PHILIPSBURG–Democratic Party (DP) leader and Chairperson of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams maintains her position about reconstruction aid from the Netherlands and the conditions of the Integrity Chamber and the additional manpower at St. Maarten borders.
She hosted a press conference on Tuesday morning and focused her comments about the much-talked-about disagreements between the Dutch Government and St. Maarten’s Government.
“I would like to see the draft ordinance for establishing the Integrity Chamber head to Parliament in order for this body to decide on it. The fact remains that the Kingdom government came out right after the hurricane on September 6 and said help was coming to St. Maarten. Now the situation has changed and it is not fair,” stated Williams.
She would also like to know what is Government’s “Plan B.”
“I would love to hear the ‘Plan B’ from Prime Minister William Marlin. What are the other scenarios that we can explore in order to do something for the people? With all due respect, I don’t believe that there is another person as passionate about country status as I am, but a solution needs to be found now,” she said.
Marlin has said on many occasions that the island needs recovery funds yes, but Sint Maarten also needs a fair chance to develop its own Integrity Chamber and needs only the support of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee as already established in the protocol that is valid up until December 31, 2019.
Wescot-Williams pointed out the magnitude of Hurricane Irma, the immediate assistance given and the St. Maarten’s people’s own willingness to rebound and come back stronger. She expressed her grave concern for what the coming weeks will bring if not addressed head-on and with conviction.
The issues of integrity and border control (immigration) are “not matters we should turn away from, but surely neither to make the aid to St. Maarten dependent on,” she said. “At the end of the day … if we get a plausible plan for the island going forward without Dutch aid, I would be the first one to retract my call for assistance and move towards getting a solution to this issue.
“The autonomy fight, we can’t do that now. We need to think about the people. How will Government handle all expenses? The Draft Budget 2017 for country St. Maarten has a deficit of NAf. 250 million guilders and this should cause sleepless nights. It means that Government is spending money that would have to be used for next year,” said Williams.
She wants to know where the money is going to come from if Government declines assistance from the Dutch government.
“We need the funds yesterday, not tomorrow. Yes, we are getting insurance money, but what happens to those who did not have insurance? What happens when they come knocking on Government’s doors?
“Government has many commitments. We deserve to know what the Minister of Finance’s plans are, since we already have a deficit in the budget. The Prime Minister said he is willing to travel to Holland for negotiations, Netherlands are saying they can send civil servants to come iron out differences. What is the hold-up? We should focus and do this now,” she said on Tuesday.
She also mentioned that the worst is still to come. “We have not seen the worst results of Irma yet. We have to be honest and realistic. I’m going to stress for Members of Parliament so that the draft can come to Parliament what to expect or what not to expect.”