SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - President of Parliament, the Honourable Grisha Heyliger-Marten, says the revelation of the existence of a "potentially damning" dossier on PJIA may well shed light on shortcomings at the top levels of the Government-owned Company.
The document will be formally booked into Parliament early this week, and Parliamentary officials indicate that this time around, the PJIA dossier will follow the proper channels for accepting official documents.
If the alleged contents are factual, uncovering these truths can result in swift action to remove any impediments to the long-awaited rebuilding of the Airport.
"The contents of the PJIA dossier might provide even more reasons for an urgent Parliamentary inquiry in the interest of transparency and good governance. Many questions regarding PJIA have remained unanswered since Hurricane Irma. I, therefore, believe it is in the general interests that a public debate on this matter and how to move forward takes place as soon as possible," said Heyliger-Marten Sunday.
On Sunday evening, MP Heyliger-Marten issued a press release clarifying her position on the PJIA dossier's recent discovery. Since the news of its existence surfaced on St. Maarten, many people have speculated that its contents will reveal misspending and other wrongdoings by the Supervisory Board of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and its once ousted Chief Executive Officer Brian Mingo. However, Heyliger-Marten said she will not act on speculation but would await the document's arrival at Parliament.
"Up to last week, the Parliament of St. Maarten was not officially aware that someone had sent "the PIJA dossier" to both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers." It seems although it was delivered to Parliament, the document may have fallen through the cracks and never underwent the proper process. "This is very serious and problematic in itself," said Heyliger-Marten.
According to Heyliger-Marten, in June 2020, Independent MP Christopher Emmanuel had hinted at the dossier's existence. According to Emmanuel, someone had already submitted the PJIA dossier to Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Back then, she told Emmanuel she would need the time to investigate if Parliament received the dossier since it never crossed her desk as Member of Parliament.
Talks about "the PJIA dossier" again emerged during last week’s handling of the national budget for 2022. "At that time, I had no facts and could not confirm the dossier's existence or contents, and therefore could not publicly go on the record making statements without having the facts. Naturally, informal discussions between MP's can and do take place about their thoughts and opinions on matters. Still, as representatives of the people, we should be mature and disciplined enough not to publicly make statements until we know they are factual and can be substantiated."
That same evening after the meeting was adjourned, I followed up on inquiries I had already started making to establish who initially received the dossier at the Parliament. During the meeting, National Alliance MP William Marlin had requested this investigation. I also called an urgent meeting of the Presidium for 9 a.m. the following day to finalize the investigation.
Heyliger-Marten said, "During the Presidium meeting, it was definitively established who had signed for receipt of the document. When contacted, the person in question confirmed that, as customary, she had either handed over the dossier to the former Chair of Parliament or placed it on his desk for further handling.” It remains unclear why the document was not officially booked in at Parliament.
"This error further emphasizes why the efficiency of the functioning and processes within Parliament needs to be addressed," said Heyliger-Marten.
Heyliger-Marten said that during her first address to Parliament as Chairlady, she pledged to adhere to the principles of discipline, efficiency, and transparency for the Parliament of St. Maarten moving forward. "The mishandling of the PJIA dossier is an excellent example of why these principles are essential."
Heyliger-Marten also said Parliament's investigation of the receipt of the dossier had gone as far as it can for the time being. She said the documents would be resent and booked in correctly Parliament, after which all MPs will receive a copy.
"Depending on the dossier's contents, Members of Parliament are free to request a meeting for Parliament to discuss this matter and decide the next steps by Parliament and the Council of Ministers related to PJIA", Heyliger-Marten said.
Heyliger-Marten herself has consistently advocated for the speedy reconstruction of the Airport. On May 14th, 2021, she sent a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister with several questions seeking clarity on "developments" at PJIA.
"In that letter, I indicated that, depending on the answers received to my questions, I would consider seeking an inquiry/investigation at the Parliamentary level into the reconstruction and financing agreements for PJIA and related matters."