SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel has said the World Bank’s audacity to interfere in corporate personnel matters at the Princess Juliana International Airport is a clear result of weak leadership by the current government and that State Secretary Raymond Knops is getting more comfortable in using language of control towards the government and people of St. Maarten.
MP Emmanuel pointed out that Knops uses every opportunity to remind the government of St. Maarten of the conditions for the release of funding. He said despite the broad language of cooperation used in the country packages and COHO legislation, the State Secretary always return to the language of control when he feels he isn’t get his way or things are not progressing how he wants. “He threatens funding or reminds you of the conditions. And this has to be laid at the feet of this government who supports these agreements,” Emmanuel said.
The MP stressed that government’s casual approach to everything, including what is happening at PJIA, has left the door wide open for entities such as the World Bank to walk through and interfere where they should not. “The World Bank and others are taking advantage of a void created by this government and its failure to respond timely and address adequately the issues facing this country. You cannot classify it any other way,” the MP said.
“The World Bank is now doing damage control after being taken to task about the fact that they have no authority or say over personnel matters at PJIA. Today the government finds it necessary to comment on the letter after it had been leaked. This is weak leadership that hopes issues will just up and disappear,” he added.
In the meantime, the MP continued, State Secretary Knops seems to be in quite a rush to impose supervision over St. Maarten though reforms and getting more and more confident in telling St. Maarten exactly what he thinks. Emmanuel pointed to Knops statements that he is “not happy with the way St. Maarten manages its airport” and stating that the Justice Ministry “lacks decisive leadership.”
“These are his words. First of all, the fact that he can say that the airport is not managed well is very ironic considering it is his CEO in place and his CEO failing dramatically. You cannot stay thousands of miles away in The Hague and try to micromanage the airport through a CEO who believes his position is guaranteed because of the Dutch, a Dutch appointed CFO and complicit Supervisory Board of PJIAE,” MP Emmanuel said.
“Our airport was once managed by us. By people we were proud of. People like Eugene Holiday, Regina Labega and Michel Hyman. Not people who look down their noses at us. Airport employees were always so proud of that institution. Today what do they have? Intolerant behavior from a CEO who obviously does not respect them, no money, no indication of when they will be getting their money, and consultants who are getting paid millions per year. The airport is being fleeced. So if Mr. Knops doesn’t like the way the airport is being managed, he and the World Bank need to step back and let us do the job.”
The MP added that the State Secretary and BZK complains about illegal persons on St. Maarten and the burden they have on the system, but received the border control duties they demanded in 2017 and to date can’t report on what they achieved with this control. “Then they announce proudly in the Dutch media that they are feeding the people of St. Maarten else we would starve come April. This was followed by an announcement by St. Maarten’s Minister of Finance that about 80% of the people in the food program are unregistered.
“The Dutch constantly downplay their failures and elevate perceived failures of St. Maarten. But again this comes back to the local government of St. Maarten who has let Knops, the World Bank, the CFT and others simply make comments without offering a rebuttal in defense of St. Maarten. Silence is acceptance,” the MP said.