UP MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten
PHILIPSBURG--United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Grisha Heyliger-Marten said on Friday that communication and cohesive efforts by the coalition leave a lot to be desired as St. Maarten is in a fight to keep its residents safe from the coronavirus COVID-19.
She stressed that once the new Council of Ministers is sworn in, this lack of communication and cohesiveness must be remedied to yield effective governing that the people of St. Maarten expect in these uncertain and crisis-driven times.
“Communication cannot be underestimated in these times when people expect answers from their representatives,” she said in a press statement.
Heyliger-Marten said she is not in agreement and not satisfied with decisions being made by the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion as it relates to COVID-19, in particular as coalition partners have yet to be apprised about the stimulus package that has somehow made its way into the public domain.
“A stimulus package that is obviously lacking in a lot,” she said. “Almost three years after [Hurricane – Ed.] Irma, a plan should be in place that can be put into action to counter sudden outside shocks to our economy. A roundtable session is necessary with our partners such as the SHTA [St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association] which represents so many hotels and businesses, our taxi associations, Chamber of Commerce and the banks. Community representation should also be included so our people are heard from.”
She said she is particularly concerned about health care in the face of the coronavirus. She said while the EOC consists of important players in managing infrastructure and emergency response, professional health care and advice are not presence in the EOC.
“Are we not listening to doctors? Are there any doctors in the EOC? Are medical professionals being heard?” she asked. “The impression from the doctors and medical professionals I’ve spoken to is that there are still too many people in frontline service exposed to the virus. We are acting as if we have endless resources.”
The bottom line, she stressed, is to “remove as many of our people out of harm’s way, because government cannot raise the dead. And let’s get a realistic and sound plan for economic recovery, because the economy is something we can influence and control.”
She said two coalition meetings since being sworn in is unacceptable and that this will change once the new Council of Ministers (COM) is sworn in. She added that the incoming COM will also understand that they answer to Parliament and Parliament answers to the people. “Communicate with us so that we can communicate with the people. We will have four years to get this right, so communication is key.”
Heyliger-Marten explained that a coalition meeting had been held on Friday and she recommended that moving forward these meetings should be held twice a week.
“We have to structure these meetings in order to have a holistic approach to the country’s economy and health care in the midst of a pandemic. People need to know that their government is planning properly and cohesively. I have said from the beginning I am not a ‘ja-knikker’ [yes-man]. Information must flow in a timely manner in order for informed decisions to be made.
“We’ve been in government for 1½ months now. I’m not the type to boast or act like a know-it-all. I came in humble as a novice, open to learn and gain experience. The reason I was quiet is because information was not forthcoming to me from any source. Live sessions on Facebook and interviews are conducted divulging information much to the surprise of many, and definitely without input. This is not the way.
“I need the people of St. Maarten to know that I’m simply doing my job as an MP. If COM cannot justify why they made a particular decision, I won’t be playing politics and rubber-stamping anything. My one request to the incoming COM is that communication should be clear and consistent. I will inform the people accordingly, since they are my boss. We answer to St. Maarten.”