PM responds to Knops’ letter, expects resolution by May 21 | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs has sent a terse response to State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK Raymond Knops’ letter of May 12 on the delay of the fifth tranche of NAf. 39 million liquidity support for the country, and said she expects a resolution by May 21.

  “Your letter shows that you are attempting to suspend the liquidity support provided without a mandate until you can once again submit it for decision-making to the RMR [Kingdom Council of Ministers – Ed.],” Jacobs said in the letter. “This confirms that you were not legally authorised to do so.

  “It is also clear that you want to attach additional conditions to the 39 million already granted, which was requested to cover the costs that are currently not covered, while this has not been discussed or decided in the RMR. It is a disturbing fact that you once again link the agreements made via the trust fund to this country package, while the country package does not cover these agreements.”

  Jacobs and Knops have already signed the implementation agenda that was the condition for the fifth tranche of liquidity support. She said these delayed actions by Knops are disrupting the vital processes of government and making it difficult for government to live up to its obligations.

  “Government started its process to address concerns at the airport before the May 6 letter of the Schiphol group and before the May 12 letter of BZK. The government of St. Maarten strongly believes that these two separate agreements should not be thrown together. It is clear that Mr. Knops is very well aware that he has no authority to make such decisions on his own,” Jacobs said.

  The letter to Knops elucidated the facts related to some of the allegations and accusations being made towards the government of St. Maarten, it was stated in a press release issued late Sunday evening.

  The technical teams, civil servants within the government organisation have been working diligently on the agreements to achieve necessary reforms to ensure St. Maarten is able to receive liquidity support until it is able to sustain itself, she said, even as they accepted that they too had to give up a little. It is an insult to them to come with new conditions after they have worked so hard and the agreed-on conditions have been met.

  The Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO) law was very heavily criticised by the Council of State for usurping government’s and parliament’s authorities, as well as going too far, so it is uncanny that BZK continues to behave in this same manner every time there is a dispute, in order to push its agenda, she said.

  The government of St. Maarten expects to have further discussions with the teams, including the State Secretary, in the coming week aimed at ensuring that St. Maarten is treated equitably and that the livelihood of the people who are depending on the government of St. Maarten to meet their needs is not put in jeopardy based on the heavy-handed moves in The Hague.

  St. Maarten also looks forward to BZK State Secretary Knops living up to agreements made in RMR of April 23, and expects this to be resolved by May 21.

  In her response, Jacobs also drew reference to the events leading to the delays. She said that in the RMR decision on March 26, Knops was given the authority together with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra and Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus to enter into discussion to clarify the position of the Parliament of St Maarten on the trajectory for the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO) law.

  Knops was also given the authority to give approval if the clarification which was given was sufficient.  This clarification was given by the Parliament of St Maarten on April 15 and approval was given on April 16 on behalf of the ministers mentioned.

  In addition, the RMR decided in the meeting of April 23 (after one month’s delay) to provide the liquidity support of NAf. 39 million to St Maarten and St. Maarten received notice from BZK staff that the loan agreement would follow shortly. To date, BZK has not lived up to its responsibility to do so.

  Knowing that the decision was finally taken in the RMR after a full month’s delay, which the government felt was also unwarranted and not related to the agreements made, St. Maarten had no reason to doubt Knop’s execution of the decision in his capacity as State Secretary of Kingdom Relations.

  However, “the very insulting and overreaching letter” was sent to Jacobs and made public on May 12, informing that once again the requested liquidity support granted on his advice to the RMR would be further delayed, or suspended, on the indication of Knops citing reasons not based in facts and easily refutable. This letter continues to fuel negative feelings within the St. Maarten community.

  Jacobs highlighted that it was inconceivable that the demissionair (caretaker) state secretary could take it upon himself to make such an arbitrary decision without proper authority.

  It is clear that the RMR closely follows his advice as well as that of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT in all financial matters related to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. It is also evident that the state secretary feels empowered to make these decisions, but it is not “behoorlijk” (decent) behaviour and serves to further erode the trust and deteriorate the relationship between St. Maarten and the Netherlands.

  St. Maarten reached out to the State Secretary repeatedly for two weeks before forwarding concerns to the RMR. That the RMR chose to send St. Maarten back to BZK for the long-awaited response shows that the democratic deficit continues to be flagrantly demonstrated.

  Without a dispute regulation, and without willingness on the side of the RMR and BZK to listen to the reality of the St. Maarten situation, even after the technical agreement, and to take consideration for the SIDS status these islands have, we continue to struggle in this Kingdom to be treated with some level of equity and respect as self-governing countries, Jacobs said.

Source: The Daily Herald