SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Gracita Arrindell, Leader of the People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) on Sunday in a media statement said: “We are two years into discussions back and forth between Kingdom partners in an attempt of the Dutch government to solidify the Caribbean entity for Reform and Development by means of a Consensus Kingdom Law.
“This intended structure is aimed at among others supervision of the restructuring processes on the islands paid for by the Dutch tax- payers’ monies. Yet the question to date on the minds of the man on the street remains: ‘what is this Coho thing?
“Clearly, this effort by the government in Holland is not understood by the ordinary citizen given this question we encounter regularly. It is equally an enigma to most of the business community as recently expressed by some representatives of this sector. Especially the manner in which the current government handles the COHO discussions with the Netherlands as well as with the Parliament and people of Sint Maarten leaves much to be desired to state it mildly.
“A new deadline of May 20th is set for the governments and Parliaments of the three Caribbean ‘Countries’ to present their position on this new administrative entity. This date too is ill fated. Most likely proposals will once again be hastily submitted. Why? Our local administrations are still seriously overwhelmed and critically understaffed since assuming our new status in 2010. The brain drain in critical positions continues as we write. Bottom line… this COHO thing in my humble view means that the Dutch government including the First and Second Chambers are implying to the people of Sint Maarten that there’s a lack of Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability in managing this island while government is broke, can’t pay its bills as and when due. Therefore article 38 of the Kingdom Charter is used to establish COHO to bring you ((citizen) much needed Reform and Development.”
Arrindell continues: “Two years and counting, our local government’s messages and proposals when presented are at best, ambiguous, elusive, accusative while COHO technical meetings are held behind closed doors of Parliament. All such meetings must be held public in the House of Parliament for transparency’s sake. Dutch Ministers in charge of Kingdom Relations ‘applied the carrot & stick “policies in order to reach ‘consensus’ which includes:
a. no liquidity support if all conditions (some previously mentioned) are not met
b. withholding financial support for Princess Juliana International Airport if government and Parliament doesn’t accept and approve a COHO Consensus Kingdom Law.
“These efforts are a futile attempt to ‘fry three pancakes from the same dough’ in one pan and flip them simultaneously to have a common shape and look’. The behaviors and expectations at both sides of the Kingdom are contra productive and unhelpful,” stated Arrindell.
“Our position on the new proposed entity including ways to firmly increase and strengthen our country’s liquidity position were presented publicly on several occasions during these past two years. Immediate objection to imposing 12.5 percent cut in civil servants salaries as expressed in our November 20, 2020 publication while we proposed new income/ revenues including the lucrative ‘offshore’ for our government coffers under the title “now is not the time,” Arrindell said.
Gracita states: “Most factions in Parliament have a different position on this proposed Consensus Kingdom Law. Rather than resort to grand standing over this ‘COHO’ thing, we are better off stating the obvious: Common sense dictates that the proposed law has little bottom-up support (draag-vlak) and it is lost in translation between our local elected and appointed officials, as well as business communities. Additionally, too many objections and concerns have been expressed across the board by experts from different backgrounds within the Kingdom in spite of efforts to make improvements in order to satisfy it’s naysayers.”
PPA Leader states: A firm No to COHO by Consensus Kingdom Law is warranted and defendable for reasons mentioned by many previously and publicly. Time, expertise, finances are more efficiently served if applied directly to strengthen the standing government organizations in their execution of their daily management tasks with expertise and COUNTERPARTS to ensure continuity rather than establish a parallel administrative entity by Law in the Hague with money and powers that supersedes the powers of local governments and Parliaments. Consider:
- To include the already established work organization created to oversee the execution of the ‘Country’ packages into the standing government organizations. As an Ad Hoc committee Reform and Development there will be more cohesion in the execution of the proposals when the Secretary Generals (SG’s) of the seven ( 7 ) Ministries are included in this Ad Hoc committee. The standing organization is familiar with the budget preparatory process. This synchronization of minds, money to implement new methods is more likely to succeed because it’s based on common sense, rather than seeking common grounds from three separate countries. Areas in need of upgrading and restructuring are well documented and known.
- Parliaments Constitutional Affairs Committee must prepare and call monthly meetings to monitor the process and its progress.
- Establish a Junior Minister for Constitutional Affairs in the 3 countries as counterpart to the Minister of Kingdom Relations and Interior Affairs.
PPA leader concludes, “We must bring tranquility back to the Island governments. No need to hear lamentations or statements that local governments are accepting conditions for liquidity support under threats from the Netherlands. This coming week we will know.”