DP Party’s Press conference September 1, 2009, Statement by DP leader, Sarah Wescot-Williams


1. The Island Council meeting of August 13, continued on August 20th and finished on August 31 on the topic of corporate governance. This is the same meeting the NA/Heyliger government continues to accuse the DP of stalling, when they were the ones who adjourned the meeting for a week to begin with, and nobody made a peep.


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In our opinion even in the answering, the government was not only vague, but also unprepared.

Questions not satisfactorily answered, were in particular the ones regarding the differences in statutes of government-owned holding companies. Why do the Telecom Holding amendments come to the island council and the other holdings (Airport and Harbor) not?

In addition, I have submitted the following questions again, now in writing to the Executive Council:

Have the articles of incorporation of all government-owned companies and foundations been amended to include the stipulated adherence to the rules of corporate governance, as ratified by the island council?

If not, which government-owned companies and foundations are still to have their statutes amended?

Can the island council receive a complete set of the actualized articles of incorporation of all government-owned companies and foundations?

When was the last time the companies and foundations of government submitted their annual reports to the shareholder? Can we get an overview of the status of these reports?

Where do matters stand currently with respect to the government-owned company SLAC and the review of the fees as requested by the marine trade industry?

Can the Executive Council inform the island council as to the position of the Kingdom government with respect to the agreement between them and the island government of Sint Maarten regarding corporate governance and the decision of the island council of May 11, 2009 pertaining thereto?

How far did the executive council get with the "enviro fund" legislation , which allegedly is at the Legal Affairs department? Can the island council be provided with a copy of this draft legislation, which according to a statement by the executive council on July 9th was "in the completion phase, but needed some fine tuning"?

Other pending matters relating to corporate governance include appointment of directors; reporting to the shareholder; procedures for hiring external advisors; guidelines for bidding; guidelines concerning appointment and scope of services provided by external auditors; standard reporting formats etc.

In how far have these matters been incorporated in the "Code", and if such is not the case, when can the island council expect to receive aforementioned proposals?

The attitude of this government is clearly not conducive to working with the island council and by extension the opposition, in the interest of all the people. Their actions in the island council are indications of this fact.

The DP is still waiting to hear the outcome of the economic stimulus package.

We want to sit with this government and discuss the way forward for our island in these dire economic times.

I think this is the time, ahead of any discussion on a new fiscal framework for government to come to the table and discuss some type of tax relief for the community. The tax relief I am thinking of is a reduction in the surcharge on income and profit tax.

I believe the local government can now also make a serious pitch for reduction of the TOT, given the transfer of responsibilities from the central government and the budgetary windfall the central government experienced.

Again I stress, that most importantly is to be able to sit with government and discuss the feasibility of these options in a serious way; look at the economic and financial implications. Is the government prepared to give up a portion of its income to booster the overall economy by increasing the purchasing power of the residents? That’s the question that needs to be answered.

What is government willing to carry a deficit for? A reduction in tax income that will however benefit the entire population?

I am also patiently awaiting government’s action on the draft ordinances for country St. Maarten that can be made to go into effect as of now.

The process to indentify these ordinances from among the draft organic laws for country St. Maarten started before I left office and as I indicated from day one, I will continue to pursue this matter.

Again, it’s not about sounding off on popular things, but since I had started the process and the NA/Heyliger government said they would pick it up, now people are expecting action.

So this is to let government know that if they inform us how far they are with e.g. the Ombudsman; the new electoral law; ordinance on transparency in govt.; integrity in government; registration and financing of political parties, code of conduct, we would see no need to run ahead of government and bring these to the fore. But if they don’t, we will. Mind you, these draft laws are ready and have been for a while.

And of course, government’s reaction will be: "Why didn’t you do it then?" And my answer will be: "Had you let me, I would have had."

We hear of the Tourism commissioner presenting a plan for St. Maarten, which he labeled "his" vision. The question is: what vision is this? We have received no government program and what we see is this government carrying out the plans and programs of the Democratic Party.

The NA/Heyliger government is slowly coming to the realization that it is one thing to sit on the sidelines and say how they would do things if in government, it’s a horse of a different color when you are in government and have to perform. As government slowly winds out of their opposition role, they are faced with this fact.

It is good to see that in some cases, common sense is prevailing. It is clear that when the NA/Government announced that compulsory education would go fully into effect by August 2009, they had no clue what they were talking about. Today we see that this NA/Heyliger government is carrying out the plans of the DP administration to phase in compulsory education, starting this year with 4-6 year olds.

This plan was being meticulously worked on since July of last year; the ordinance guiding this process was developed and registration started back in January 2009.

Dollarization Congress

I wish to go back to the dollarization congress of last week and quote from one of our daily papers the following: "One detail that emerged during the panel discussions, which some considered shocking, is that the St. Maarten workforce consists of 85 percent foreign labor."

This matter haunted me too and needs to be put into perspective. I believe that if this quote as correct, we might as well close up shop and go home, indeed. This particular statistic I presume is a reference to the labor market classification of persons working on St. Maarten, not born in the Dutch Kingdom. This is not the same as "foreign workers".

Permanent Commission for Constitutional Affairs (PCCA)

I have requested Comm. W. Marlin to convene a meeting of the steering group of the PCCA to get the constitutional process back on track. Why not request a meeting of the PCCA, you might ask? The technicality with this is that the PCCA is chaired by the political leader of the largest(!) political grouping. That was me up to June of this year.

The only response thus far is an answer from the chairman of the Executive Council, acknowledging receipt of my letter and informing me that it has been sent to members of the Executive Council for handling and answering.

Decision by Central Government to hold parliamentary elections, as announced last week.

This matter was decided on in the political meeting of the Kingdom on June 24th last. Postponement of parliamentary elections should have been seen in conjunction with the transition date of the new country status.

The central government on the basis of this decision commissioned a report that then was the basis for the central government submitting a draft law to postpone elections to the Council of Advice.

Immediately upon receipt of the advice, the Central government announced that they will not submit their own draft law to postpone the parliamentary elections to the Parliament.

The decent thing to do in our opinion would have been to await the September meeting in which a date for country status must be decided on and then deal with the matter of postponement or not of elections.

"Something isn’t kosher here."