GREAT BAY – MP Claret Connor used the term ‘blunder’ when he spoke about the Pearl of China project at a press conference at the Parliament building yesterday morning.
Connor had called the press conference to vent his concerns about mainly three issues: the lack of progress with electoral reform, the Integrity Chamber legislation and the Pearl of China project, aptly renamed Pearl for China by the MP.
Connor said that a promise has been made to the people of St. Maarten about electoral reform. “We are approaching December 2017 and nothing has been achieved. Here we see again politicians being politicians. Mind you, they (the current government – ed.) have been in control of the legislative and the executive branch all this time, but nada about electoral reform.”
“When the red-white and blue coalition took office it set three priorities: a balanced budget, snap elections and electoral reform,” Connor noted. “They will have to explain why nothing has been done about electoral reform.”
The MP, a member of the opposition United People’s party faction, said that “politicians get this bad rap from the community because of these empty promises.” He pointed out that the legislation to establish the timeshare authority has been withdrawn and that it was going to be resubmitted to Parliament.
“My question is: where is the new version? Or will there be no timeshare authority? If this is the case, come out and say so and defend the change.”
Connor also repeated his earlier criticism of Prime Minister William Marlin’s stance on the Integrity Chamber. As the leader of the opposition, Marlin voted against the legislation to establish the Integrity Chamber. In the seat of the Prime Minister, he is defending the same concept, Connor says. “Nothing has changed from the time he was a Member of Parliament. At the time Marcel Gumbs was the prime minister and now William Marlin is. Nothing else has changed. Is that not fooling the people?”
The UP-faction, after an elaborate song and dance, voted at the time in favor of the Integrity Chamber. So what is the problem now? Connor: “This is not about the Integrity Chamber, it is about the lies. First the prime minister says that we don’t need an Integrity Chamber and that we have our own institutions to deal with integrity issues. And now he is coming with the same concept that he opposed earlier. That is about integrity.”
Connor also took aim at the Pearl of China project. “The government is saying that it struck gold, but all they are doing is developing a convention center. Businesses come here to present their products. It is run by Chinese and all businesses will be housed there. What happens to the businesses outside of the convention center?”
In a written statement that was handed out during the press conference, Connor says that the convention center will be used “to carry out business transactions parallel but not incorporated into the local economy.”
“We are essentially setting up an economic zone with in the country that will function independently.” Connor expressed his disbelief about the fact that the coalition partners and the entire Council of Ministers “blindly support this.”
“It will cripple our businesses and employment,” he warned. “The question is how the already established businesses will benefit and how this project will benefit employment on St. Maarten.”
Connor expressed concerns about the project’s effects on hardware stores like Ace and Kooyman. He also noted that the investors “will use our infrastructure, like the harbor and the airport. Helping this convention center will not benefit the economy and the people of St. Maarten, it is a blunder and I am really concerned about it.” My faction will have a serious problem with any proposal that takes away jobs from our people.”
Asked how many locals could find employment at the Pearl of China, Connor said: “How many people speak Chinese here?”