Peterson changes position on new parliament
building, says his comments ‘misunderstood’
~ Says his comments ‘misunderstood’ ~
PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Member of Parliament (MP) Claude “Chacho” Peterson referred on Sunday to his statements made during Friday’s meeting of the ad hoc committee of parliament on a new parliament building as “sarcastic” and said they had been misunderstood.
Peterson suggested during the meeting that the World Bank should be approached to fund the proposal for a whopping US $145 million bullet-proof glass “salt crystal” new parliament building.
Peterson proposed that design presenter Damien Delano Richardson of Richardson Designs add a hurricane shelter to the expansive design that already includes a bridge to link the building, suggested at the site of the old administration building at Clem Labega Square, to the new one on Pond Island, a “nations express” mall, parking spaces, a plaza, and the “national bus terminal.”
In his press release on Sunday, Peterson said, “Unfortunately, my sarcasm did not resonate with those who saw my [presentation – Ed.] in Friday’s meeting of the ad hoc committee for the new parliament building. This was the first meeting of this committee since the new parliamentary year started and the first I ever attended.
“I came to the meeting expecting to get a presentation on a potential design of the new parliament building and was very surprised to realise it was a presentation on a futuristic, very elaborate and very costly concept idea for the entire land between the Post Office, the old government building and the Clem Labega Square.”
Peterson said that, as an engineer himself, he could appreciate Richardson’s vision as a local architect, but that this was not in tune with the country’s reality after Irma.
“I looked around to my coalition MPs to see if they knew of this project, but realised they too were seeing it for the first time. When I listened to [National Alliance] MP [William] Marlin’s support for the project during his [presentation], I figured it was not the first time he had heard about it.
“My main focus after the presentation was to find out if Mr. Richardson was commissioned in any official capacity to develop this concept and, more importantly, my concern revolved around the very high monthly rent of $97,000 per month for the present Parliament building also alluded to in the presentation and the building of our own building in order to lower this cost.
“The high monthly rent was a deal put in place by now-MP Marlin as a last-minute resort to solve the failure to prepare facilities to house Parliament prior to 10-10-10.”
The Daily Herald has been informed that the initial lease agreement for the present Parliament building was for $96,000. However, when the lease was renewed it was for $79,000.
Peterson said his comments had been in reaction to comments made by Marlin, who he said had questioned how this costly project would be financed. He said he understood why his statements were not well received.
“One of the main factors SCMP’s leadership took into consideration when deciding to join the United Democrats was the fact that they had decided to accept the Trust Fund money in order to start the rebuilding of St. Maarten and to assist the people.
“[Peterson] is very aware that the Trust Fund money is particularly designated for projects which have to do with reconstruction and resilience post-[Hurricane] Irma as well as social projects to assist the unemployed persons in the tourism sector, and the employee training programme currently being executed at the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) since Irma,” it was stated in the release.
Dutch MP Ronald van Raak has also expressed concerns about Peterson’s remarks. Van Raak has requested that State Secretary of Interior and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops give assurances that the Trust Fund that was “meant to restore the infrastructure, repair people’s houses and fight poverty” is not used for a lavish futuristic building or for parliamentarians to give themselves an “expensive and luxurious gift.”
Peterson: “Like Van Raak and members of the community who are concerned about my comments, my priority since assuming the position of MP has been and remains ensuring that all the people whose roofs have not yet been repaired post-Hurricane Irma can still get their roofs repaired and receive financial support they need.
“I also want to see that our schools and shelters be made hurricane-resistant, our sports facilities restored and improved, as well as the capacity of our civil service strengthened, among other things.
“I have also been critical of the slow pace of the reconstruction process with the World Bank, but I remain committed to see the Trust Fund benefit our people and the island. While I commend Mr. Richardson for his elaborate concept, I cannot support such a grandiose structure surrounding the new Parliament building and would not want to use funds earmarked for the relief for our people to build it.”
Peterson said that while there is a need for a new Parliament Building, improved public parking in Philipsburg and even a park for residents and visitors adding some greenery in the island’s capital, the main focus should be to get out of that huge monthly rent presently being paid by taxpayers.
Peterson apologised to the public for “any confusion” his comments may have caused.