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Published On: Fri, Apr 2nd, 2021

Central committee meeting about airport fizzles

PHILIPSBURG -- A Central Committee meeting of Parliament about the airport fizzled due to the absence of Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Ludmilla de Weever, exploitation company CEO Brian Mingo and his Chief Financial Officer, Leendert van der Meiden. MP Claudius Buncamper announced that he will ask for a public meeting of Parliament next week, where his faction will present a motion that calls for action.

MP Buncamper was miffed that Minister de Weever, who is responsible for the airport, was not in the meeting though he acknowledged that she was off-island for medical reasons. Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion replaced her. Buncamper was even more upset about Mingo and Van der Meiden’s decision to stay away from the meeting.

In a letter dated March 30 to Minister Irion, Mingo and Van der Meiden announced that they would not attend. They note that the request to answer a large number of questions within a relatively short time “has placed great pressure on our team which has been completely occupied with answering all these questions for days in a row.”

The managers also complain that sensitive and confidential information was discussed in meetings with Parliament. “We feel that the meetings and the sensitive information are to some extent used by one or more members of parliament to discredit PJIAE and its management, rather than as a true attempt to obtain objective information pertaining to the company and its operations.”

Mingo and Van der Meiden emphasize that they remain prepared to cooperate with the minister but that they “cannot commit to answer an unlimited number of questions within whatever timeframe the parliament determines. Our business and our operations remain our number one priority.”

The managers offer parliamentarians a tour of the airport to bring them up to speed with the progress of the reconstruction project.

MP Buncamper accused Mingo and Van der Meiden of “hiding behind the fact that the minister has to come to parliament.”

He disclosed that, while the initial cost estimate for the reconstruction of the airport had been $131 million (Mingo mentioned in a previous meeting $107 million with a possible increase to $119 million) the bids for the reconstruction project that are now in, vary from $70 to $99 million.

“Something stinks,” Buncamper said without explaining why this could be the case. “The lowest bid is not from a Dutch company, so I wonder what is going to happen with that bid.”

Later Buncamper announced that his faction would present a motion in a public meeting sometime next week that enables the shareholder representative of PJIAE to “execute” (probably meaning to fire CEO Mingo) “once the shareholder of the holding company (PJIAH) gives them the instruction.” Buncamper also spoke of “undermining activities by the CEO and CFO, and by extension the board of PJIAE” and of “manipulative handling.”

The managing director of the holding company, Dexter Doncher, said that the answers to questions posed in an earlier meeting had been provided to him by PJIAE and that he was prepared to present them. At the request of MP Buncamper, these answers were provided in writing after which chairman MP Rolando Brison closed the meeting.

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