Jacobs: COHO concerns validated, authorities were being ‘undermined’

Jacobs: COHO concerns validated,  authorities were being ‘undermined’

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs (File photo)


PHILIPSBURG--“We have a unique opportunity to right what has been wronged,” Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said on Wednesday. She was reacting to the leaked Council of State advice on the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development COHO, which she has received, but is not allowed to share until it has gone through the process.

  Jacobs believes that concerns that existed have now been validated and indicated that the widespread availability of the leaked advice shows that the Caribbean countries had the correct notion that their authorities were being undermined with the original COHO proposal and the only way to move forward is to rectify these matters.

  “I believe that St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba have been validated and together we are stronger in coming to a consensus that can suit the islands of the Caribbean,” she said during the live virtual Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday. 

  Up until last week Friday morning, the Caribbean countries in the Kingdom had not yet received the Council of State’ s advice on the COHO. Jacobs informed Parliament, during the continuation of a meeting on the country packages on that same day – Friday – that she had just received the advice and based on the laws in the Kingdom, she is only allowed to share it with Parliament publicly and debate it once it has gone through the process and reaches the Second Chamber.

  “That process is not yet there,” she said. “We agreed to follow the trajectory to get to that process. We agreed in the four-country discussion on Thursday [last – Ed.] that we would handle it internally in terms of four governments coming together and forming a task force to prepare the process to answer the concerns and the criticisms of the Council of State.

  “It is uncanny that people would think that this is being deliberately secreted. This is part of the law. This is what happens with every law and it is a normal procedure. As such, I did not have the full picture on Friday morning.”

  The route thus far for the COHO is that the law went from the Kingdom Council of Ministers to the Council of State for advice. Once this advice is received by the government that submitted it, in this case the Netherlands, it becomes a consensus law that has to be shared with the other governments in the Kingdom. The process then starts for a review of the law based on the Council of State’s advice.

  Jacobs is still discussing with her counterparts in Aruba and Curaçao how to form the task force to start the discussion. She said it is not her responsibility that the advice was leaked in the Netherlands.

  “That this information is now widely available only highlights that the vast concerns that we have had from day one from this law are validated. That is as far as I would go as this point,” she noted. 

  “Right now, as countries we have the opportunity to sit at the table and come to a true consensus. As you know, the government of St. Maarten was the only government that put forth a counter-proposal, an entity, yes, that would monitor and support the countries in the reforms that we want [and] that we determine without the excessive powers of the entity that had been proposed.

  “This is nothing new. We have been talking about this since July of 2020, and up until December when there was absolutely no other option financially for St. Maarten, we had no choice but to agree for St. Maarten also to be taken up into that consensus law, with certain questions, with certain recommendations, with also the promise that after the Council of State’s advice, adjustments can be made. This is where we are now.”

  The country, she added, now has a unique opportunity to right what has been wronged by sitting together and ensuring that “all of the authorities that we felt were erroneous and now, based on what has been publicly put forth in the Netherlands, shows that we were right as countries that our authorities are being undermined with this original proposal and that the only way we can move forward is if these things are rectified.

  “That is the trajectory that we agreed to and that is what we will continue to follow.”

  Jacobs expressed hope that her statement had been clear and that the people of St. Maarten would not be deterred by negative statements made by “persons who would seek to undermine government.” She said government, and she in particular, has been “extremely transparent” during the entire process.

  “I received the mandate from 13 out of the 14 Members of Parliament in December to proceed with the trajectory, the trajectory to realise the COHO. We are now in that trajectory – at the juncture where government gets to have a say in the necessary changes that would mean it is acceptable to us, and we would like the opportunity to do so.”

  She stressed that Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the COHO publicly once it has been returned to or it is sent on to the Second Chamber and to the other Parliaments. “I look forward to that debate, but I am quite sure, if and when it gets there, it will be completely different from what had been sent initially.”

  She said also that the Advisory Council of St. Maarten has also rendered an advice on the COHO and a team of legal and political experts is being put together to assess the two advices and advise government moving forward.

  Jacobs will not be deterred from the path that will lead to a better St. Maarten with reforms in place that are needed and done in a manner of mutual respect and understanding, and in a situation where St. Maarten maintains the authorities it has as a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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