Island Opinions

Island Opinions (726)

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - I listened to all of you wonderful people on your radio station tonight making me the "bad guy" and turning Rolando Brison into the poor victim. More power to all of you.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - As the word state is not applicable to the Sint Maarten context permit me to use the word “government” instead.

The Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) believes that neither the church nor the government should have any form of institutional control over each other. In other words, government should not dictate what the church should do, neither should the church dictate what the government must do. Of course, the church, like any other institution in society, must be subjected to the laws of the land.

We cannot deny the fact that, over the years, the church, as an institution, has played a major role in the development of Sint Maarten. The Roman Catholic and Methodist churches started education in Sint Maarten. It was the Roman Catholic Church that pioneered health care and care for the elderly with the establishment of the St. Rose Hospital and the Sweet Repose respectively. The Adventist church has also contributed to a more health conscious society with its health care and nutrition programs. Churches with food programs and soup kitchens mitigate a social need in our community. The Methodist Boys and Girls brigades as well as the Adventist Pathfinders, have done tremendous work in preparing our youth to be valuable, God fearing citizens in our society. It is clear that the church has played and still plays a significant role in our society and as such the relationship between government and church is considered inseparable but distinct, a phrase coined by the late PM of Jamaica, the honorable Michael Manley.

The Sint Maarten Christian Party is definitely not a church. It is a duly established political party, with the intention to govern according to Christian principles such as respect for others, accountability, honesty, integrity, transparency, respect, compassion, etc. This is what the word Christian in the name of the party stands for.

The SMCP is of the opinion that it is not possible to separate God and Government. One just needs to take a look at the opening statement of the Constitution of Sint Maarten which reads: “We the people of Sint Maarten [confirm] that we recognize the guiding principles of Almighty God as the core of our values”. In other words, the values that the people of Sint Maarten hold dear are based on Godly or Christian principles. So there should not be a problem with the SMCP going into Government with its sole objective being to govern the country based on the same Christian principles and core values that are anchored in our constitution and which the people of Sint Maarten hold so dearly?

It is impossible to rule God out of government when the concept of God is entrenched in so many ways in our governmental system, starting with our constitution. On the sides of our one and five guilder coins we have the inscription “God is with us”. Parliamentarians, ministers and government officials, when taking the oath of office, can choose between making a promise and saying the words “So help me God, Almighty”. Did you know that blasphemy is still punishable by law in our penal code? The Sint Maarten government has decreed five ecumenical services per year and it also happens frequently that Government calls on the clergy to pronounce a blessing at groundbreaking events, inauguration of government projects and the like. One of our current parliamentarians always begins her deliberations in parliament with the words “To God be the glory!” From these observations we can conclude that it is very difficult to separate God from Government.

We must also bear in mind that most of our elected and appointed officials have a Christian upbringing and as such their decision making is often influenced by their Christian values and belief system. The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May who is a devoted Anglican, puts it this way: “My faith is part of me, part of who I am and how I approach things”. In other words, her governing the UK is guided and influenced by her faith in God. Unfortunately, many of our elected and appointed officials seem to put aside their Christian principles and values the moment they get in office. Principles and values such as honesty, integrity, transparency, caring for others etc. are soon forgotten and replaced with dishonesty, greed, wheeling and dealing, bribes, self-enrichment and the like. Even doing “the honorable thing” is no longer considered the honorable thing to do. This is why we have so many ship jumpers and government falls because parliamentarians in conflict situations no longer do the honorable thing. Even though most people in Sint Maarten are not frequent church goers they still believe in God. They still value Godly or Christian principles and they still expect that the people who they elect to parliament to represent them would govern the country according to these Christian principles as well. In conclusion, it is possible to separate the institution called the church from the institution of government but it is impossible to separate God from government.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - While certain parties are claiming that they accomplish things, the only things that they actually accomplished were UPP initiated projects. Recently a solution was offered to contain the fires at the dump at a reasonable price.

While Minister Lee was open to the solution, Prime Minister Marlin was dragging his feet and is holding off the solution that actually tackles the very costly fires at the dump which are damaging to our citizens’ health”, Member of Parliament Frankie Meyers said.

Referring to a Class-A foam that has been proven effective on many deep-seated Class-A firessuch as tire fires, paper fires, coal fires, structure fires, and wild firesMP Meyers continued: “The product does not destroy or retard new greenery growth, and will not harm fish or wildlife; it is biodegradable in soils, aquatic ecosystems, and sewage treatment facilities.

This product provides excellent penetrating, wetting, cooling and blanketing characteristics. In a 0.1% to 1.0% solution, this Class A foam can be applied using a variety of methods including portable discharge devices, compressed air foam systems or aerial drops.

“To explain a little more about the product in question, some of the firefighting mechanisms in effect when using this product are: reduction of the surface tension of water, which provides the product with superior wetting and penetrating characteristics, this renders Class A fuels less combustible and allows the product to penetrate past the char to control deep seated fires; extended drain time provides longer surface wetting, reducing the risk of ignition/re-ignition.

Also, the product creates a foam blanket which provides an insulating barrier between the fuel and air. This Class-A foam suppresses combustible vapors while cooling the fuel and the brilliant white foam reflects heat.

“It is beyond my comprehension that when literally the entire island is screaming for a solution to the fires on the dump, someone can just ignore a solution that is offered on a silver platter.

It is high time that PM William Marlin gets of his high horse and embraces a solution to the many dump fires.” MP Meyers concluded: “Not because election is near and someone can’t take credit for the solution to the disasters on the dump, it should be ignored. It is clear that this NA-led Government doesn’t care about the people.

My advice: Jump over your shadow and accomplish the containing of fires on the dump.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On the front page of The Daily Herald of Saturday, August 13, 2016 we see a Member of Parliament with a criminal conviction (sure, his case is still in appeal) broadly smiling as the Minister of TEATT (the Ministry assigned to this “upstanding” MP when the Coalition of 8 was formed some months ago) signs a one year Employment contract with Rolando Brison, a young St. Maarten professional, who, as per his own admittance in writing, embezzled a substantial amount of money from the Government owned airline WINAIR, one of his previous employers.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce (COCI) has taken note of the elucidation presented through a local radio program by the honorable Prime Minister of St. Maarten regarding the acquisition of a parcel of land by COCI.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - A recent letter by an MP in your Saturday publication drew our interest.

The board of the United St. Maarten Party (USP) has a simple message it would like to share with the people of St. Maarten as it pertains to leadership and the role of Members of Parliament. It is noteworthy that a political party has included MP’s on their list who only underscore the party’s lack of leadership by clearly demonstrating that they too do not understand the expectations of their constituents.

Every MP, we are sure, understand the importance of the so-called “arms-length” approach when it comes to Ministers being given the space to execute their tasks. Every citizen however, also expects their MP’s to ensure that assurances given to the public are honored. This means simply that MP’s, who are elected by the people to improve their quality of life, must ensure that Ministers are fulfilling the mandate given to the MP’s by the people. It’s called leadership, not political intervention as the MP recently wrote.

Leadership in our system is not defined as getting elected to Parliament, appointing Ministers, and then never ensuring that the people are truly taken care of. An MP that prefers to quote regulations and use that as an excuse as to why the people’s business isn’t being taken care of, does not understand his or her role as an MP to always put people first. After a while, the only thing that comes from talking is sound. There will be point when the people expect you and the Ministers that are appointed by you, to act.

Taking veiled political jabs is one thing, but implying that police officers are politically impressionable and corruptible is quite another. You are definitely not a leader if you casually imply that any of our civil servants, in particular those in law enforcement, can’t execute their jobs effectively and in an unbiased manner if they know a particular MP and Minister with affiliation to a particular party has made sure that a promise made to them, is a promise kept. This is an insult to the men and women in blue.

Moreover, for an MP to state that “each citizen has the right to have confidence in law enforcement, knowing that it should be impartial and fair” is tantamount to telling citizens that if their party affiliation is different, they cannot trust a police officer to act on their behalf if the police officer and their colleagues receives the tools they need to fight crime from a Minister associated with a particular party. This is an extremely dangerous and irresponsible statement for an MP to make.

The MP continued by stating: “Once that stigma of politics is placed or the affiliation with a political party, then that confidence is broken and Lady Justice no longer wears that role of applying equal justice to all.” Now we are very aware that the MP has some challenges keeping her word, which is definitely not her bond, but we are very confident that our police officers do not see political colors when they put their lives on the line every day. They deserve more respect than having an MP put to question their professionalism.

Officers were denied of their rightful positions for quite some time under the party the MP now represents. The USP assumed responsibility for the Ministry of Justice in February of this year and boldly said enough was enough. Let’s take care of our people. There is more work to be done, but we have delivered. We stepped in and didn’t look at anyone’s names or party color. We looked at the fact that they are our people who risk their lives for us every day.

Instead of congratulating the officers, the MP thought it more important to grind a political ax and decorate it in concerns for "separation of powers". The MP and the party she represents clearly prioritizes vindictive practices, politics, then people……in that order.

It is even more ironic that the MP would speak about “political influence” when the same MP is famous for vehemently defending the Minister she was responsible for in the not too distant past, as if she was actually sitting in the Minister’s chair. When you lack leadership or leadership skills and folks already know your “word” is meaningless, you need to be careful not to add “hypocrite” to the laundry list of descriptions.

By Sir Ronald Sanders – CNS Contributor

WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has tormented small Caribbean economies for five decades with austerity measures and fierce conditionalities, has been exposed as adopting utterly different standards towards Europe, especially the countries of the European Currency Union.   That is except for Greece which, throughout its economic crisis, the IMF treated like a third-world country.

According to a report, published on 28th July by the IMF’s watchdog, the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), the Fund’s top staff worked in cahoots with the European Commission and the European Central Bank to misrepresent the situation in Greece to their own Executive Board; laboured diligently to protect the Eurozone in the interests of its larger members, such as France and Germany (which, incidentally, are also the main controllers of the IMF); and punished Greece with the burden of alone carrying the cost of a bailout – something that had not been done to any other European Union country.

In a revealing and telling sentence in the executive summary of its report, the IEO declared that: “In general, the IMF shared the widely-held “Europe is different” mindset that encouraged the view that large imbalances in national current accounts were little cause for concern and that sudden stops could not happen within the euro area”.  The report, “The IMF and the crises in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal: an evaluation by the independent evaluation office” can be read at:  http://www.ieo-imf.org/ieo/files/completedevaluations/EAC__REPORT%20v5.PDF and it is strongly recommended that officers of all Finance Ministries and Central Banks in the Caribbean should read it.

The authors of the report stated unequivocally that: “The IMF’s handling of the euro area crisis raised issues of accountability and transparency, which helped create the perception that the IMF treated Europe differently. Conducting this evaluation proved challenging. Some documents on sensitive issues were prepared outside the regular, established channels” and either disappeared or were not made available to the Evaluation Team.

The principal reason for handling the financial crisis in Greece differently was primarily to protect the Eurozone at the insistence of the European Commission which negotiated on behalf of the Eurogroup, subjecting IMF staff’s technical judgments “to political pressure from an early stage”.  As a result of this, in May 2010, the IMF Executive Board approved a decision to provide exceptional access financing to Greece “without seeking pre-emptive debt restructuring, even though its sovereign debt was not deemed sustainable with a high probability”.   The truth is that the actions in relation to Greece (hidden from the Executive Board by the management) were designed to make French and German banks ‘whole’; never mind what Greece was forced to endure.  In other words, Greece was ‘sucker punched’ or, ‘fiscally water-boarded’ to use the more emotive description of the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (now Professor of Economics at the University of Athens).

In a robust response to the IEO report, Varoufakis observed that: “The establishment press were claiming that a finance minister of a small, bankrupt nation which is being water-boarded by the high and mighty troika functionaries cannot afford to say, in public or in private, that his small, bankrupt nation was being water-boarded”.  But, he said Greece had “tried silence and obedience from 2010 to 2014. The result? A loss of 28% of national income and grapes of wrath that were “…filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage”.

Of course, Greece, though a small European economy, is significantly larger than the small economies of the Caribbean.  When Finance Ministers of small Caribbean countries complain about the conditionalites of IMF programmes that hurt more than help, as Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne did in August 2014, they are roundly criticised for their audacity.  Browne had remarked about the IMF strait-jacket that his government inherited when it was voted into office: “The fiscal problems have not been resolved, but yet still we are being asked to pay back US$119 million over the next four years. We have to pay back even before the problem is solved”.  And, small economies have no capacity to stand-up to the IMF and those who control it.  Greece proved that point and is now struggling as a result.

Varoufakis feels that Greece is owed an apology and officials of the IMF should be fired now that the IEO has exposed duplicity – even conspiracy – in the way the country was treated by the IMF, including – and especially – not being granted any significant debt relief, through a debt write-down or a reduction in the sum of the debt, while having an austerity programme stuffed down its throat.  But, he is realistic enough to say:  Is any of this going to happen? Or will the IMF’s IEO report light up the sky fleetingly, to be forgotten soon? The omens are pointing to the latter”.

Concern about the findings of the IEO report, particularly the obvious political interference in the IMF’s processes by the European Union and the European Central Bank, has evoked editorial comment from leading financial publications.   For instance, the UK Financial Times newspaper editorialised on 28 July about “Europe’s outsized influence over the governance of the IMF” and expressed the view that such influence “must continue to decline if the institution is to retain credibility”.

But, the reality is that recent reforms in the voting power of the IMF still leave the European governments with enormous and undeserved power.  As the Financial Times observed, rather belatedly (and perhaps with an eye to yet another unthought-of consequence of Brexit): “The EU has also yet to demonstrate that it has abandoned the traditional stitch-up by which it, in effect, appoints the head of the IMF”.   The United States of America (US) aids and abets the EU in its imposition of the IMF chief in return for the right to name the President of the World Bank.  Between them, they operate a cabal of control of the international financial system.

The IEO report is a valuable document.  Developing countries, including those in the Caribbean, should not allow its findings “to run through our leaders’ fingers like thin, white sand” as the former Greek Finance Minister vividly put it.  Instead, it should be used as a beacon to shine a bright light on the dark crannies of an organisation that was created to help countries out of dire fiscal straits, but whose prescriptions result in hurting more than it helps, except when the interests of its controllers are affected.

At the World Bank/IMF meeting this autumn, the IEO report should be prominent among the items that Finance Ministers emphasize.  It should become a tool for the re-examination of IMF policies and more considered discussion of the many governance issues, highlighted in the report and which, in the interests of all, have to be addressed effectively.

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.  The views expressed are his own)

By David Jessop – CNS Contributor

LONDON – As has been widely reported, Cuba has entered a new period of austerity.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - This September when you go to the polls you will not be electing ministers. Neither will you be electing a Prime Minister. Instead, the people of Sint Maarten will be voting in fifteen persons to represent them in Parliament.

What is the job of these fifteen representatives? We must be aware that parliamentarians are not elected to office to build bridges, construct schools or design hospitals. They are not in parliament to negotiate contracts or to execute projects. This is the job of a minister or the Council of Ministers. They are the ones to execute plans, programs and projects.

It is the minister who, through his or her ministry can help that mother who needs assistance for her sick child. It is the minister who can give instructions to help out that senior citizen who is unable to make ends meet and who needs social assistance.

The job of the parliamentarian is different. Parliamentarians legislate. They draft, amend and approve laws in the benefit of the people and the country. For example, they can pass a law that allows the minister to give financial assistance to that mother with her sick child. Or they can pass a law to increase the old age pension of that senior citizen who cannot make ends meet. So when politicians promise you an increase in salary, or a job or materials to build your house they are fooling you. It means that they do not know their job or function as a parliamentarian and that they are not yet prepared or ready for you to vote them into parliament.

The job of a parliamentarian is very clearly outlined in the law. Parliamentarians are there to draft or amend laws. They are there to monitor, control and investigate the work of a minister or of the Council of Ministers. Parliamentarians also play a major role in the selection of the ministers and when parliament loses confidence in a minister, the minister in question must leave office. So popularly speaking, parliament hires and fires the ministers.

Another major function of a parliamentarian is to approve and amend the annual budget of country Sint Maarten. Hence when you see that parliamentarians have no questions concerning the budget or walk out when it comes time to approve the budget, then you know that those parliamentarians do not know their job and that they are not ready to carry out the duties and bear the responsibilities of being a parliamentarian. It seems like they are only willing to enjoy the high salary and the perks of travel, high travel allowances and so on.

Parliamentarians are paid a full time salary but are still able to keep their second job or side jobs. It is no wonder that they cannot give all of their time and full attention to representing the people who elected them. Sint Maarten parliamentarians are the highest paid in the kingdom but produce the least work of all. Look how many laws were drafted, amended and approved last year. According to the 2014-2015 Annual Report of Parliament only one amendment was submitted and passed in 2015. The year before, not one law was submitted. According to the 2014 report Parliament only initiated three laws and not one of them was approved and passed. Here we have fifteen highly paid elected officials and together they cannot even initiate a draft law that can pass. This is an indictment against such a high salaried elected body. The question to ask here is; are our people getting their money’s worth from the people they placed in parliament? Several integrity reports have been written about the malfunctioning of our parliament yet these reports have never been debated on the floor of parliament.

It is a misconception that parliament is the highest body in the country. The highest body is really the people of Sint Maarten who elect the parliament. In simple terms it means that the people hire and therefore can also fire parliament by voting them out of office. This election is not about voting for ministers. It is about electing parliamentarians who then will appoint the ministers to execute the work on behalf of the people of Sint Maarten. If you want to have a good functioning Council of Ministers then you must first elect good parliamentarians who understand that their job is to legislate and not to execute. So be wary of all the promises that politicians are making during this campaign because you are voting for a parliamentarian and not for a minister.

Wycliffe Smith​

Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On behalf of the board and members of the DP, my family and myself, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the late Chantal Ringeling.

St. Maarten has lost a dedicated educator, one who showed her love for children within and outside of the school walls.

Her service to country, through her beloved Lions Club will long be remembered.

She fought a brave and valiant fight against cancer, but lost in the end.

We pray that her family will find peace and strength during this difficult time. May her soul rest in peace.

Sleep softly, Chantal.

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