SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The board of the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has requested an urgent meeting with the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten to address, among other things, the persistent, unprofessional and willfully misleading statements being made by the Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson about the SCDF.
The SCDF is of the opinion that the Minister is willfully using social media rumors and statements to paint a narrative against the SCDF to fulfill a different agenda. However, the board noted, the SCDF is probably one of the few foundations on St. Maarten that has always been in full compliance with whatever government has requested, most notably as it relates to obtaining an annual incidental subsidy from government.
The board said the Minister is fully aware of what he is doing when using statements such as “resistance” and “people must know”. The SCDF has always been cooperative with successive governments as records of several meetings will show including a record number of meetings with this Minister and his departments since he was sworn in.
“All of our financials are with government and are public. SCDF, as we have stated numerous times before, will fully cooperate with the SOAB and even look forward to parts of that final report that will show how government has sometimes hindered, not helped, the overall development of Carnival,” the SCDF board said.
The board members of the SCDF, all volunteers, even interrupted their annual summer break with their families to discuss the SOAB engagement letter and gave the President of the foundation Alston Lourens permission to sign it. Lourens delivered this signed engagement letter to SOAB about two weeks ago which was publicized in the media.
The SCDF board added the Minister continues to mislead the public with statements making it look like government is the only financer of Carnival. In fact, the board continued, government’s subsidy is smaller than all corporate contributions and is only earmarked for marketing, which SCDF has always accounted for. “While we are grateful for government support, the Minister has to stop with this ‘oh the people must know where the money going’ when he knows government has those reports and much more are always discussed in meetings,” the SCDF board said.
“The SCDF has submitted all of its financials annually going back more than a decade. Nobody can challenge this and this is in keeping with the subsidy ordinance,” the board said, adding that the Minister is misleading when he continues to say that audits are required.
“The Minister needs to stop this because then every foundation, not just ours, the Regatta, St. Maarten festival, every foundation would have to produce an audit and they don’t. What foundations produce are compiled financials from established accounting firms and/or registered accounts. This is what the subsidy ordinance requires, nothing else. Prizes ect are operational matters of the SCDF and has nothing to do with government and/or its subsidy. We are a private foundation that seeks government subsidy. We adhere to the requirements to obtain this subsidy and report afterwards. Government should not interfere with the other operations of any foundation.”
The board also said the Minister is making it a habit of telling the public that when he was President of the SCDF he had an audit done. “The Minister is willfully lying or forgot. There was never an audit done under his presidency, it was the exact same compiled financials conducted by PWc. The misleading statements must stop and professional discourse should be the priority,” the SCDF board said.
The board of the SCDF concluded by stating that while the Minister on Friday made it seem like preparations for Carnival 2020 is dependent on an audit, preparations for Carnival 2020 is already well underway. “Our registration has been opened and is going very well, all nights have been allotted for concerts and other events, meetings have been held with long-term corporate partners and we are moving.”