~ ‘If I can’t take a position … then I have no place in coalition’ ~
PHILIPSBURG–Chairperson of Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams took a firm stand against her coalition partners on Friday when she said that if she is not allowed to have her own position on the matter of reconstruction aid to St. Maarten, then she has no place in the coalition her party presently supports.
“Enough is enough!” Wescot-Williams said while making her bombshell statement towards the end of her presentation during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Friday on the matter of aid. Prime Minister William Marlin and Finance Minister Richard Gibson were both present at the meeting.
Wescot-Williams’ frustration and that of her fellow DP MP Perry Geerlings was evident during their questioning on the matter of aid.
“How many more questions are we going to ask?” she asked. “In all that has happened, in all the frustration that I have heard, that I myself have expressed, what bothers me more is the fact that when it’s either told to me or insinuated by members of the coalition that I support that I cannot take a position other than the coalition’s position in the case of specifically the matter of aid to the people of St Maarten.
“I am now the one that is being crucified because I have the gall to stand up and say how I believe we should approach the matter of aid. Have I sought to crucify anyone else in or out of the coalition for taking their stand against whomsoever – the Dutch Government, the EU, UNDP? Have I?
“But then to be told, in other words, that it’s either that way, which is not my way, or the highway, then I am saying I will take the highway. And if I can’t take a position other than most other persons, even in the coalition that I support, then I have no place in the coalition that I support, then there is no room there for me and I understand [that this – Ed.] doesn’t really matter, but you listen, you take, you smile, but enough is enough!”
Wescot-Williams’ had made her position on the matter of aid clear on multiple occasions recently. She said that in the absence of any other credible plan, St. Maarten should not close the door to what the Kingdom Government is offering as aid for St. Maarten and the conditions laid out.
Marlin’s and Government’s position is that the Dutch government should not “hold St. Maarten hostage” by imposing the condition of passing the Integrity Chamber law and having the Royal Dutch Marechaussee and the Dutch Customs perform border control in St. Maarten, as agreements on these two areas already exist.
Wescot-Williams said if her position will be held against her, then “so let it be. If the coalition that I support has no room for other opinions than a certain few, then I, my party and my opinion … would have to see how and where that gets a way to be promoted,” she made clear.
Several MPs gave their positions on the matter of aid during the meeting. While some supported Government’s position, others did not. Most MPs said they believed there was too much talking happening and not enough action to assist people who have been suffering since Hurricane Irma wrought havoc in the country.
MP Geerlings, who said he had been called a traitor, asked Marlin to let the people know what his Plan B is. He said assumptions are being made and noted that St. Maarten cannot be rebuilt on assumptions, particularly when St. Maarten is not communicating with the Kingdom partners.
“I haven’t seen any Ministers going to The Hague to plead our case, whatever that may be, but here we are sitting here assuming, but in the meantime, people are sitting in their homes without a roof, covered up with plastic. It is shameful,” Geerlings said.
He said there are persons who never received any relief items.
Geerlings said right now it is about what the people are feeling in the community. He does not agree with the suggestion that Government should tap into general pension fund administrator APS funds to construct homes. This is a reactive solution, while a structural and sustainable way of reconstruction and rebuilding St. Maarten is needed. Geerlings said he has no problem with funding from the Netherlands.
Referring to the Kingdom Government as the “Kingdom bully,” MP George Pantophlet spoke about being approached by persons who said that while they needed assistance, they urged Government to not give in to the Netherlands. He touched on several other issues.
MP Rodolphe Samuel spoke about, amongst other things, the trucks and other equipment that were sent to St. Maarten from the Netherlands. He said the vehicles and equipment had been leased and sent to the country and wanted to know who would pay the tab, what funds would be used to pay for them and whether Government had agreed to this. He said also that when Education Minister Silveria Jacobs had received educational relief items, she also had received an invoice.
Samuel does not believe that Government should accept “free money” from the Netherlands. Instead, he encouraged Government to pursue loans. “If we don’t want a grant then there will be no more standoff,” he said.
However, The Daily Herald understands that the trucks and other heavy equipment were purchased by the Netherlands and loaned to Sint Maarten for free. The only cost the local Government has to cover is the diesel fuel to run the trucks. This was confirmed to this newspaper by representatives of the Dutch mission on-island.
This is part of the emergency aid phase, which is entirely on the Dutch tab. Dutch officials have said so on several occasions.
MP Frans Richardson said it is important to outline the type of aid needed for the country. He said the current impasse is making the country and Government look as though St. Maarten does not want aid, which he said is not the case.
Several other MPs spoke on the issue of aid and tabled their respective positions.
The meeting was adjourned after the first round of questioning, just after Wescot-Williams spoke.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70527-sarah-will-not-be-stifled-says-enough-is-enough-2