OPINION: I’m feeling something


TDH – Dear Editor, The final year of the parliament of country St. Maarten was ushered in with much pomp and passion. The march pass with the different civil and military groups displayed the resources available to government to protect or oppress the people, depending on what or whose political interest is being served. None the less, it was a great show of democracy and the tools at its disposal. What happened on the outside was quite impressive. I was, however, somewhat amused if not amazed about what came from within the house of parliament.

For the first time in three years I’ve heard members of the various factions, especially the one-man factions, mention words like “our people and local people.” It made me wonder where they were for the last 1,085 days, nine hours and counting. What they recognize now as the plight of the people was the same three years ago and they did absolutely nothing to alleviate or give relief to the suffering masses.

In any proper functioning democracy an unemployment rate of above ten percent is reason for concern and when unemployment among our youth reaches twenty-six percent and up it is certainly an emergency. But as it seems some of my honourable friends were and still are too occupied with the self-enrichment programme for which they erroneously believe government or elected office is designed.

As I write, I am getting information of an MP applying for a water taxi license and an auto inspection facility, following examples which abound. It looks like we intend to over saturate these two services like we did with public transportation (taxies and busses) and the overrun of jewel stores on Front Street that sell everything else and operates as a mini bar.

It was also encouraging to hear the minister of education sound the alarm for more and better controls at ports of entry, but just so she may know everything is being overwhelmed by the uncontrolled influx, not just education. As I have written before in our enthusiasm

to impress, we implemented a complementary education system without any control or restrictions, making it possible for St. Maarten to educate the drop-outs and illiterates from around the Caribbean. How they must be laughing at us! I was told by an immigration officer that there are people in this society who are making money signing for people to bring their children from wide and far, guarantying them they will get into school on St. Maarten.

As for the utterances of walking up and down the corridors of the council of ministers, it proves that after three years we still don’t understand our responsibility or the functioning of the dualistic system in which we operate. But it is very amusing that today they are ready to turn a new page and build a highway to heaven for the local people and that the local people will benefit from one fourth of their time doing nothing but collecting high salaries and building up advantage miles on American and others. That’s why I am feeling something and I know election is coming, so welcome to the contenders and pretenders. Elton Jones

William Marlin tries to set the record straight about Airport Asphalt

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TSXM – GREAT BAY – Former Vromi-Minister and National Alliance leader William Marlin defended the decision to have milled asphalt trucked from thec to the owners of private roads at no cost for the material in a statement he made last Friday on the Lloyd Richardson radio show.

“Minister Lake makes it appear as if his predecessor William Marlin did a horrible job and that everything I seemingly touched was wrong,” Marlin said in an almost nine minutes long monologue that was not interrupted by a single question. “He made it look as if I had agendas and that I signed off on things without authority or without a budget and that in the process I destroyed some local people as well.”

Marlin commented extensively on the issue of the milled asphalt that truckers removed from the airport, but he did not comment on the Foga-infrastructure project, where a contractor started executing the job while there is no budget available for it – at least, not yet.

The former minister confirms in his statement earlier claims by one of the truckers, Leroy La Paix, that the decision about the milled asphalt was more or less sabotaged by Claudius Buncamper, currently head of the infrastructure management department.

“When the recapping of the airport runway was announced we were in touch with the airport’s managing director. It was agreed that the Government of St. Maarten would get a substantial amount of the milled asphalt that they would remove from the runway. One will not use that asphalt to pave the Pondfill road or the Cole Bay Road, but it can be used to pave dirt roads in the districts,” Marlin said.

“The head of the maintenance department, (Claudius – ed.) Toontje Buncamper had to prepare a list of the roads that the government would pave with this asphalt. He also had to submit the advice to have the truckers that operate at the airport deliver the milled asphalt to the holding area – the public works yard – on Pond Island. I left office, and Toontje Buncamper never submitted the advice.”

Marlin suspects that there were powers at work beyond his control. “It was clear that they were playing their politics, stalling, so that they would have certain things ready for the new minister.”

The former minister said that he received several phone calls and was also approached by private road owners who had attempted to obtain some of the milled asphalt but that they were getting nowhere. “They asked me if I would be able to give them access to some of the material. I said, I don’t think it should be a problem.”

Marlin said that he discussed the solution he conceived for the milled asphalt with the ministry’s acting Secretary General Louis Brown. “Instead of having the government paying truckers to take the material in the night to the depot at the public works yard and then have to go out and pay a contractor to pave whatever private road – something the government has done on numerous occasions, particularly before elections – I came with the idea to give the milled asphalt to the private road owners. They would have to pay the trucker to move the asphalt from the airport to their property. Brown agreed. It is legal, there is nothing wrong with it and it can be done.”

However, in the last days Marlin was in office as a member of the second Wescot-
Williams cabinet, he said he operated by necessity on a day-to-day basis. “You never knew when the change of government was going to go into effect. In only found out officially about the swearing in of the new government on the morning of the day this happened. That is when I received a letter from the Governor’s cabinet indicating that the same afternoon the new government would be sworn in. I was not told beforehand.”

Marlin referred to the political issues that played at that particular time: he had asked the governor to dissolve the parliament and to call new elections. “The governor put the decision about the formation of a government on hold until a decision was taken about this. When we resigned, the governor took our resignation in consideration but in the meantime he asked every minister to stay and to work in the interest of St. Maarten. The governor did not say: you cannot sign resolutions, or you cannot sign contracts or permits.”

The National Alliance leader emphasized that he had “full authority and responsibility” as long as no decision was taken to replace the ministers. “Politically there may have been agreements, but constitutionally William Marlin and all the other ministers had the same rights and authority they had on the day they were sworn in. I want to make that crystal clear.”

After the meeting with Louis Brown, Marlin decided to go ahead as intended. “We contacted the property owners that had asked for the asphalt and told them the conditions. “Once you are willing to pay have the asphalt delivered, it will be at no cost. We are not selling it to you. We are giving it to you, but you have to pay for the transportation and for leveling your road. That is what happened.”

Marlin accused his successor Minister Maurice lake of “singling out one trucker as the one who illegally removed the asphalt” while there are seven different truckers working at the airport.

The former minister acknowledged that trucker La Paix approached him about the issue. “He told me he had been asked to provide the proof that he was allowed to remove the asphalt. I did not respond to his query in time, but I will do so over the weekend. He will have a copy of the letter.

Marlin also wrote a letter to Louis brown, Minister Lake and legal affairs explaining what had happened. “The government has paved private roads in the past,” he said. “We did it in parts of Dutch Quarter and all the way back in 94, we also did it in Cay Hill. What we did now was a cost saving measure for the government. That is what happened.”