SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY – On the front page of The Daily Herald of Saturday, August 13, 2016 we see a Member of Parliament with a criminal conviction (sure, his case is still in appeal) broadly smiling as the Minister of TEATT (the Ministry assigned to this “upstanding” MP when the Coalition of 8 was formed some months ago) signs a one year Employment contract with Rolando Brison, a young St. Maarten professional, who, as per his own admittance in writing, embezzled a substantial amount of money from the Government owned airline WINAIR, one of his previous employers.
Some years ago when I was still involved with WINAIR, I was really impressed with young Brison. He was smart, articulate, energetic, a quick learner and a smooth talker. I saw in him leadership capabilities that could eventually propel him into the seat of the CEO of the airline. Then all of us at WINAIR got a rude awakening.
Brison was caught red-handed with both his hands in the proverbial “cookie jar”. In order not to cause havoc in his path of future advancement, WINAIR’s Management agreed not to press criminal charges against Brison, if he resigned of his own free will and agreed in writing to repay the airline the total amount of funds he “misappropriated”.
Four years and four months later, Brison has yet to start paying back WINAIR, but gets employed by Government to, amongst other things, manage and direct the spending of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of guilders that will be allocated to the SXM Tourism Authority for the promotion of Tourist Destination St. Maarten. What happened to background checks and/or thorough vetting? The newspaper article claims “funds destined for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau will not be managed by the STA”.
However, in practical terms, the fact that “the STA will begin to market the island” means that Brison will have a say in how Tourism Funds will be spent (committed). I have a hunch I know why the MP is smiling so broadly: regardless of how his re-election campaign ends, he is ensuring that lucrative positions are filled by his cronies: Brison will be in the STA, and as I recently heard, his 2014 Campaign Manager (another son of the soil who once also was smart, articulate, energetic, a quick learner and smooth talker) will possibly be appointed to the Board of the PJIA, another Government owned company with LOTS of money! Talk about foxes in henhouses!! From my personal files of years of involvement with WINAIR, I have retrieved copies of documents related to the Brison case that substantiate my claim.
If St. Maarten is going to have a fighting chance to “make it” as a country within, or outside of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, we are going to have to vote-out the bums, convicts, scoundrels and opportunists and keep/vote-in professionals that have TRUE passion and love for our island and who are prepared and willing to give, at a minimum, an honest 8 hours of work, 5 days a week.
It’s more likely that these upstanding professionals will EARN the extremely generous salary and lucrative benefits our Parliamentarians and Ministers enjoy. One thing is sure, we need to make an effort to secure that each professional that is appointed to top level, important positions with impact on the growth of our economy, has a CLEAN record and is CAPABLE of doing their function. The fleecing of the limited financial resources of our Country must stop.
Michael J. Ferrier