted by MP William Marlin; the meeting was closed on the proposal of MP Rolando Brison.

“Among other things, the motion resolved for the VROMI Minister to create and have the policy published in the National Gazette by 1 December 2021, thereby coming into force. But not only that, the motion also requested the Minister to cease all issuance of land in the area. Furthermore, it also requested the Minister to contact the former group of applicants and to resolve the issues that were ongoing,” continued MP Peterson.

“The former chairman of Parliament created the misconception on the floor of Parliament that the Minister of VROMI executed the motion correctly by simply submitting the policy to Parliament. But this was not in any of the resolutions in our motion. I believe this misconception is why the meeting was so abruptly closed,” said MP Peterson.

“The purpose behind the motion was to change the manner in which the government issues long-lease land. As PFP, we are fighting to create a Sint Maarten where everyone has equal opportunity, and not just those persons lucky enough to have their family member or friend sitting in the Minister’s chair. The motion intended to create accountability within government, so the Ministries operate based on fairness and transparency. When the motion passed, I thought these goals were shared among my colleagues in Parliament,” said MP Gumbs. “Voting for MP Brison’s proposal, but also having voted for PFP’s motion just four months ago, is hypocritical to say the least. The chairlady of Parliament was the only coalition member that voted consistently with their past vote, which is the least that the people can expect from their leaders.”

“MPs Brownbill and Arrindell also voted for the meeting to be closed, thus giving MP Brison’s proposal the support it needed to pass. These two ‘opposition’ members have become key to the coalition passing controversial decisions, such as the 2022 budget,” said MP Peterson.

Given the recent developments in Parliament, the PFP faction is also concerned about possible collusion between MPs and Ministers, considering the contents of controversial voicenotes that circulated late last year and the rush to close a public meeting with the Minister of VROMI, who was mentioned in the same recording in 2021.

Considering the serious consequences that the current long-lease land controversy can have, the MPs urge the chairlady to convene the requested public meeting as soon as possible.