~ Political talks begin with USP, and incoming UP MP.~
PHILIPSBURG:--- The Council of Ministers officially suspended the Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Holding Company Dexter Doncher. Doncher was informed of the suspension by letter late Wednesday night after the Council of Ministers held an emergency meeting and voted. Dexter Doncher was given a warning letter two days prior to the three months suspension.
The Council of Ministers wanted to fire Doncher who followed the instructions of the government to officially dismiss the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Princess Juliana International Airport, Brian Mingo on April 7th. Mingo then filed an injunction against his termination and the judge ruled in favor of Mingo due to a technical error in the dismissal procedure.
SMN News learned that the interim Minister of TEATT Ludmilla de Weever who instructed Doncher to start the dismissal process wanted to fire Doncher now that the court of first instance ruled in his favor and most importantly because the Dutch Government chose to withhold the fifth tranche of liquidity support from the government of St. Maarten.
State Secretary of Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops sent a letter on Wednesday to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs informing her that unless she deals with the matters at the Princess Juliana International Airport St. Maarten will not be getting the promised Naf39.M for liquidity support. Knops said that the Prime Minister of St. Maarten failed in her duties because she did not intervene in the ongoing saga and PJIAE when she was called upon.
Reliable sources have informed SMN News that the only Minister that stood up for Doncher was recently appointed Minister of VSA Omar Ottley who maintained the stance of the United Peoples Party that is totally against the suspension and dismissal of Dexter Doncher whom they said followed the instructions given to him by the shareholder representatives. The source said that Doncher met with Ministers that were appointed by the National Alliance that also instructed him to fire Mingo since they have all lost confidence in the CEO.
Now that the Council of Ministers has suspended Dexter Doncher, SMN News learned that political talks have begun with USP Faction Leader MP Claudius Buncamper and the National Alliance while the board of the USP was not consulted. In an invited comment, MP Claudius Buncamper said he did not hold any formation talks with anyone. However, he also heard that talks are taking place. It is also said that talks were also held with incoming Member of Parliament Ludmilla de Weever whom it is understood will move away from the United Peoples Party and declare herself as an independent member of parliament as soon as she takes office.
It has been speculated that the Jacobs 2 cabinet with not survive its full term since the Prime Minister of St. Maarten has been accused by her coalition partners of accepting all the conditions and blackmail placed on St. Maarten by the Dutch Government in order to secure the much-needed liquidity support.
However, while Doncher has been officially suspended for the next three months until due process takes place until he is heard on how he handled the dismissal of Brian Mingo.
Sources say that Doncher was parked up for the next three months in order to give Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs enough time to secure the cooperation agreement with the Dutch Government, while the dismissal procedure against CEO Brian Mingo will come to a halt until the reconstruction contract for the Terminal Building is awarded to the Dutch company Ballas Nedam by July 2021 since it is the Dutch Government and the European Investment Bank that granted PJIAE the loan to reconstruct the country’s main gateway.
SMN News further learned that former leader of the National Alliance William Marlin will soon resign from Parliament to allow someone else to take up the seat in parliament.
Following is the translated letter sent to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs by State Secretary Raymond Knops.
Dear Mrs. Jacobs,
Your letter dated 6 May 2021 to Mr. Rutte (reference DIV # 11525) to the Ministry of General Affairs has been passed on to me as the responsible Minister1. I hereby respond to your letter on behalf of the Cabinet.
The loan agreement for the fifth tranche of liquidity support is not yet signed by me. I have held back the signing in connection with the very worrying developments regarding corporate governance at the Juliana International Airport (PJIA). I've had these concerns for the past few months and repeatedly shared them with you, and also the special representative of the Netherlands concerning the reconstruction (Mr. Weekers). The World Bank and Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) have repeatedly expressed their concerns to your government. However, all of these warnings have not resulted in corrective actions from St. Maarten as shareholder of the airport. That's why I have to now note that the issuing of warnings and the constant reminder is no longer sufficient to restore the airport and with it the 'to ensure the country's economic recovery. In the rest of this letter, I will explain why I have come to this conclusion.
Via the World Bank, the Netherlands has set aside $51 for the recovery of the airport. This amount is supplemented with a loan under favorable terms of $50 million by the European Investment Bank (E18).
In addition, to guarantee the liquidity position of the airport $21 million during the reconstruction period within the trust fund has been reserved, which as you know since the outbreak of the pandemic one is being called upon and which is now of great importance for operational purposes of the airport during this global crisis
'As is well known, a number of conditions are attached to this financing, which was to lead to the restoration of confidence among all stakeholders and had to contribute to a better functioning administration at the airport. After all, good management is - in addition to the repair of the airport itself and the waste project – is one of the three Dutch priorities for reconstruction. The stated conditions were therefore aimed at corporate governance, in line with international standards, and among other things the execution of security investigations of the members of the airport administration and boards.
After much delay on the part of Sint Maarten - partly because within and outside the government of Sint Maarten, alternatives were constantly sought with remarkably less favorable financing. I have in March 2020 on advice of the special representative, released financing from the trust to prevent further delay in the project. Although I still have always been deeply concerned about corporate governance at the airport, you assured me at the time that you were fully committed to carrying out the advice from the Taskforce Corporate Governance and improving the airport's corporate governance. We then agreed that the implementation of this advice would be linked to the Development Policy Operation (DPO). When the DPO at the end of last year was shut down, our agreements on improving the corporate governance at the airport had become part of the St. Maarten Country Package which was signed on December 22, 2020.
Much to my disappointment however, the project still hasn't gotten off to a good start, and there is now serious issues with corporate governance at the airport. The trust that the special representative and I placed in your government by releasing the funds is now damaged.
Corporate governance issues
In recent months, the special representative has observed by the general manager of the holding company (PJIAH) and two members of the Supervisory Board (RVC) of the same Holding company, have exceeded the frameworks of good governance time and again and they push through their own decisions without doing the right thing and procedures. The third member of the Supervisory Board is often not involved in these decisions. This while it is precisely this member who was appointed on the recommendation of the RSG on the basis of his relevant international expertise, as I had as a condition for the release of funding through the trust fund.
I will give two serious examples of the decisions I refer to above Firstly, the resignation of the CEO of the Operating Company (PJIAE), where the correct procedures have not been followed and for which the reasons moreover, were unclear, since the CEO in question recently had received a positive assessment from the Supervisory Board of PJIAE. Also with the recent appointment of three new members of the Supervisory Board of PJIAE is incorrect and did not follow procedures as laid down in the Articles of Association. PJIAH simply set aside the previous binding decision of PJIAE.
Failure to act in good faith by the individuals concerned within PJIAH has increasingly resulted in negative consequences for the feasibility of the recovery project and for the realization of good governance. Administrative stability and securing the required capacity is crucial and essential for a project of this size, especially now in the tender phase of the reconstruction work. The timing of these
decisions is therefore incomprehensible in the light of the current tender.
The RSG, which has played an essential role in both the recovery project as well as safeguarding good governance, recently announced that it intends to withdraw from this project in connection with lack of good governance within the airport. The RSG is therefore now preparing for the end of support to the airport and the reconstruction, and will only reconsider this if you do realized structural adjustments before 26 May 2021, which means that guaranteed that good governance is permanently restored and that violations of good governance from the past will be tackled.
The support of the RSG has been critical to the progress and success of the recovery project. Their withdrawal is for both the special representative and myself are therefore a major cause for concern about the future of the airport. I don't expect the World Bank project can be brought to a successful conclusion without the support of the RSG. This while it is of crucial importance for St . Maarten and its population the airport will be repaired as soon as possible.
Role of your government
The special rep and I have had several talks in recent months with your government, where we have on several occasions called upon you to assume your responsibility as a shareholder and make the effort to ensure that the reconstruction of the airport terminal can continue unimpeded. Although you still have your involvement in the reconstruction of the airport terminal as well as in the necessary improvements in corporate governance, the developments in practice are at odds with this and I have seen too little decisive action from your government on this.
You called the signals that we spoke with you about as rumors and have always taken the position that the government as a shareholder should be at a distance. This in general is of course correct, but in the case of gross negligence and not acting faithfully by directors, as is happening now at PJIAH, it is indeed up to the shareholder to act decisively. Besides you promised me when you received the financing for the airport that you would do your utmost to ensure good governance at the airport. This promise, which is also laid down in the St. Maarten National Package, is one you will not keep.
In the National Package, it has also been agreed that the country will take care of the continuity of vital processes, including flight and aircraft handling. If the World Bank project is not completed successfully, these vital processes will eventually be compromised. Because of the lack of action by the government, St. Maarten does not meet two agreements from the National Package.
As a result of what I have described above, confidence in the cooperation with your government has been harmed. By always being late and not acting decisively enough, your government have not only put the recovery of the airport in danger, but as a direct consequence also the economic recovery of the whole country. Under these circumstances it cannot be expected from the Netherlands that we continue to invest tens of millions of euros in this economic recovery.
That is why I will reintroduce the fifth tranche of liquidity support to the Kingdom Council of Ministers on May 21, 2021. My proposal will be to withhold the fifth tranche of ANG 39 million liquidity support to St. Maarten until such time as your government has acted with enough decisiveness to structurally repair the problems at the airport and the restore the successful progress of the airport terminal project.
I hope you will see me next week during my visit to St. Maarten and you can present a satisfactory solution to the situation that has arisen. That's importance for St. Maarten and its inhabitants.
(Because you have chosen to send your letter to the chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers of and actively publicize it, it goes without saying that we will do so with this letter as well)
The intern secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations,
Drs. RW Knops'