Prime Minister meets with Saba, Statia Delegation

The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot Williams met with delegates from Saba and St. Eustatius on Wednesday in order to discuss matters of common concerns and interests between St. Maarten and her Sister Islands.

The Prime Minister labeled Tuesday’s meeting as Historic, since it was the first time since the constitutional changes of the 10th of October 2010. "This is the first time since we have attained new status that we are able sit down and discuss matters which effect our relationship. Despite the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles St. Maarten still has close ties with Saba and St. Eustatius.

Various items were discussed during the meeting, in particular matters related to Health Care, Emergency Medical Evacuation and the high airfare regarding Winair.

Medical Evacuations

Both the Saba and Statia delegation brought up issues related to the current Medical Evacuation (medevac) helicopter currently stationed in St. Eustatius but which is being used for both islands. The Saba and St. Eustatius delegation brought up concerns regarding the high landing fees on St. Maarten and other issues related to using the medevac helicopter. Another issue brought forward was centered on the permitting of Winair to act as a back-up medical evacuation platform complimentary to the computer. Because Winair does not have the proper permitting the airline cannot operate medical evacuation flights. "Both as Prime Minister and Shareholder Representative from Winair I can say that we will definitely look at all angles, making sure that both the service is provided to Saba and Statia, but also that the interests of St. Maarten are accounted for," commented the Prime Minister.

High Airfare

The PM also emphasized that she would be seeking a tri-partite committee to look into the mater of the expensive airfare between the islands. "I acknowledge that airfare is quite expensive and in some respects fees are charge that are considerably high for transportation between neighboring islands. We need to sit at the table and discuss what can be done, particularly with regards to the Netherlands who should consider subsidizing the transportation between the islands, much like the subsidize public transportation in the Netherlands."

Health Care

Another issue that was brought up was centered on Health Care. The Saba and St. Eustatius delegation brought up concerns regarding the St. Maarten Medical Center. Daily some twenty patients travel from Statia and Saba travel to St. marten to seek medical care, and considering the recent developments at the medical center there were some concerns regarding the offering of health services to patients from Saba and St. Eustatius. The Prime Minister acknowledged the current issues regarding the Medical Center but reiterated "Government is trying its utmost to solve the issues which are now at the St. Maarten Medical Center. Government is looking at all avenues available to come to a consensus and to solve the problem with regards to the services offered to not only St. Maarteners, but also to the resident of our sister islands."

Cooperation in Postal Service, Fiber Optic Cable, Turnover Tax

Two additional issues which were brought up were centered on the cooperation between the Postal Service between the two islands and St. Maarten, the Fiber Optic Cable and the five percent Turnover Tax. "With regards to the Fiber Optic Cable I will discuss this with the relevant Ministry and Departments and jointly we came come to some type of mutual agreement and hopefully the same can occur with regards to cooperation with the Postal Service," said the Prime Minister. With regards to the Turnover Tax being charged on exports to Saba and St. Eustatius the delegates from Saba and St. Eustatius expressed concern. "I will bring this issue up with the Minister of Finance and we will consider how both the interest of Saba and Statia as well as those of St. Maarten can be taken into account."

Historic Meeting

The Prime Minister reiterated that despite the Constitutional Change the islands are still indeed very close. "It is impossible not to consider our close history and our family ties in our relations with Saba and St. Eustatius and we will realize and work towards to a better cooperation between all parties. Let us use this historic meeting to start moving towards that realization," concluded the Prime Minister.