MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten at PJIA with the equipment in the background.
PHILIPSBURG--United People’s (UP) party faction leader Grisha Heyliger-Marten wants government to give preference to local contractors and companies for construction projects in the country.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Heyliger-Marten asked whether the mistakes of the past would be repeated whereby foreign contractors are allowed to bring in their own heavy equipment despite local companies owning the same types of machines.
“I am calling on the ministers of government responsible for these projects to ensure that this time around the people of St. Maarten are protected. Contractors who have the equipment to do the work on these projects must be selected first.”
She used the crane used on the roof repairs for Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 that she alleged had been imported “by outside contractor” as an example. “It is still sitting outside the airport arrival hall and it would be interesting to know if the company is paying rental fees to the airport for remaining there,” said Heyliger-Marten.
She will be sending a list of questions to the relevant government ministers seeking clarity on the existence of the crane parked outside PJIA’s arrival hall. Amongst the questions she will pose are: “Why is this crane here? Who owns this crane? Are they paying rent to store it at the airport? Why wasn’t a local crane used? Was a local crane company even asked?”
“Our people have the equipment and skills to do the work and should not be overlooked,” she said.
The MP also intends to seek clarity on government’s policy on protecting the local workforce in general. Of particular and urgent interest is the government’s policy on protecting local construction companies and ensuring they get first preference in projects such as the second and third phase reconstruction of PJIA and the construction of the new St. Maarten General Hospital.
“The airport and hospital are local-owned companies that receive substantial revenues from government and should respect our locals. Put our people and our companies to work first before going abroad,” she said.
“My husband, and former Member of Parliament Theodore Heyliger fought for years to protect the local entrepreneurs and contractors who invested their hard-earned money in purchasing heavy equipment. … And today I am standing with them, and I encourage them as local contractors to get together and demand that they get work first, especially in these projects.”
Heyliger-Marten said she had visited the airport recently to see the first set of heavy equipment sent to the job site that has been here for more than 20 months.
“As a Member of Parliament elected by the people of St. Maarten, I cannot stand by and watch as our people get overlooked. These local business owners invested their hard-earned money in building their companies. They pay taxes here and yet when there is a major opportunity for them to reap the rewards, they are refused the opportunity to earn a living,” she said.