PHILIPSBURG--Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel will be requesting a few meetings on the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development COHO (In Dutch: “Caribisch Orgaan voor Hervorming en Ontwikkeling”) this week, and he hopes to get the support of MPs “at this very crucial time for St. Maarten and its people.”
In one of two press releases issued on Sunday, Emmanuel questioned whether Prime Minister (PM) Silveria Jacobs and her government have lost all respect for the people and Parliament of St. Maarten. Emmanuel said Jacobs has not lived up to her word to update Parliament and the people on a regular basis at the onset of coronavirus COVID-19 and claimed that Jacobs announces “almost daily that plans and programmes associated with the COHO and country packages have already commenced.”
Jacobs made clear in a press release on Thursday last, that throughout the negotiation process, she had sent all documents pertaining to St. Maarten’s country reform package to Parliament and has also kept MPs updated on a regular basis about the conditions agreed upon for the second and third tranches of liquidity support.
Emmanuel said in a press release that no Parliament meeting, other than an emergency session to give permission to sign for the COHO, or extensive press conferences have been held to discuss the contents of the country package as negotiated by government, the agreement signed, and the major consequences for the people of St. Maarten. As such, he stressed that the government has been avoiding critical questions and having to give account for its actions.
He added that the PM is now very comfortable in making broad and empty statements for the media to consume, with no care in the world about substance. “For example, and I’m quoting the prime minister: ‘We are developing our implementation strategy for the package of reforms which is to be complementary to the projects and initiatives already in place via the Trust Fund and World Bank.’
“What is this implementation strategy? What is the content of the reform packages? Which projects and initiatives already in place will they complement, and how? How will these directly benefit our people? State Secretary [for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond – Ed.] Knops has seemingly rubbed off on the prime minister with her broad open statements, with no relevant content,” Emmanuel said.
Shifting directly to coalition MPs, he said they are betraying their obligation to the country and to their voters. “People did not elect you to sit idly by and say nothing. You are Members of Parliament. Impossible you can sit by and allow yourselves to become rubber stamps. You are obligated to inform the people about changes coming to their lives – positive and especially negative. Has it been forgotten that ‘Only we can save we?’ Or was that statement a farce?” Emmanuel asked.
Emmanuel questioned the position of all MPs supporting the government, their commitment to their individual campaign platforms, assurances to the people and, more notably, the governing programme outlining their vision for St. Maarten in the current governing term. Time and effort, he said, was spent by all supporting MPs in the governing programme. “It is supposed to be your vision. What is your vision now? To sit back and throw up your hands come what may?
“None of them seem to care anymore about common courtesy with the people of St. Maarten who elected them to office. We all obviously understand that COVID-19 has dictated change in many areas. But it has not dictated that a government can leave its people or its Parliament in the dark and not explain in detail what is happening and the changes they can expect,” Emmanuel said.
In a separate release also issued on Sunday, Emmanuel said he has taken note that Jacobs and her government, along with Dutch technocrats, have side-lined Parliament and are “moving full-speed ahead” with country reforms without a legal basis to do so. He also added that Knops finally admitted that the World Bank was wrong for St. Maarten.
The legislation for the COHO, Emmanuel said, has not been debated and as such not passed. “In the meantime, press reports indicate that the prime minister and her government, as well as civil servants, are meeting with the two Dutch technocrats appointed to St. Maarten by State Secretary Knops, who together form the Temporary Working Organisation (TWO) of the BZK [Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations], awaiting the legal establishment of the COHO,” Emmanuel said.
The MP said these parties are moving ahead at a “break-neck” pace, trying to meet deadlines imposed by Knops, at the expense of the role of Parliament in the country. “What it clearly shows is that when the MPs gave the PM the permission to go ahead and sign for the COHO, the Dutch took that as a signal that the PM has full support for everything. Despite MPs stating that their permission was not a green light for everything else, that is exactly what their support is turning out to be. Because once the PM received majority support, the Dutch assumed that the same support will be there for the legislation. In other words, the same rubber stamps. I warned my colleagues about this,” Emmanuel said.
In fact, according to a government press release, ministers have gone as far as already highlighting areas of importance for which work and collaboration are immediately needed. “Parliament has not been informed what these areas are and why they were specifically chosen. We don’t know how they will affect the people or if they are contrary to existing legislation,” MP Emmanuel said.
He said the green light that MPs gave to the PM to sign for the COHO placed St. Maarten in an impossible position when it comes to objecting to any reforms the Dutch want to see put in place by the independent COHO. He explained that “Knops and his COHO” are moving ahead without care because of the articles in the COHO legislation that stipulate the consequences of non-cooperation or getting a reform initiative done in time.
“Funding will be immediately cut off. So, they do not care what Parliament says. And this attitude is being accommodated by the PM, and by extension, all MPs who gave her the go-ahead to sign,” the MP said.
He added that Knops exuded confidence in the speed of the reforms while throwing the World Bank under the bus during his recently held press conference. The same World Bank, Emmanuel said, that was chosen by the Dutch, has stagnated real development on St. Maarten for three years and has received universal critique of being an ill-chosen entity for the St. Maarten Trust Fund, etc.
“State Secretary Knops said, and I quote, ‘The COHO is not the World Bank and it has to deliver results. I want to see results because I am not a pencil pusher, I am a man of action.’ So, he admitted that the World Bank is not results-oriented and [is] slow to the task. That is an indictment of the World Bank and an incredible comparison after three years of nothing from the World Bank on St. Maarten, initiated by the Dutch. Today the prime minister is the driver of a fast-moving car, trying to make ambitious deadlines while being guided by the same person who left her people to suffer under ineffective World Bank policies, and ignoring Parliament in the process,” the MP said.
“Let’s face facts: the World Bank was not meant to work. The World Bank was used as the vessel to ensure that there was limited to no progress in the reconstruction of the island. It was a way to keep the island on a string of dependency, which has now been compounded by the pandemic, and the rest is history,” the MP said.