PHILIPSBURG:National Alliance Leader and Member of Parliament (MP) Silveria Jacobs, in a radio interview on Viewpoint on PJD3 with host Wendell Moore this past week, shared with the public that an official letter was sent to the Minister of Education Culture Youth and Sport (ECYS) Wycliff Smith, about a week ago concerning the status of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library (PJL).
Taking note of some details Minister Smith reported at the December 12th, 2018 Council of Ministers (CoM) press briefing, the PJL is said to be deemed “unsafe” and therefore the decision was taken by the Philipsburg Library Foundation (PLF), the overseer of the PJL to close the doors of the library until further notice. Smith made mention that the Library is subsidized by the Government of St Maarten with an annual financial support of ANG 1,907,000.00. In addition, Government covers the insurance premium for the PJL in the amount of ANG 1,400,000.00 for the building and ANG 664,000.00 for the content.
The claim however for damages sustained by Hurricane Irma came in at ANG 551,707.00. The latter figures seems low to Government and as such, has hired an external adjuster to re-assess the building.
After receiving a tour of the PJL from the Project manager Piet Lucas and speaking with several board members, MP Jacobs expressed concern that the library being closed will hamper educational accessibility for those who need it the most, especially those children who do not have access to E-learning or books in the home.
MP Jacobs stated, “I highly believe the community should get more involved, being that the library has not received any initial funds from the World Bank and seemingly is not listed as a recipient from same. Furthermore, if you are not giving a child a broad base experience, you are indeed robbing that child”. “In addition, last year when I was Minister, we agreed and had subsidized institutions on the priority list for funds from the World Bank,”Jacobs further stated. MP Jacobs commends Laser 101 for its recent radio-thon and the public for supporting to raise a substantial amount to assist the PJL to get closer to the financing needed to rebuild.
The letter to the Minister further questions what assistance is being granted by Government for the PJL to have a temporary location, prioritizing and facilitating its rebuilding as well ensuring there is some continuity in the very needed services of the library.
The recent financial woes of the Sint Maarten University (USM) also is a cause for concern for MP Jacobs. The financial reporting to government along with a signed MOU where USM received three million guilders recently, to now learn of reports that funds are running out is quite alarming. Jacobs also queries whether the USM lived up to the agreements of the MOU with government including following recommendations of the SOAB? Has management and operations of the University been improved? An official request from MP Jacobs will be sent to the Minister of ECYS concerning USM soonest.
Ministers on ‘Break’
When asked about the Government being on a ‘break’, MP Jacobs responded that not everyone can go on vacation at the same time, there must be a majority in Government to take decisions and have continuity. These concerns were expressed in a press release on December 7, 2018 in the Herald and was happy to hear that the Prime Minister responded and addressed the situation.
MP Jacobs stated, “If it has been addressed and government is functioning, I’m very happy to hear that.”
Rules of Order and Council of Advice
In responding to a question asked in the interview pertaining to MP Jacobs satisfaction with how meetings are being held/called in parliament, Jacobs claimed to be wholly dissatisfied. According to MP Jacobs the calling of urgent meeting has come to the forefront and become an issue hampering MPs from performing their duties to their full capabilities. At the same time, urgent meeting not being called in a timely manner is hindering the MPs from holding Minister accountable. A debate in parliament will be soon called on the rules of order and the Parliament has also asked the Council of Advice for advice on the issue. The hope is to come to a consensus to better service the people of Sint Maarten. This is why we have found it important to have press conferences to express the internal happenings within parliament, as well as bring awareness of the issues we are trying to raise via all means possible.
Jacobs said it is of keen importance that the people understand that we as opposition have been giving quorum to hold meetings to discuss laws brought by Government as well as other important meetings. While representing the people, our rights as parliamentarians are being thwarted and as a result, we have had to leave the meeting in order to not allow injustice to prevail.
The upcoming budget debates was also on the table of discussion in the radio interview. MP Jacobs made it clear that she was ‘greatly’ excited about the budget debate, seeing it is one of the biggest debates in parliament which sets the tone for the following year. It is the law by which government is authorized to execute its policies and its the basis upon which we must hold them accountable. A key point to mention is that the CFT advice saying is one thing, and the Council of Advice is saying another, however the government responses are not taking these advices into consideration which has also led to the postponement of the debate. MP Jacobs said, “Indeed, this is going to be a very interesting debate.”