~ No laws breached ~
PHILIPSBURG–Government did not intentionally withhold from Parliament an advice rendered by the Council of Advice and it had nothing to gain by doing so, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said on Wednesday.
Jacobs’ statements come in the wake of Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MP) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson being extremely displeased about not being sent an advice from the council about the Caribbean Reform Entity after it had been in government’s possession for four weeks. MPs had been calling on government to send any advice issued by the council as they continue deliberate on the reform entity.
Government reportedly told MPs last week that the council had only issued one advice on July 9. However, two had been given – one on July 9 and a more substantive one on July 28.
The Daily Herald published an article about the July 28 advice in its Monday, August 31, edition.
After the publication of the article, government told MPs that the second advice had been received on August 3 but had been unintentionally overlooked in its hectic preparations for the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting that took place several days later.
The Council of Advice usually sends documents to government both by e-mail and hard copy but, according to Jacobs, it has recently resorted to only sending digital copies because of the coronavirus pandemic. She said this had caused the advice to be erroneously missed.
Jacobs said she takes this incident seriously. “I take full responsibility for the fact that this was overlooked, and I have spoken to all involved, in order that we develop systems and raise awareness that this never happens again.”
Gumbs and Peterson questioned whether the incident was government trying to withhold information. “Was this negligence or deliberate? Either option raises uneasy questions about what has been communicated to the country and to Parliament,” Gumbs said on Monday.
Jacobs said on Wednesday that government had no motive to withhold the advice because it is “beneficial and favourable to our cause of negotiating with the Dutch government on the entity.”
The Dutch government has refused to negotiate with St. Maarten about the proposed entity until government fulfils the conditions for the second tranche of liquidity support. It also rejected St. Maarten’s counterproposal regarding the entity in August.
Jacobs lamented that MPs would “politicise this non-issue for political mileage.”
Advices rendered by the Council of Advice are to be published six weeks after being issued. Government was under no obligation to share the advice before that time, said Jacobs, adding that she, as Minister of General Affairs, “will be the one to decide on its publication.”
“This government has not breached any moral or legal transparency laws. In fact, we have been very transparent – if not one of the most transparent governments to date,” she said.
Jacobs concluded by calling on the Council of Advice to find out how its advice had been leaked.
“We also hope that the council will investigate how photographs of the physical hard copy of this advice, which has not yet been sent out to the government or the governor, could be sent to The Daily Herald and made public, all before the Minister of General Affairs has decided on its early publication,” she said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/jacobs-govt-has-nothing-to-gain-by-withholding-advice-from-mps