PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Sunday told the government to stop using the suffering of the people as a political tool and conveniently using Parliament as a crutch in its discussions with the Dutch. “Especially since it was this government and its Minister Plenipotentiary that accepted the 12.5% cuts and other conditions without so much of a negotiation,” the MP said.
The MP was specifically referring to a comment of Minister Plenipotentiary of the National Alliance Rene Violenus last Friday after the Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR on Friday decided that St. Maarten cannot start with the reversing of the 12.5% labour benefits reduction for its (semi) government employees because conditions have not been met.
Violenus said: “We are punishing hard-working civil servants who have been putting in their best efforts through this pandemic. They have to wait on the law to be finalized before they can see a return to some resemblance of normalcy of their labour benefits package.”
Emmanuel didn’t take lightly to this revisionist type of comment. “They want you to forget that they didn’t consider hard working civil servants when they told these same workers that they could not negotiate and their backs were against the wall. It is insulting to raise the fact that people are not living normal lives now that it is convenient to do so for political purposes,” Emmanuel said.
He continued: “This government made the lives of its workers more difficult in a pandemic, instead of more manageable. It was and still is a monumental failure of a government towards its people. By all indications the suffering was for nothing since the savings are so low they barely qualify as minimal. Now they cry ‘poor civil servant’ to get out of a mess they put the same civil servant in.”
MP Emmanuel also took issue with the comments considering it was the same Minister Plenipotentiary who on May 20, 2020 sent letter to former State Secretary Raymond Knops in which he indicated that St. Maarten unconditionally accepts the Dutch conditions for liquidity support. These conditions included the 12.5% cuts.
To date, the MP said, the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister has failed to be forthcoming on how the three laws are being applied or not, how they are managing to circumvent them or not, the expectations for budget implications and so on.
“Questions are asked, and as usual no answers are provided. But what do you hear from the Minister Plenipotentiary in Holland? Parliament has to do this and Parliament has to do that. The Minister actually said with a straight face that they are trying not to tie Parliament’s hands,” the MP said.
“All of this almost two years after the government did just that by agreeing to conditions and then having it rubber-stamped by Parliament. So at present their negotiating tactic is to use the suffering of the people, and their sudden respect of Parliament’s authority, to reverse what they created by ignoring the former and the latter. This government continues to an embarrassment onto itself,” Emmanuel explained.
He reminded that he was the only MP to vote against the laws to cut worker benefits and income.