PHILIPSBURG–Ombudsman Nilda Arduin answered a number of questions posed earlier by Members of Parliament (MPs) on disaster risk management and other related areas, during the continuation of a parliamentary meeting on Wednesday.
She said the conclusion of the investigation on disaster risk preparedness showed that despite efforts that were made to remedy shortcomings regarding the state of preparedness for the 2018 hurricane season, government was not ready for the season, pursuant to the National Ordinance Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and the Disaster Management Plan (DMP).
“I came to this conclusion based on objective analysis of all available documents and discussions regarding what is required to be ready and prepared to face the onslaught of a disaster, and evaluation whether this was indeed the situation prior to September 2017 and before the 2018 hurricane season.
“The DRR and DMP specifically prescribe that sub and action plans should be made. By no means these could be ready and available for the hurricane season 2018. The UNDP Evaluation report commissioned by the Prime Minister indicated what went well, what could have gone better in evaluating the proceedings following the hurricanes of September 2017, and provided recommendations. The execution of these recommendations is still ongoing. …”
She said not properly documenting standard procedures, responsibilities and levels of authority has been a major weakness in the operations of preparedness. “While we are in general predominantly an oral society, we should realise that written documents provide clarity, direction and structure for continuity. …
“Yes, progress has been made and is being made, but we have to be cautious not to lose sight of all the work yet to be done, when we register the few achievements. This might have been the reason why the sub and action plans were never finalised, as governments apparently focused on the fact that we have a DRR Ordinance and DMP (2013), forgetting that the work was not yet finalised.”
In response to a question on whether the responsibility of the Prime Minister should be shared in the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), she said: “I am of the opinion that sometimes the core of a challenge lies elsewhere than there where it is visible.
“The UNDP report revealed an inadequate systematic documentation within government, which resulted in high reliance on discussions for responses. The UNDP therefore emphasised proper record-keeping to improve accountability, and allows for more objective analysis.
“Such systemic shortcomings overload the responsibilities of the Prime Minister, who will have to act on the spur of the moment in time of a crisis. Hence it behoves all, including Parliament, to thoroughly review the findings established in the UNDP report, and monitor the execution of the recommendations, as well as the roadmap outlined in the NRRP.
“This will provide objective answers to the query whether there is a structural need to share the responsibility of the Prime Minister in the EOC, but also whether MPs should be included in the EOC. Parliament is the ultimate legislator and can propose amendments to the National Ordinance Disaster Risk Reduction, if required.”
Arduin said that although she has been rather strong in her observations at times, she passionately believes “in the capacity of us as a people to work hard and with integrity, but often fall short in discipline to endure until the end – discipline to do our homework and present the facts, rather than debating the issues on perceptions and how we feel.
“As a new institution with the unique competence within the Dutch Kingdom to have a new law reviewed and scrapped by the Constitutional Court, as a team we have proven that St. Maarten is
very well capable to present the proper arguments to let justice, fairness and the rule of law prevail, when others are of a different opinion.
“It is therefore my hope that the case of the Integrity Chamber presented to the Constitutional Court for review serves as an example and trend for the future of our young nation: that we are very well capable to address our affairs in an objective manner if we believe in ourselves and develop the discipline to follow matters through. Yes, we can.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/82926-ombudsman-answers-mps-questions-in-meeting-wed