SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Thursday said that the Prime Minister’s statements that politics was being played with the airport dossier of airport COO Michel Hyman was a “bad joke” that re-enforces why Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and her government cannot be trusted.
The PM he said, when caught in a lie or gross negligence of duty, continues to deflect, blame, lie and spin the issues. In the case of the airport dossier, the Prime Minister is running from acknowledging that the executive branch and the legislative branch in the person of the former Chairperson of Parliament, colluded to keep the dossier out of sight, for political reason.
“So obviously, let’s blame the opposition in Parliament with playing politics. It took the Prime Minister more than two years to finally admit the existence of the dossier and more than a week to concoct her story. Talk about playing politics,” the MP said. Emmanuel pointed out that on one end of the table there is the Minister of TEATT who actually went and looked for the document, while on the other end there is a Prime Minister who is more concerned with “it wasn’t me”.
“The Prime Minister wants the public to believe that the Council of Ministers only read the cover letter of the documents two years ago and nothing since. In the same breath, the Prime Minister turns and describes the content of the complaints, which in her opinion were mainly issues between management and boards. She even said she saw responses to some complaints. So if you only had time to handle the cover letter, how are you so versed with the content,” Emmanuel asked.
MP Emmanuel said the PM’s convenient excuses of not wanting to get involved in internal airport matters is contradictory to past actions and comments when it comes to the Princess Juliana International Airport. He reminded that PJIA has been the topic of discussion in Parliament and the public domain for the past two years.
Several questions regarding PJIA were asked to the PM and other Ministers about the functioning of management, the board, the relationship that existed between the two, over spending by the CEO, what constitutes good corporate governance, exorbitant consultant fees and more.
“The Prime Minister and the other Ministers all painted a picture that the only corporate governance issue was Dexter Doncher so he had to go on the orders of Schiphol and BZK, while they had this dossier in hand. They knew full well of its content and did not factor it into the discussion. As Shareholder, the government of St. Maarten did not reach out to the holding board of the airport to assess the validity of the serious complaints and accusations in the dossier. This is a gross case of negligence by the PM and the Council of Ministers and more failure of oversight,” Emmanuel said.
The MP is of the opinion that the PM practices a “hands-off” approach when it politically suits her best, not the country and its institutions. He questioned how exactly are MP’s playing politics as the PM claimed, with the dossier? “Asking about its existence, being told it wasn’t booked in, then finding out it was purposely kept hidden while you had multiple opportunities to disclose it over the past two years, is not about playing politics, it’s about being transparent and open with the people of St. Maarten, something the Prime Minister continues to disrespect,” MP Emmanuel said.
He continued: “The dossier outlined possible project bidding illegalities, excess costs by the former Schiphol CFO of almost Naf 150,000, mis-use of credit cards of over Naf 300,000, the hiring of current employees of other government owned companies to oversee construction projects, the renting of apartment for God knows what, complaints of possible illegal acts by the board of PJIA. This did not come from a regular airport employee, but its COO. The politics that is being played is by the PM who has allowed this messy environment to exist at PJIA and now trying to run from it,” he said.
The MP also dismissed the PM’s accusation that politics were being played to instill mistrust in the government and its Parliamentary support. “I have news for the PM, nobody trusts you. I have never agreed with former State Secretary Raymond Knops on anything, but there is one exception; when he told the PM in May 2021: “The trust in the collaboration with your government has been damaged. By continuously handling too late and not forceful enough, you not only endanger the airport reconstruction, but as a direct result the economic recovery of the entire country.”