PHILIPSBURG–With St. Maarten being the one that will have to bear the cost of election observers, and given that the country’s free and fair election process was noted by observers during the last election a year-and-a-half ago, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said having observers for next month’s snap parliamentary election is not necessary.
She was responding at the time to the uproar in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament and to Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops about the country’s refusal to have international observers for the snap elections.
“I was informed that St. Maarten had to bear the cost of the observers while they are on island – some nine to 10 persons from the Netherlands and around the world. I believe that seeing our liquidity position, it would be irresponsible to add the unnecessary burden [to St. Maarten – Ed.]. If the Netherlands would like to go out on a limb to pay for such, just to create a situation that we are not hiding anything, that is up to them.”
Observers who were present at the 2018 elections noted that “we do carry out free and fair elections [and] nothing out of the ordinary could be reported. … As a matter of fact, they were quite impressed with the manner in which St. Maarten’s elections were carried out,” Jacobs said.
She made clear that St. Maarten has “absolutely no problem” with its elections being observed. “We are already in a short preparation phase for this election. The Main Voting Bureau has their hands filled. We have the Christmas season in the midst of it all, so I did not see it financially as something necessary and did not feel that we as St. Maarten have anything to prove as we continue to have free, fair, open and transparent elections.”
She added that Governor Eugene Holiday, the Prime Minister of St. Maarten and others regularly visit the various polling stations with police escort on election day and are able to maintain that all of the proceedings are being carried out in an orderly fashion.
“So, I stand by our local execution agents of our elections and that they will continue to be free and clear and – no, St. Maarten has nothing to hide.”
She said, “Allegations of Members of Parliament in the Second Chamber about corruption, etc., I believe are out of place in this context.
“Every society has its ups and its downs. We allow our court proceedings to go through the process to determine whether a politician or any person in St. Maarten is actually engaging in any illegalities. That is up to the court to decide.
“What we do know is that some of the corruption is quite hidden in the Netherlands in the manner that they just resign and the court case is dropped and then you see them appearing in other positions. Maybe the Dutch politicians who are so intent on bringing down St. Maarten should look to these areas.”
She said the sitting government had started the interim period of government with the position that continuity was key for the key projects.
“We have done everything in our power to facilitate and fast-track the continuation of the financing for the airport. That is being executed. So, it is a very big surprise to me that statements are being made in the Dutch Chamber to the contrary that this interim government is delaying anything and that this this interim government is doing anything to block collaboration and cooperation to finalise projects.
“Contrary to that, we are working energetically around the clock to finalise the necessary agreements. We are working openly and completely with the NRPB [National Recovery Programme Bureau], who are facilitating our projects, and it paints a very negative picture of St. Maarten when these ad hoc statements are made on the floor of Parliament in the Netherlands.”
Jacobs acknowledged that there is a continued issue of lack of personnel in government. However, she said that MPs in Netherlands do not seem to understand that “the very long and arduous” procurement policies that are being placed on the people of St. Maarten to execute the different projects, programmes and plans are contributing to the delay.
“Assessments were done and each funding agent wants another assessment process done before terms of reference can be made, before it can be approved, and then finally that a vendor is chosen to execute the work. St. Maarten is doing its utmost and I think to throw negative light on the entire island because of a few negative acts is totally out of proportion to what is the reality here in St. Maarten.”
She said that while receiving congratulations from Knops and touching on financing, corporate governance and liquidity support for the airport and St. Maarten government after the interim government had been sworn in, she had not had a direct conversation with Knops.
“We have been trying to build trust with our partners across the Atlantic and hope that the negative statements in the Second Chamber aren’t politically motivated to continue to foster distrust for us here in the Caribbean parts of the Netherlands.
“Trust is a two-way street and this government has made every effort to work towards open and honest communication aimed at doing just that. We look forward to the next Ministerial Consultation to clarify any misconceptions that may exist in the minds of those making assumptions.”
She said also that the MPs who are focused on St. Maarten’s recovery and assistance for the vulnerable give hope for the future.
Bron: Daily Herald