Independent (former NA) parliamentarian Christophe Emmanuel in the past week criticised three possible appointments basically because they supposedly involve foreigners. It regards St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), the Fire Department and the Department of Education (DPE).
According to Emmanuel, SMMC’s current director Kees Klarenbeek has been on sick leave for more than a year and is being replaced by Dr. Felix Holiday. Nevertheless, says the opposition member, Curaçao-based Deloitte Dutch Caribbean is recruiting an Australian to take up the job.
For starters, one can hardly judge this matter without first-hand knowledge of exactly what the function entails and requires, how it is presently being executed and to what extent looking abroad to fill such might be necessary in organisational and operational terms. Keep in mind also that the World Bank-administered Trust Fund is not just co-financing the new hospital project – which also falls under the director’s responsibility – but investing in the current one as well.
At the Fire Department the complaint apparently concerns a European Dutchman who is to become Head of Repression. Here again, lacking detailed information about – and qualifications for – the position plus what is available locally makes it difficult to determine whether that would be a reasonable choice.
When it comes to DPE, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (EYCS) Rodolphe Samuel explained that as part of his plan to replace “acting” department heads in the ministry with “permanent” ones he had decided to relieve one of the current three of her duties as such, due to the workload because she is also local Secretary General (SG) of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO). The person made acting head instead may not be from the island, but is already part of the ministry and has apparently been a civil servant here for 18 years, while he also taught at Sundial School for eight years, clearly making him a “born to be here” St. Maartener.
In general, solely focussing on the origin of candidates for key functions is usually not a good idea. Of course, all other things being equal, so-called locals and Dutch Caribbean people should in principle have preference.
However, ultimately it must be about suitability, capabilities, relevant experience, and pertinent knowledge. Anything less can easily lead to an undesirable path of mediocracy.