Lenny Priest to NA lead government and it’s coalition partners: “Stop using Pearl of China as political football”

The fear and mistrust surrounding the proposed Pearl of China project, is according to leader of the One St. Maarten People Party –OSPP– Lenny Priest,  a direct result of coalition partners not communicating as they should in the interest of taking care of the people’s business.

The NA lead coalition recently announced that a 320 room hotel plus 450 apartments project, dubbed “The Pearl of China” targeting the new China Middle Class is carded to begin construction on island in the near future. This announcement was made via the media and came with promises of up to a million visitors from China to the island over a ten year period as a direct result of the Pearl of China Hotel.  The NA’s coalition partners meanwhile have peppered questions at the responsible ministers through the media regarding this project.

“It’s a shame that things have progressed to the stage they have regarding this project because the reality is that we the public still don’t have all the facts. The mature thing to have done would have been for the NA to call in their coalition partners for a discussion from the beginning, get their input and weigh all ideas. Failing this, then at the least, the NA should have called in its coalition partners and discussed the project with them before going to the media.

“The coalition partners are in my opinion equally as guilty as the NA because if they were serious about wanting answers to questions regarding the Pearl of China project they would have called a coalition meeting to put their questions to  the NA and get answers to the pertinent questions. It cannot just be played out in the media like some kind of political football, real answers must be provided,” the OSPP leader said on Monday.

He noted that it is difficult for the public not to have mistrust regarding this project given the unsavory reputation—“earned or not”—that similar projects around the Caribbean have had. “We are a country of inclusion first and foremost and we have always welcomed everybody—maybe we have welcomed too many and that’s our problem today. That being said the reality is that around the Caribbean the Chinese have become infamous for undertaking multi-million dollar projects that do not provide any work for local people and the people of St. Maarten want answers given the state of the economy.

“Our elected officials need to be straight with the people and give answers to the most pressing questions without dancing to a political drum. They must inform us: Have they signed a contract for this project with the Chinese investors?  If yes does this contract permit them to import labor for this project? If yes in what areas and will work permits be needed for these workers? Have provisions been made in this contract to ensure that an agreed upon percent of the employees must be local? If yes what is that percentage? Concerns have been raised in many quarters that workers will be imported for this project and they will remain on the island making the employment problem worst. Have measures been taken to tackle this very real threat? I strongly believe that if coalition partners actually start acting like partners situations like these where the public fears are hyped up for political gain, can be avoided,” the OSPP leader concluded. He urged all in involved to note the danger of playing politics with issues of this nature and to take the discussion to Parliament and advised that a meeting of the coalition partners be called post haste to resolve this issue.