~ Says Geerlings pulled ‘political stunt’ ~
PHILIPSBURG–Finance Minister Ardwell Irion said on Monday that he intends “to exhaust every possible option” to ensure that police officers get their back-pay.
The funding for this was made available through an initiative law through the sale of the St. Maarten government’s shares of United Telecommunications Services (UTS). Half of the proceeds from the sale as prescribed by that law are already in government’s coffers, Irion said in a press release.
“The government has already executed the sale based on the initiative law, but never took the necessary steps to ensure the funds could go to the intended purposes: paying all police officers, Immigration officers and other justice workers money owed to them from having been in their wrong scales for so long,” Irion said in the release.
He said he was surprised to find that his predecessor would play on the emotions of the justice workers by signing a ministerial decree that was grossly incorrect in regard to acquiring their rightfully earned funds.
“The issue is that a ministerial decree is the incorrect tool for such a large financial commitment of the country. The minister should probably have known better, so I have no choice but to believe that this effort was [not – Ed.] genuine and simply a political stunt. It’s truly disappointing,” Irion said.
The execution of the payment falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance, as that ministry must execute the necessary budgetary transfers.
Irion said a central part of making the payment work would be a measure made possible by Article 50 of the National Accountability Ordinance, which allows the Minister of Finance to depart from the national budget if there is an acute need to deviate from the budget in the national interest and in the event of unanticipated urgent needs during the service year for which no provision is made in the budget.
“Being that the budget doesn’t currently contain the budget allotment for this sale, the Ministry of Finance will seek the support of Parliament. Parliament, by means of a motion, can help establish a clear national interest as sought when making use of Article 50 of the Accountability Ordinance. It goes without saying that paying our justice workers is in the national interest. A motion of Parliament will further strengthen the legal steps I can take by means of Article 50,” said Irion.
He is hoping that all goes well, and the payment can still be processed before year-end, despite the time squandered by the previous government.
“Had the government taken the correct steps regarding the funds made available by the UTS Law, I could more confidently state that the payment would be ready immediately. However, it seems in the same way the Minister of Finance dropped the ball on the sale of UTS and it was picked up by MP [Member of Parliament Rolando] Brison, I too must pick up the ball and try to ensure the funds go to the justice workers where they belong.”
President of the police union Nationaal Algemene Politie Bond (NAPB) St. Maarten, Rogerrel Mauricia told The Daily Herald that the union and members are immensely demotivated by the recent events.
“As we continue to do our best in our jobs protecting and serving the community of St. Maarten, we ask for the Minister of Finance to continue do the same for the Police Force workers,” Mauricia said. “We look forward to receiving a proposed date from Minister Irion on the fulfilment of his promise to the union and members.”