Gus Priest, a veteran in the Tourism Industry, openly welcomed the challenge to serve as Acting Head of the Tourist office until a more permanent solution is found. In addition, many members of staff at the Tourist office have also shown their dedication to the industry and continuity by becoming more proactive during this interim period. All know what needs to be done and the Minister is confident in the staff's ability to carry out these tasks.
Concerning the SHTA's call for the establishment of the Tourism Authority, the Minister is currently in Aruba on a fact finding mission to determine from the key stakeholders what the operational setbacks and bottle necks are and to generally get a feeling of how satisfied everyone is with the established Aruba Tourism Authority. So far, meetings have been held with his counterpart, Minister Otmar Oduber, the CEO and Supervisory Board members of the Aruba Tourism Authority, the Aruba Hotel Association and the Aruba Timeshare Association. With the exception of a few minor issues, all have mentioned that they are pleased with the functioning of the Aruba Tourism Authority.
Minister emphatically stated that he has no plans of reinventing the wheel and likewise has received confirmation from all stakeholders in Aruba that they will assist wherever necessary to ensure a seamless transition from Sint Maarten Tourist Bureau to Sint Maarten Tourism Authority by January 1, 2013. "My team and I are working very hard to get the State ordinance (Landsverordening) finalized, so we can submit to parliament after the parliamentary recess. This will be the first step in what we were told could be a lengthy process in getting the STA fully operational". Minister Pantophlet stated.
Regarding, May Ling Chun, Minister Pantophlet clarified that the management contract in question was signed and entered into between the former Minister, Franklin Meyers and Innovative Marketing Creations N.V, and not the natural person Ms. Chun. He further wishes to point out and state for the record that this matter is not between Ms. Chun and him or has nothing to do with her person, her performance, her qualifications and or skills. Her work for the Tourism department has already been acknowledged by the Minister.
The vexing issue that has led to this unfortunate situation is the legality of the contractual agreements signed and subsequently silently extended twice between the former Minister and IMC N.V. A proper analysis and legal scrutiny of the contracts resulted in no other conclusions than that the contracts in question are in conflict with the written and unwritten laws of Sint Maarten and the Principles of Good Governance. Consequently according to law these contracts are considered null and void and or should be cancelled immediately. The Minister shall not and cannot be expected to honor contracts that are not in accordance with the laws of the land. The position of the Minister is based on the following facts and legal considerations:
The agreement between the former Minister and IMC N.V. is considered a management agreement for the position of Head of the Tourist Bureau. This position forms part of the Governments formation plan and is occupied by a civil servant. Civil servants are usually appointed by government for which procedure a body of Administrative laws and regulations exist and in which process the Governor is ultimately involved.
There is also the option to appointment an individual in government's service based on civil law, but this possibility was also neglected. By appointing an individual to such a position, making use of a contractual agreement with a limited liability company in which the individual is the managing director, the former Minister has circumvented all relevant laws and regulations (intentionally or unintentionally) pertaining to the appointment and re-numeration of civil servants, including the involvement of the Governor of Sint Maarten. The actions of the former Minister cannot withstand legal scrutiny and are in conflict with the Principles of Good Governance.
As a result of this, the monthly salary and additional benefits as agreed upon in the management agreement were unilaterally decided upon and are not commensurate with the amounts that are stipulated by law and granted to other civil servants who serve in similar positions. The foregoing is in direct conflict with the applicable laws and jurisprudence and not unacceptable, the Minister has rightfully remarked that such an agreement shall not be tolerated and in keeping with the Principles of Good Governance and therefore chose not to renew the contract as is.
However, Minister Pantophlet being in good faith and acknowledging the good performance of Ms. Chun and taking the best interest of Sint Maarten into consideration offered her a new management agreement in accordance with the existing rules and regulations of government in his letter dated June 19th 2012, which was not accepted.
Regarding SHTA's statement that they have yet to meet with Minister Pantophlet, He acknowledged that it has been a very hectic set up period, and that he has only just completed staffing his cabinet. He ensured that meetings will be scheduled with SHTA and other key industry stake holders upon his return from Aruba.