PHILIPSBURG–United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Claret Connor said on Sunday that his appointment as a minister in the new cabinet that is set to be sworn in today, Monday, was “delayed” because of the verdict in a civil court case.
Connor said he will “leave no stone unturned” to clear his name. He said persons nominated for a ministerial position are subjected to screening conducted by several agencies. “The reports from the different agencies are confidential. However, I learned that hindering my appointment was the verdict in a civil court case initiated against the government. In its defence, the government criticized the manner in which the then minister (Connor) acted in the matter in question. The court in its verdict, which was critical of the then minister (Connor), in my opinion was insufficiently apprised of the case in question, namely the decision taken by the Council of Ministers to acquire land for the construction of the waste water treatment plant in Cole Bay to serve both sides of the island.”
Connor said the joint waste water treatment project is part of the cooperation agreement programme “St. Martin/St. Maarten Territorial Cooperation program 2014-2020.”
The agreement was signed in June 2014 amongst the European Union (EU), the Government of St. Maarten, the Collectivité of St. Martin and representatives of the State of France. He said one of the requirements for the project was for government to identify land to meet the technical and physical aspects of constructing this plant. “More importantly, government then could no longer delay this project and risk losing the funding available under this programme estimated at approximately 1.3 million euros. It was with these considerations in mind that this decision was taken. It was therefore wrong to portray this decision as one that was taken at the 11th hour, when a new government was about to take office, and wrong to be put in the lap of one minister, when the Council of Ministers had approved such.”
Connor said in his last days as minister in the former Gumbs-Cabinet, the project was and remained a critical project for St. Maarten. “In this light, I did all I could do to finalize it before leaving office in 2015, aware that it could have become the victim of a change of government. Given the negative image for a person not completing the screening for minister, I, Claret Connor will leave no stone unturned to clear my name in this matter, which at the end of the day was done in the interest of the people of St. Maarten,” he said.