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Lead by Example.

Dear Editor,

The political climate in St. Maarten seems to have woken up / been shaken up. With the recent departure of Member of Parliament Ludmila Duncan from the National Alliance, the party seems to be scrambling for a more secure majority in the coalition. We should all commend MP Duncan for taking the step to distance herself from the party that no longer aligns with her morals, values, and vision for the island. Some may say that this action should’ve come sooner, however, the expression better late than never comes to mind. Structural change is not an easy feat to achieve, especially when it comes to changing the morals and values of those at the top of our political system. A system plagued with favoritism, nepotism, and those individuals that would put personal gain above the greater good.
This is exactly what this piece aims to highlight. Delving into a few examples of Leadership that is centered on ‘Us’ as in leadership that is in the trenches with the populous, vs leadership centered on ‘you’, as in leadership that is sitting on its high horse and dictating from on high, with no real intention of self-sacrifice and plan to alleviate the burden for its people.
The first message I would like to bring to your attention was the Corona pandemic speech in which Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs addressed the nation. This speech went viral as it was seen as a stern message of sacrifice that would be required to get us through the hard times:
“If you do not have the type of bread you like in your house, eat crackers. . .”
“If you do not have bread, eat cereal, eat oats, sardines. . .”
Then I would like to bring your attention to a press conference speech the Prime Minister of Barbados, the renowned and often cited (in our very own Parliament) Mia Mottley gave regarding the price gouging of hotel rooms in California, and her response to that:
“Barbados did not stay in a hotel. We went and rent some apartments. I stayed in an apartment with my officers. . .”
“If you can cook inside, which we did. . . I did breakfast with most of them. . .”
Can you notice the difference? It’s subtle, but it’s there. YOU vs WE. You have to sacrifice, while I will strive to give up as little as possible. More recent examples of this are the multitude of trips (“snoepreisjes”) that our MP’s seemingly cannot get enough of. To add insult to injury, the justification for the latest Parlatino clip by MP. Brison was and I paraphrase “Previous governments were broke, didn’t propose to change anything to the travel budget, and still got to go, so why shouldn’t we?” [Py21-22 Central Committee meeting #36 minute 9:15] Truly unbelievable and unacceptable! No mention of an added benefit for the nation through a clear and practical plan for implementation. No agricultural experts have taken along to bring theory into practice. Simply a pleasure trip because they (previous Governments) got to go, and so should we. The nation is struggling! Yet Parlatino visits and celebrating Curacao’s flag day seem to be more important than saving money on our financial budget to ensure we can comply with removing the 12,5% cuts. One such condition is: “Furthermore, the countries may not have a budget deficit once the labor benefits cut measures are eliminated.” – Source: The Daily Herald
Our government doesn’t seem to grasp the situation, either willfully so or through sheer ignorance. Both the local as well as global markets are facing unprecedented challenges. It is no longer time for status
quo Mp Brison. It is time for a change, self-sacrifice, and actual long-term planning and vision for the island and its future. If we do not prepare and truly build in the systems of good corporate governance allowing sustainable investments, a better wealth distribution, access to clean renewable energy, and less dependence on the ever-increasing cost of fossil fuels; steps to truly bolster the island’s resilience, the good times, or even some semblance of normalcy, may be further away, then we all hope. And so, I would like to conclude this article with some recommendations for this current Government:
- Distance yourself from poor corporate governance practices, favoritism, and a disregard for the laws of the land as demonstrated by the Minister of Vromi time and time again. The pattern has emerged and is clear.
- Delve into and scrutinize any and all Government expenditures. Ensure proper financial reporting and adherence to the laws or policies that are in place to guarantee that the money is spent for its intended purposes.
- Cut back on travel expenses that are not strictly and directly benefit the people of St. Maarten.
- As is now the case with the Casinos, go after the money that is owed to the government. That this wasn’t a departure point when the island was in serious financial constraints is beyond me.
- Overall, devise a plan in which we take charge of our own future, wherein we can, if necessary, ask Holland for assistance, formed the way WE see fit, not dictated by a CFT or a COHO or any other entity.
To the people of St Maarten, I say this, what we should want is clear and truly shouldn’t be that difficult. A government that has the best interest of the people of St Maarten at heart. One that is willing to do what it takes to ensure good corporate governance practices become the norm. Both within and outside the public sector.


- David Salomon


Enough, is enough! A call to action for every self-respecting St. Maartener.

Dear Editor,

There comes a time in every society’s history when the people have to rise up and collectively decide that the path that the country is currently on is not the right one. I strongly believe that for St. Maarten, that time is now. Too long have we ideally sat by and let the Government do as it wishes without any form of repercussion for underperforming.
With elections a year and a half away you can already start seeing ministers and parliamentarians kicking into action, taking any photo OP that they can to make it seem as though they have been actively contributing to bettering the island over the past three years. Please don’t be fooled! These same ministers that are posting their “wins” are the same ones that have reactively dealt with the slew of problems the island faces or outright ignored them. What has been done in regards to:
- Affordable housing?
- Inflation and cost of living going up (gas, electricity, food)?
- The stay on salary increases?
- The brain drain happening in Government?
- The mutilation of our hillsides?
- The encroachment of our public beaches?
- Gross misspending of public funds?
- And the list goes on and on…
No, I for one will not be fooled! It’s time we the people demand our Government does better. All too often we hear through the grapevine of this and that wrongdoing, but these cases very rarely come to light. That’s why I strongly commend the person(s) within GEBE and our investigative journalists such as Ralph Cantave on their speaking out against the blatant neglect, wrongdoing, and utter fiasco that is taking place within GEBE. This is just one example, but a most welcome one at that, and I urge every St. Maartener to stand up and say no! No, we won’t accept shady dealings and gross misconduct anymore! Call it out. Call out any wrong doings, misspending of public funds, or lack of integrity you are faced with. Then and only then can we start righting the many wrongs that have become common place, and “the way things are done here on the island”. We need a culture shift. Accountability needs to be the pillar we build our country on moving forward.
Therefore, I for one will be playing my part in writing up pieces such as this one, in which not only critical questions will be raised, but also viable solutions as it would seem our Government is severely lacking in that department. I don’t care who is in office, I care about results, and if those cannot be achieved with the current players it’s time for new ones to jump in and start booking us some wins. We the people of this nation deserve better, we desperately need optimism to return, so we can all collectively strive for a better and brighter tomorrow.
Enough is enough!


David Salomon

GEBE Hostage 2.

Dear Editor,

On November 1st, 2020 the managing board of NV GEBE led by Mr. Chittick, Ms. Arrindell, and Mrs. Jansen-Webster had to leave the post as Managing Directors. To this day the Minister of VROMI Mr. Doran (You are Qualified) cannot state one reason why the contracts were not renewed. The reasons why would surface below. The orchestrated recruitment drive led by the then supervisory board of directors chaired by Bienvenido in cohorts with Ernest and Young Curacao led to this catastrophe at NV GEBE today. Since 2020 Mr. Temmer has a contract in hand pending signature, note the year, Ms. Daniel orchestrated the attacks against Mr. James and Mr. Hato in the media via her favorite blogger. Both gentlemen retracted. It is known that from September 2016 that the current trio to be appointed was behind this game along with Bienvenido and the other jokers of the SBoD. Ms. Daniel and Willems have a contract in hand for over a year and to this date only one of the persons selected signed and screened and yet cannot be appointed, question is why? Did Willems fail the screening due to fraud at APS and …?
The CEO and the COO are both holding the company hostage by not signing the contract sitting more money, the SBoD is not budging. Meanwhile, this going on the SBoD had a meeting with former COO, Mr. Maduro that was dismissed for wrongdoing in NV GEBE was approached. In discussions, the former COO was recorded unknown to him and this recording was played back for the proposed CEO and COO (Daniel and Temmer) in the recording it is stated that the former COO, Mr. Maduro stated that he cannot work with Temmer and Daniel. The SBoD member that recorded the conversation played it back for Daniel and Temmer. The SBoD is somewhat tired of being held, hostage.
Now, SBoD if this is not discussed in your meeting and dealt with it shows your lack of integrity as board member and that member that recorded the conversation should be expelled for lack of integrity. You all as SBoD members know the personal relationship between that member (SBoD Audit Chair) and Ms. Daniel is a dead-on conflict.
SBoD how is it possible that you can have and allow Ms. Daniel to be living in the office of Mr. Temmer and in every meeting held within the company? Her role is Head Internal Audit, how impartial can she be to provide you with an audit on Mr. Temmer functioning. This lady onetime states in e-mails she is head of internal audit and next time she is Mr. Temmer's advisor. You SBoD knows this and you allow it to take place where is your integrity?
SBoD, request the Shareholder to cancel the two individuals that are holding the company hostage seeking a ransom and let them go. Restart the recruitment process and remove the current temp Manager as he is being manipulated, this you the SBoD know for a fact. Oh, wait the Min of VROMI will not do this as he was promised to be given the NV GEBE Hope Estate property in exchange for the CEO and the COO contract. This now is falling apart also. Cookies crumbling slowly. God sees all mal-intent. Minister Doran, you made a mess with the company for your own greed now you are faced with the devil in front of you. Your orchestrated appointment where you screw your own Middle region boy that grew up with your family and the Mount William Hill girl that went school with aunties and uncles.
It should be known that the ransomware attack on NV GEBE could have been avoided if only the current Temp Manager had executed the policies that were approved and sent for implementation, shareholder should request an audit on this via the SBoD and hold the individual at the lead liable. This could very well be an orchestrated ransomware attack same as was done on Gov. when his partner (A.D.) did not get his way with Min. Fin. in 2018 for a project that was stopped. The public should know that if NV GEBE needs to dig a trench for 20 meters the department must go out on 3 bids if they need to paint an office the department needs to go out on 3 bids even if the job cost 1000 guilders. How is it possible that a three-year contract that cost 1,5 million dollars can be awarded to one company without going out on bid? This is a question for Minister Doran to ask and get a reply to. Who from the SBoD approved this? Will this contract mean that the current ICT workers at NV GEBE would be going home if ICT is outsourced for half a million dollars a year for so call maintenance? Is this justified? To this day Mr. Temmer has not called a meeting with his management team (managers), the company was flat for more than six weeks and nothing said, is this leadership? Ms. Crazy Lucy went on an attack and screamed at the acting ICT manager in front of all the ICT workers and an SBoD member that was present in the meeting. It shows that the EY report speaks of the erratic behavior of Crazy Lucy.

It must be noted that Ms. Daniel is in the background pushing and tugging Mr. Temmer to do her dirty work and antagonizing the workers she dislikes. Imagine the assistant manager was banned from going to the main office building, the distribution manager must copy Ms. Daniel in all emails and he must assume a role in the company that is not part of his job description or contract, another manager for safety was banned from going to the power plant, wanted to force workers to come into work in the holidays to prove to the public that we will open the office. They know very well that the system is not ready and crucial customer information is missing. The wickedness of having the workers sit in the office for six weeks doing nothing and now expect the workers to give up their free time while the workers could have been granted some time off and give back the time when the system comes back up.
Council of Ministers as shareholders how much longer will you sit by and allow this to go on, PM not because it is your godsister this should be tolerated. Min Vromi not because your dad is best friend with COO to be, you have to tolerate this. How much longer should NV GEBE suffer. You were warned that if the company is not stable there will be load shedding when the two Towers in Mullet Bay connect to GEBE and no new engine is bought. SXM public should know that to date May 2022 there is no approved budget in the company meaning that no capital investment projects can be executed. There is no financial statement for the year 2020, 2021 is due in July, so not able to seek financing on the market. Spending 1,5 million is not needed if ICT is audited yearly and the recommendations followed. COM does not leave GEBE and ends up like PJIAE. SBoD members you are young do not let your integrity go under for the be appointed gangsters which you know and hear about, you are young and have a career ahead of you. Cut off the two holding the company hostage NOW.

 

Staff  NV GEBE.

Doing a Good Thing Wrong is no Good.

On Tuesday, May 3, the world celebrated International Press Freedom Day, which inspired this article along with the recent press developments on our island. It is an honor to serve in this noble profession and I look forward to contributing towards the profession’s value, impact, and legacy.

As a member of the St. Martin press and representative of my media house, I have noted with deep concern the need to ensure that freedom of the press, as enshrined in article 10 of the constitution, is never trampled upon. Having been critical of the media policy issued by the Jacobs-led Council of Ministers, I am glad to see that the policy was not enforced as intended on May 1, 2022, and that the Prime Minister, Silveria Jacobs, will discuss the policy with the media. Reactive measures by heads of state can lead to devastating circumstances. Every dictator in history has proven that. Therefore such attempts by a government to sway, censor or control the media can never be tolerated in our democracy. That includes the ‘Trumpian’ attacks on the media that several Members of Parliament have spewed.

The media is the fourth estate in the checks and balances system; a pillar of our democracy just like the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government. I am 100% in favor of a policy to ensure that order and professionalism are standards in the press briefing. Many can agree that there’s room for improvement, but inclusion and respect cannot be forbidden to accomplish a deed by any means to an uncertain end. As a journalism graduate and having been trained to be a multimedia journalist I have to first admit that some media houses on St. Martin have had its moments where a disservice was rendered to the island whether it be in the framing of narratives, false publications, or baseless statements that lacked key facts, fairness or follow up. Nevertheless, no profession is without fault or failure, which is why I applaud the members of our local press who’ve decided to form a press association and set our own standards and guidelines, similar to that of our peers in the region and internationally.

As a society, we must also place a greater value on the work of the press, which includes financial support for qualitative, independent, and investigative journalism; it's a career that places you on the front lines of national and community development every day. Holidays, disasters, and other events do not stop the duty one has to report or investigate the news. And while the verbal intent of the policy was to “raise the bar of information sharing” by the government, the government also has a responsibility to respond to questions directly and truthfully. This includes responding to emails, letters, or messages in a timely manner. Every media house can attest to not having questions answered when submitted in either of the above mediums. That is a disrespect to our profession and the population. I encourage the nation’s leaders to refrain from adopting the mindset as stated in the following quote from the French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte when said, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

This is why a government body cannot be the entity responsible for accrediting the media as outlined in the policy among several gross infractions which will be ironed out with the upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister. For example, the case of Gromyko Wilson and 721 News is one that led to a controversy a few weeks ago. Wilson has an economic license to run his media entity, received permission to run a business by a Minister, (civil servants need that permission- whether all are in possession of such is another story), and was given an off day during the date of the briefing yet was kicked out. Wilson is now exempted from receiving notices or press releases from the government which also limits his audience from official information. Without legal basis or liaison with the press core, such a phenomenon that can taint a governing administration.

This is just one of several matters that can be debated but the sole entity to accredit, and uphold industry standards for the media, is and must be the press association. Press freedom is a long-fought battle on St. Martin. It started with Jose Lake Sr. who was economically choked to the point where people had to hide to read his newspaper, the Windward Island Opinion, due to its critique of Claude Wathey and the Democratic Party’s rule on the island. There’s also a history of intimidation, bribery, and abuse of power in order to silence or shut down journalists on St. Martin.

Therefore considering all mentioned, it’s only right that I end this Op-Ed with the expression from the creative element of Caribbean media, which is a line from the great Calypsonian, King Short Shirt who once said:

“I was born in this land

Ah go die in this land

nobody go run me from where me come from

Nobody go run me, lard

me mumma mus’ nyam

me puppa mus’ nyam

me woman mus’ nyam

me picknee mus’ nyam.”

PS- the above piece is the sole opinion of the author.

- Ralph S. Cantave.

 

 

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