(AUDIO AVAILABLE)Press conference
August 11, 2009
The objective of the Democratic Party for calling for a meeting of the island council has been partially met.
The objective of the DP was for the government to "come clean" on the issue of the foreign work permit policy. The request by the Democratic Party prompted the government to hastily call a tripartite meeting on Sunday, August 9th.
There is no way that the NA/Heyliger executive council can make the public and the DP believe that the anonymous " proposal" which was presented during the island council meeting on Monday, suggesting changes to the work permit policy, is an official position of the NA/Heyliger executive council, ratified in a meeting of the Executive Council.
This is a paper rushed because of the DP’s insistence that the government needed to "come clean". Neither are we convinced, in fact, it is highly doubtful that the tripartite committee was consulted on this particular proposal dated August 9th.
It is an insult to the tripartite members who since 2007 have been in consultation with government about labor matters, to now hear from the Commissioner of labor that "there was no tripartite committee".
The NA/Heyliger executive council needs to prove that:
1) This proposal has been adopted by the Executive Council and the question would be when did this happen? Sunday night?
2) That true consultation took place with the tripartite committee; ramming something down the throats of the tripartite members is not consultation and if left unchallenged, the tripartite members too will carry the responsibility for this "proposal."
And so my questions regarding this "proposal" remain:
Who drafted this proposal and for whom is it meant?
Where are the decisions taken by the tripartite committee on August 7th and 9th
Who else has been consulted on this "proposal"?
What is the budgetary impact of the changes to the work permit policy?
Where I also believe that our objectives for the meeting have further been met, is the expressed intention -and I say this with some caution- of the NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition to address several issues of the work permit policy that we wanted addressed, hence our motion, going back to the meeting of July 14th last.
The issues we felt and feel need to be amended in the work permit policy of PS 2008 # 37 are:
· Advertising of vacancies
· Grace period
· Director’s license
· Dispensation age limits
If I compare this government’s announced intention in this anonymous paper of August 9th, then I conclude their intention is to:
Amend the fee structure ( albeit differently than we propose)
Adjust the moratorium list
Allow exemptions to the age limits
Housing (albeit differently than we propose)
These topics are more or less in line with the position of the Democratic party as expressed in our motion dated July 14th.
However, we categorically distance ourselves from the other proposed measures by the NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition and in particular from the following measures :
1. Discretionary application of a "quota" system.
2. Deletion of the acculturation article (and nothing to replace it)
3. Allow so-called "cherry picking"
On the other parts of this anonymous proposal, we reserve our comments until we have heard the position of the social partners and have received proof that this anonymous proposal has been ratified by the NA/Heyliger executive council and when it was ratified. (We believe it was not ratified by the executive council when it was presented to the island council.)
Ratified or not, the NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition is responsible for it as they presented and supported this in a meeting of the island council. All 7 members of this "coalition of convenience" have sanctioned this proposal, by not objecting to any part of it.
It is not so, like some former members of the Democratic Party would want to portray that they are/were not part of the collective decision making of the DP executive council.
Once your name is down as commissioner, whether you come to meetings or not, you have endorsed what the executive council of which you are part (active or not) has decided.
It would be just as ridiculous, if I today would distance myself from decisions taken about e.g. labor matters before I assumed that portfolio. Fact is that even before that time I was a member of the DP Executive Council and co-responsible for all decisions of that executive council. And so were all 4 of my colleagues!
Realize that this permit policy was under discussion since 2006! Draw your own conclusions.
However, the Democratic remains committed to the tenets of this policy and those are:
Expansion of employment opportunities for locals and those already residing and working on Sint Maarten;
Adequate and human treatment of all workers
A stream-lined, effective and transparent policy, conducive to smooth business operations on St. Maarten.
On the job training of locals
Advancing St. Maarten’s culture and values thru familiarization.
We of the Democratic party are committed to continue dialogue with business and labor to achieve these goals, which are to the benefit of all residents of this island.
What has not been touched by the NA/Heyliger executive council in their anonymous proposal is the matter I raised yesterday with respect to the intention declaration for persons already residing on Sint Maarten. The policy now in effect -and it will be until the government issues another resolution containing general enactments-, in article 3 establishes that with such a declaration issued by the Lt. Governor, persons already residing on St. Maarten, but not in possession of working papers, will not have to leave the island to have these papers filed. Will this be maintained?
I can not let this press conference go by, without expressing my utmost disappointment with and amazement at the level that the leader of the NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition has sunk to in addressing the island council of Sint Maarten.
Total disrespect for the people’s representatives of Sint Maarten. Total disrespect for the office he holds. And this is the new beginning…….indeed a new low has been reached and I don’t know how lower it will get.
The leader of this NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition needs to understand that he has since at least a year ago been conniving, coercing to get into government. He is there now and the people of Sint Maarten expect at least at certain level of dignity to be displayed by him and his. Not what we witnessed on Monday, a display of arrogance and lack of respect.
The DP as I said yesterday can not be wished away and surely will not be intimidated away, and it would behoove the leader of this current coalition to do some serious introspection as to how he carries out the role of leader of government and it behooves the other members of government to seriously consider whether this is the leadership they want and were promised.
The people are awaiting their answer.
In one of his very first meetings, after he had assured himself of sufficient support to form a government, the leader of the NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition warned me that he was taking off the gloves, because I had thrown the first punch at him. Is this what is manifesting itself?
Shut and go Home! The leader of government tells the DP: "Shut Up and Go home". ("peacefully" he added, as if dismissing an unruly crowd)
And Councilman George Pantophlet, like he tried on Monday, when members of government were caught having lied about the retraction of the work permit policy, can not pin this one on the press.
Questions to ponder as a result of Monday’s island council meeting:
1. To what length would the NA/Heyliger/Laveist coalition go to silence (shut-up) the opposition?
2. Who stands to lose and what do they stand to lose (whether in government or outside of government) if the labor situation, including procedures for work permits, naturalization and such become so transparent and clear that there is no need for intermediaries?
The government has announced its intention to