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P Sarah Wescot-Williams wants hard guarantees from Government for the Uninterrupted Continuation of the Airport Reconstruction, Since They Condoned Sacking the CEO.”

sarahwescotwilliams02102015PHILIPSBURG:--- MP Sarah Wescot-Williams: “I want hard guarantees from the Government for the uninterrupted continuation of the airport reconstruction since they condoned sacking the CEO.”

 Brian Mingo, the CEO of the Princess Juliana International Airport has been fired, with 2 months' notice, and relieved of his duties immediately. This act by the Supervisory Holding Board has been long in the making and it would appear the 3-man board now feels strengthened to push through with Mingo’s dismissal, notwithstanding the warning signs that appeared following their first attempt to dismiss Mingo in December of 2020.

 The airport is at such a crucial stage at this very moment that is seems nearly criminal for anyone to amateurishly mess with the reconstruction. That the Government of St. Maarten would condone such an act is equally incriminating.

 One would think that the Holding Board would have reconsidered its approach following their blunder in December, but apparently, they did not.

 Brian Mingo and the PJIA operating board would have to decide how they respond to this decision of the Holding Board, but I hold the Government/Shareholder responsible for any and all fallout from this clearly politically motivated decision.

 By (condoning) this act, the Government of St. Maarten is calling into question its dealing with the airport, the dealings of the Holding and those of the operating company and I foresee a fallout that will jeopardize the airport, its reconstruction, and the many families who rely on the PJIA for their livelihood. This victory, if considered such, will be short-lived.

 It is impossible to expect that a project that is at such a crucial stage and a player is forcefully removed, will just move along as if nothing happened. Too many stakes and stakeholders are involved for this to just go down and be over with.

 I have questioned the wisdom of this modus operandi by the PJIA Holding Board in December, to which the Prime Minister eventually responded.

 This was her answer: “ …On Thursday, January 21, a virtual confidential meeting was held with the Supervisory Board of Directors and the Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company to receive insight on the process that was followed that led to the confidential letter that was sent to the CEO of the Princess Juliana International Operating Company by the Holding. Clarification was provided by each member present. It was established that the questions that were raised by one of the Supervisory Board members were adequately addressed. All individuals agreed to work together in the best interest of the Airport. Underlying documentation was requested which was recently received and is currently reviewed. The Council of Ministers as Shareholder continues to monitor the situation to ensure that the Corporate Governance regulations and guidelines are applied properly.”

 Before I start accusing anyone of misleading Parliament, I offer the Prime Minister to clarify what transpired between the date the above statement was made to parliament and the decision of the Holding Board of April 7, 2021, to dismiss the CEO of the Airport.

 Can the Government assure Parliament and the people that he decided to fire the CEO will not delay or jeopardize the PJIA, its employees, and/or the reconstruction?

 Can the Government assure Parliament that if the current Dutch/EIB financing is halted, there is a backup plan? And thirdly, how involved was the minister or were the ministers in the decision of the Holding Board to dismiss the CEO?

 In addition to these questions, I wish to repeat my questions of January 11TH to the Prime Minister on this topic and I also look forward to these answers post haste. These questions relate to Holding’s letter to Mingo in December 2020.

 1. Please provide me with the Service Agreement between the Airport Operating Board and Mr. B. Mingo. To whom is Mr. Mingo accountable?

2. What is the vision of this Government for the airport? Please provide this in writing.

3. Please provide a timeline of the airport reconstruction funding, the players in the process, and the activities are undertaken.

4. Provide all correspondence with respect to Mr. Mingo’s functioning from ”key” stakeholders.

5. Who has assessed Mr. Mingo’s functioning? Please provide.

6. Also provide the airport latest financial data.

7. Was Mr. Mingo offered a payout? If so, how much and under what conditions? Please provide.

 Clearly, with all the pressure on the PJIA project from so many different angles from the onset, something had to give, and this it what that appears to be.

 “I await an urgent and clear statement from the government of St. Maarten, namely the Prime Minister of St. Maarten, Mrs. S. Jacobs, and Minister of TEATT, Ms. L. De Weever.” concluded the MP in her statement.

 


Week-long Shark Research to be Conducted in St. Maarten Waters.

Bonaire/PHILIPSBURG:--- During the week of April 11, 2021, members from the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), and Beneath the Waves will be conducting shark research in the territorial waters of St. Maarten. This activity is a part of a wider research project into Tiger Sharks in the region funded by World Wild Fund for Nature the Netherlands (WWF-NL) through the Biodiversity Funds and the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. The goal of the week-long project is to gather data on sharks in Sint Maarten and for participants to be trained in ultrasonography technology to later determine whether the Saba Bank is a breeding area for tiger sharks in the Eastern Caribbean. The week-long project will be called the ‘Shark Shakedown’.

Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) are large, apex predators found throughout the world on coral reefs, pelagic environments, and oceanic atolls, including the Saba Bank. A previous study by Wageningen University showed that the Saba Bank might be an important nursery area for tiger sharks. Tiger sharks are currently categorized as Near-Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Currently, however, there is little data regarding the reproductive biology of tiger sharks.

The high-definition ultrasound technology the team will be using has been created by E. I. Medical Imaging and pioneered by collaborator Dr. James Sulikowski, of Arizona State University. This technology has successfully been used to identify maturity stage and the stage of pregnancy in various shark species. This methodology will be used to produce an image of the inside of a shark which will help determine the presence and reproductive stage of female tiger sharks present on the Saba Bank, including their movement patterns outside the boundaries of the Dutch Caribbean. Tiger sharks are a transboundary species, meaning they travel and live in more than one area or country.

The information gained from this research will provide a better understanding of the importance of both the status of sharks in Sint Maarten’s territorial waters and in the Yarari Sanctuary and the role these ecosystems play in the life-cycle of tiger sharks in the Wider Caribbean Region.

Additionally, the data will provide vital information for conservation strategies not only in the Dutch Caribbean but the wider Caribbean as a whole. A week-long expedition to the Saba Bank is currently scheduled for August 2021.

Though tiger sharks occur in the region, they spend most of their time offshore in deeper water and are rarely recorded close to shore. Unfortunately, There have been two incidents in previous months involving negative shark/ human interactions: one in St. Martin and one in St. Kitts. The week-long project will also investigate if there is any change in the behavior and distribution of sharks in the area. Tiger sharks play key roles in maintaining the balance within local and regional marine ecosystems and are critical to the health of the Marine Biodiversity of the Wider Caribbean Region.

Follow the Shark Shakedown on Facebook (Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance), Instagram (dcnanature) or DCNA’s website (https://dcnanature.org/news/) with daily posts

For more information please contact the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone at +599.717.5010.

 

Engineers to map St. Maarten.

In agreement with the government of Sint Maarten, members of the Regiment of Engineers will operate on the island from 10 until and including 24 April 2021. The engineers will form a current map of the island’s terrain and infrastructure. This map will serve as an aid in reconstruction in the event of a future natural disaster. The Royal Netherlands Army will perform this work to ensure that, in cooperation with Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean, it can provide assistance more rapidly if its assistance is required.

In September 2017, the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, particularly Sint Maarten, was battered by Hurricane Irma. Government institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the defense organization have since contributed substantially to the provision of emergency assistance and reconstruction. While Irma was not the first natural disaster (hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis) to strike the Caribbean, it was by far the worst in recent years.

At the request of the government of Sint Maarten, the engineers, led by 13 Light Brigade, will conduct reconnaissance to map the island’s terrain and infrastructure. If a natural disaster occurs in the future, the map will make it possible to rapidly and efficiently determine the damage and effectively provide the emergency assistance required.

The Regiment of Engineers of the Royal Netherlands Army is taking this opportunity to practice skills in a real-life setting. The military objective is to train those who are tasked with engineer reconnaissance. This training will take place under the name Engineer RECCE. The military personnel involved will travel in military uniform using civilian vehicles. They will therefore be recognizable because of their military clothing but, in order minimize any inconvenience to people and the environment, will not use heavy military vehicles. Tactical training will not take place. Therefore, weapons and (training) ammunition will not be used.

 

MP Duncan Inquires about Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Healthcare and Social Services

ludmilladuncan20012020PHILIPSBURG:--- Member of Parliament Solange Ludmila Duncan sent a letter to the Minister of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor inquiring about the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare sector and in particular mental health and social service provision.

“Covid-19 has not only had a tremendous effect on our economy but also on the mental health of our people. There has been a visible increase in mentally ill persons walking the roads lately. There also appears to be more homelessness since the onset of the pandemic. Government has a responsibility to ensure that our most vulnerable residents receive the full range of welfare services available to them as per the law,” stated Duncan.

On Wednesday 7th April, the Member of Parliament sent a number of questions to the Minister of VSA in order to ascertain the Ministry’s current policies and processes for providing support to persons who are in dire need of mental health and social services.

“Covid-19 has exacerbated the gaps that already existed in our healthcare sector. For persons who have lost both jobs and loved ones due to Covid-19, it is important that they do not remain in emotional isolation. In addition to food programs, we also need social outreach programs,” noted the MP.

“I have also inquired whether the Ministry is monitoring and evaluating the provision of telemedicine and teletherapy. Some patients have not physically seen their doctors in a year. Diagnoses are still being conducted through phone conversations. This has increased efficiency on one end but what will be the general policy moving forward?” added Duncan.

Duncan has also asked the Minister of VSA about budget provision to the Mental Health Foundation and any other organizations who provide social services to the general public.
“With Government’s current financial constraints it will be difficult to increase the amount of services being provided. It is important however to collect as much data as possible on the needs of our people including the varying levels of poverty and vulnerability and the capacities of the social systems in place. I would like to see a State of Health report that will paint a clear picture of the impact of Covid-19 on our entire healthcare sector and possible ways forward,” concluded the MP.

MP Emmanuel: Four months into the year and still no 2021 budget.

cemmanuel23022021PHILIPSBURG:--- “We are in the month of April and the country is still without a national budget 2021,” said Independent Member of Parliament Christopher Emmanuel on Wednesday, adding that the Minister of Finance has gone completely silent on when the budget will reach Parliament for debate.

In the meantime, Emmanuel stressed, the government is pressuring civil servants to work on reforms and other initiatives that have to be funded from the same budget. “A ship with no captain or rudder is what we have here. Nobody seems to know where we are going and nobody in this government seems to care,” MP Emmanuel said.

Article 100 of the country’s constitution states that the country must submit its budget to Parliament by September 1, in other words, the budget for 2021 should have been at Parliament since September 2020. “The budget is 7 months and 7 days late. First, we were told we would have it mid-February, then Mid-March. Whereas by now the government should be working on the budget for 2022, we are in April and still have no budget,” the MP said. He added that the Minister of Finance has once again added another notch of failure and incompetence to his long list of failures.

The Minister of Finance, the MP continued, seems to harbor very little respect for Parliament “judging from the so-called overview of the country’s liquidity position which he submitted last week. What we received from the Minister of Finance was one page with colors and numbers with no supporting documents or explanation about what exactly he submitted to Parliament,” the MP said.

He explained that the bottom-line of the document showed a total sum of NAf 32 million guilders apparently at the Central Bank of St. Maarten and Curacao as per March 26. “No other information was offered. We don’t know if that was before or after salaries, what other projections are in terms of income and expenditure, nothing. Just a number.

“To compound the obvious game playing, the President of Parliament declared that this information was good enough for him as an overview of the country’s liquidity position, and this from a person who used to criticize his predecessor for playing the same game of dodge,” the MP said.

MP Emmanuel said the lack of a budget at a time when St. Maarten and its citizens are looking ahead towards some sort of economic recovery is yet another failure on the part of the Government. The situation is further confused by the Prime Minister who “all of a sudden decides to protest the Dutch conditions” and has refused to sign the implementation agenda which guides many of the reforms and government plans that should be funded by the budget.

“And there is still no guarantee that the budget will actually pass,” MP Emmanuel said. “We don’t have an economic plan from this government, we don’t have a plan for tourism recovery, for diversification, no plan for entrepreneur support, no plan for nation-building on an economic level, wealth creation for our people, we have nothing. And we have no budget so this government has no direction. This is the government we have today,” MP Emmanuel said.

 


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