Dear Editor,

Today, two months after the new Council of Ministers was sworn in, we still do not have a Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT). The blame for this has been placed on the vetting or screening process. However, in truth and in fact, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of our Parliament.

Now, the USP (United St. Maarten Party) will have to present another candidate minister and the screening process will start all over again. We trust that it does not take another two months. Who is to tell, though, if this candidate will pass the screening, which is shrouded in a cloak of mystery!

With the exception of the Governor and the Prime Minister, no one else seems to know, for sure, what exactly the criteria are for the screening of candidate ministers.

We expect the Prime Minister to be transparent about this issue and to enlighten the candidate ministers, the political parties and the general public about the screening criteria, the procedures and how the final decision is made to pass or fail a candidate minister.

SMCP believes that the screening criteria should be clearly established up front and that political parties should be aware of these before submitting the name(s) of their candidate minister(s) to the Formateur.

The obscurity as well as the insecurity surrounding the whole screening process could have been avoided, if Parliament had taken the bull by the horns and dealt with the law pertaining to the screening some years ago.

Take Curaçao for example. Shortly after 10-10-10, the Parliament of Curaçao annulled their original screening ordinance and passed a revised one, in 2012. Nearly seven years after 10-10-10, St. Maarten is still using the original 10-10-10 screening ordinance which is apparently outdated and full of flaws.

St. Maarten has a very short history, as far as vetting or screening of candidate ministers is concerned. It is unfortunate that the first three Governments of Country St. Maarten never underwent any serious screening. In its Integrity Report of 2014, the Bob Wit Committee clearly pointed out that the screening was a mess and even stated that the then Prime Minister as well as the Ministers were in violation of the law and could be sentenced to a maximum of three years imprisonment.

Seeing that governments were forming and falling so frequently, the Kingdom Government felt that they should step in to ensure, the much needed integrity in the Government of St. Maarten. Consequently, prior to the formation of the fourth Government in 2014, the Kingdom Government issued a directive, instructing the Governor, to ensure that the screening of candidate ministers be done in a thorough manner. I believe that, if the St. Maarten Government and Parliament had taken the screening process seriously from the beginning, there would have been absolutely no reason for the Kingdom Government to step in.

Almost seven years after 10-10-10, St. Maarten’s Parliamentarians are still complaining about the screening, when all the while it was up to them to do something about it. Finally, after five years, a draft of the screening law, entitled “Ordinance Regulating the Integrity of (candidate) Ministers,” was officially submitted to Parliament, on January 20, 2016, by then Member of Parliament, Dr. Van Hugh Cornelius de Weever. If Parliamentarians were really concerned or dissatisfied with the screening, they would have been more zealous in seeing this law move from the Ad Hoc Committee of Integrity to the Central Committee and finally to the Public meeting where it would have been approved.

It is good to note that when this ordinance was submitted, the members of the Ad Hoc Integrity Committee were: Sarah Wescot-Williams, George Pantophlet, Cornelius de Weever, Leona Marlin-Romeo, Frans Richardson, Maurice Lake, Franklyn Myers and Silvio Matser, who did not attend any of the three meetings that the Committee held. Regrettably, neither the Committee members nor the other Parliamentarians did anything with the draft ordinance. They just sat on it and allowed it to accumulate dust.

SMCP calls on Parliament to handle this draft ordinance as soon as possible and ensure that it is transparent and fair to all concerned.

The next ordinance that Parliament should deal with immediately is the Ordinance Regulating the Integrity of Parliamentarians. The Bob Wit Integrity Committee also seriously questioned the integrity of our Parliamentarians and made very pointed recommendations such as: establishing a code of ethics, making public all paid and unpaid side jobs, setting up a public registry to record all gifts accepted by Parliamentarians, determining whether side jobs are permissible and if so reducing the salaries accordingly. The report also calls for Parliamentarians to declare their assets, before and after taking office, as well as for the establishment of an Integrity Committee.

If Parliament had followed up on the recommendations in Bob Wit’s Integrity Report, the screening of candidate Ministers would not be a big issue today and the integrity level within Parliament would have been higher. SMCP is expecting Parliament to work on these two ordinances as soon as possible.

Wycliffe Smith

Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

Dear Editor,

When a minister consistently focuses on new initiatives, rather than restoring the broken relationship with those whom she is mandated to guide, then the minister has lost her focus and the process is like applying paint to a dirty wall. It is logical, that the success of any ministry depends heavily on the value that a minister places on the team players within that institution. If the members are feeling deserted, it is a sure sign that the ministry is in jeopardy.

This view reflects the course of direction within the Ministry of Education. At present, Minister Silveria Jacobs seems to have lost all authority regarding education. The Minister repeatedly and proudly announces that the buck stops with her, yet there is no evidence to support this claim. The person, who appears to be in total control of education, is the Department Head, while Minister Jacobs looks as if she is the subordinate. Why is this?

Personally, the gravest mistake that the Minister has made was when she chose to be quiet on the disappearance of documents that were sent to the governor regarding the dissatisfaction of the Department Head of Education. Here is where the Minister lost her authority. The Minister had to test the integrity of the governor to the limit; whether the matter involved a family member or not. To talk about it now has no significance because her failure to be assertive and decisive back then has led to the fortification of the status quo.

To illustrate further, a few months ago, some teachers reached their breaking point with the inefficiencies of the Department Head. As the last resort, they tried to seek the Minister’s intervention directly, in order to solve the conflict. Instead of Minister Jacobs enforcing her authority, she sent them flying to the same individual to resolve the problem – the very one, who teachers are complaining about. How sensible was such a decision, Minister Jacobs? Prior to that, some teachers took their grievances to the MP who stood up in Parliament during the budget debate and announced that you are doing a good job.

Minister, this was just a teaser, because UP’s little poodle is the one who feeds her with information about the many deficiencies within the Ministry of Education. And, have you noticed that the other MP (now minister), who stood up in Parliament and commented that it (children from abroad who are flooding the classrooms) is an immigration problem, also attended the meeting in support of teachers? How is it that he chose that route instead of standing with you? Again, his comment was just a leg-puller. Minister, I dare you to tell him how to run his ministry, now that the shoe is on the other foot.

How do you think teachers feel about this spinning-in-mud situation? As it stands, whatever is decided upon by the Department Head is sent to you as a done deal. Minister, are you paying attention to the consistent flow of teachers from these two countries that are swimming in child molestation? Why is this situation so prevalent and how do you plan on stemming this current state of affairs?

Minister Jacobs, I’ve heard your comments with reference to last week’s article and so I know that you are annoyed. Here is something to consider: Oftentimes, the catalyst that drives a new course of direction is when someone points out our defects. But, the success of change depends on how the individual takes the critique. The most appreciative comment I have ever received pertaining to my articles was when Gerard Bijnsdorp told me in this newspaper that I cannot write. His comment stemmed from my reaction to an article that his friend wrote.

Next to Gerard Bijnsdorp is my friend Jacintha Brice, who contacted me shortly after his post and said, “I do not agree with him, but, if you can find something within his article that you can use to your advantage, take it.” I ignored the rest of his comments and focused on the one line that related to me not writing well.

Minister Jacobs, inter-ministerial collaboration is plausible, but the core of your ministry is embedded within the sector of Education. If that is off-track, your entire ministry is lopsided. Teachers and administrators are fed up with issues that you failed to handle, because you have allowed prestige to cloud your judgment. How sad it is to see a Minister that came out of the classroom, one who was so vocal about the challenges that she and her colleagues faced, has now turned her back on the very ones who were and still are part of the same struggle.

Minister Jacobs, this is your last chance to take charge of your ministry. Therefore, you need to go back to the place where you first started, because your lack of decision is hampering not only your effectiveness as the Minister of Education, but the proper functioning of the entire ministry!

Joslyn Morton    

Dear Editor,

The standard is that when the people placed their trust in persons to govern their day-to- day affairs it is expected that any action on behalf of the people is done within the bounds of the judicial system. Morality, integrity and transparency must be the guiding forces in every action taken on behalf of the people.

Anytime those in power neglect to abide by the law and resort to illegitimate acts they temporarily neutralize these values within themselves and, therefore, forego the trust of the people. We, the people thought that the firestorm which ensued after Mr. Simmons, Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs, went on to illegally sign an agreement with a constitutional experts that the executive branch would have been more cautious in executing its duty.

On the contrary, last week both the commissioners went on to sign an agreement with NuStar regarding the harbour ordinance. One would have expected that the island secretary, as the last line of defence of what is legally allowed, at least would have done his duty and refuse to affix his signature on that document.

This is a sad state of affairs when egos blind persons that they will venture so far off course to believe that they can make their own rules and regulations as they go along. Although, we all agree that the evaluation of the WolBES is a must, this law states clearly who the person in charge is of signing any agreement on behalf of the Public Entity Statia ( art. 173, sub 1 WolBES).

We also understood that the ‘tall’ commissioner displayed a childish antic by getting hyper emotional when the Secretary General indicated that according to The Hague there was no progress in the process of bettering the administration and financial household, and that the supervision will not be lifted.

Little that this rocking horse knows, is that emotions do not have much influence on these European Dutch. By the way, keep the adage of the writer Alfred A. Montapert in mind, “Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving, but does not make any progress.” We are witnessing a rocking-horse governance in which members are jerking back and forth furiously yet there is no forward movement.

It is expected that you the people will be continuously bombarded with misinformation in the coming days in an effort to convince you how wrong and spiteful The Hague is towards the government of Statia, more specifically you the people. This is done in an effort to divert your attention from the truth, namely, they as government are trampling on the laws that govern us. Listen carefully and separate sense from nonsense so you are able to see through the smoke screen of confusion and rubbish.

It is a pity, but with this last illegal act this coalition gives The Hague the confirmation to establish their next step under the umbrella of supervision. The United People’s Coalition again calls upon government to put its egos asides and be smart by seeking honest dialogue in the interest of our people.

Reginald C. Zaandam

Leader of the United People’s Coalition

Oh sweet Saint Martin they say!

So why are we living this way?

Pure hatred and jealousy,

Is all I can see!

Even the division of the island doesn’t make it easy,

Crimes are increasing, and there's no remedy,

We find ourselves in cells, leaving behind our family,

Please tell me where did we leave the unity?

It’s a shame that a small island like ours is reportedly,

In the rank of the most dangerous territory!

What is this really?

How did we manage to fit among other countries?

I’m lost for words for my beautiful West Indies,

Touristic islands indeed,

But we've got a population to feed.

And the right image is all we need.

End violence, cause we all bleed,

And is that the image we want to proclaim?

Because there is no fame

Just another one to blame!

I love my friendly island that still remains the same,

But we've got to stop taking these criminal acts for a game.

A life is precious, it’s not to target and aim.

It not only affects one person but their entire chain,

Youths are left with one parent, and that corrupts their brain.

Education is the key, but what are we teaching them?

We fail to understand that we all contribute to their progress,

Whether it’s the mother, father or just a friend.

But I still stand here and say lean on my shoulder,

We can make this end.

#PoeticJusticeClub

Jennifer Brooks

(Curaçao Chronicle)

Curaçao chose to govern itself as a democracy, but its constitutions and institutions have turned out to be weak and not very popular. Participation in formal and informal institutions is anaemic and not inclusive. Secretive, closed groups seem to manipulate the society to meet their specific needs regardless of any public concerns.

Democracy means power distributed. In a democracy with checks and balances a big chunk of the society is well beyond the control of government; in effect, the government controls very little. Therefore, a crisis in government should not paralyze social and economic activities of the society.

Unfortunately, the year-long crisis in government, that was unleashed when Member of parliament, Marilyn Moses withdrew her support from the PS-PAIS coalition government, has had an extremely adverse effect on the local economy. Foreign investors are unclear as to what to expect. Laws, rules and regulations are up for change in a murky future. A parliament, where 25 per cent of its members have a criminal record, does not imbue much confidence either.

After the most recent crises of last week, politicians’ responses were, once again, elections. The last elections were held in September 2016. The outcome then was fragmentation, which makes it almost impossible to form a solid majority coalition. New elections should produce less fragmentation, but what the rationale behind that thought is, remains muddled. The positive energy of idealistic politicians, eager to serve their community, is once again turned into negative, destructive campaign rhetoric.

So, Curaçao, unable to forge working coalitions is turning into an electocracy – a fake democracy. Richard Haass, president of the nonpartisan Council of Foreign Relations (USA), warned a decade ago that “an electocracy should not be confused with democracy. Immature democracies – those that hold elections but lack many of the checks and balances characteristic of a true democracy – are particularly vulnerable to being hijacked by popular passions. To have elections without such controls means that the election itself is likely to be flawed and that whoever wins will have too much power.”

Exactly that very scenario played out in 2010 and 2013/14. Schotte, a populist and in the meantime a convicted criminal, became the winner and again, is the favourite for the next election outcome. The island has been in disarray since 2010, chaos prevails. Chaos and insecurity do not stimulate the economy and the society in any way or fashion.

The shadow economy, forged by the ongoing success of narco crime, eagerly moves into the large open weak spots of the social, economic and political fabric of the island. By the time a new government takes power they will be firmly settled and established.

Jacob Gelt Dekker

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