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Published On: Mon, Jul 26th, 2021

MP Emmanuel draws criticism for questioning airport reconstruction tender

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PHILIPSBURG — Parliamentarian Christophe Emmanuel is at it again. This time he sent a letter of 600 words to the Integrity Chamber with the request to provide an opinion on the outcome of the tender for the airport reconstruction project. Emmanuel’s letter drew immediate criticism from Ohndhae Marlin, the son of MP William Marlin.

Marlin wonders what Emmanuel thinks to achieve with his actions. “Delaying the start date for work at the airport to further frustrate the same local boys he so claims to be defending that need work on the island?”

It remains to be seen whether the Integrity Chamber considers providing opinions to random politicians part of its responsibilities, but that thought apparently has not crossed Emmanuel’s mind.

The independent MP refers in his letter to a bribery scandal Ballast Nedam – the winner of the bid – was involved in more than a quarter of a century ago. How this is relevant to the company’s current-day business practices remains unclear.

Anyway, MP Emmanuel brought the obvious wrongdoings of Ballast Nedam in 1996 to the attention of the Integrity Chamber. In his letter he asks whether awarding the airport reconstruction project to Ballast Nedam “constitutes an act of failure by an administrative body or government entity to adhere to values and norms, legal requirements or other obligations through which the interest of society, or the proper functioning of an administrative body or government entity could be harmed.”

Furthermore, Emmanuel asks – and by doing so he suggests that he thinks that this is the case – whether awarding the contract to Ballast Nedam is “in conflict with the World Bank’s procurement policies.”

Ohndhae Marlin does not mince his words in his letter to the editor under the headline “The airport reconstruction is more important than Chris.” Marlin accuses Emmanuel of playing politics with his attempts to delay the reconstruction project, thereby robbing taxi drivers of the work they desperately need and delaying the economic impact a state-of-the-art airport will have on the local economy.

“I remember months back Mingo should go because he was halting the progression of the airport. We need the airport project to start and now that the start is finally here and work for our people is on its way, MP Emmanuel wants to further delay,” Marlin points out.

Marlin adds that a reconstructed airport will put St. Maarten “back in the driver’s seat” in the Caribbean tourism market and that local vendors and restaurants will find employment at the facility.

The reconstruction project itself will also boost local employment, he notes: “The mere fact that 80% of its workforce consisted of locals in all the projects Ballast Nedam has done in Curacao is an indication of what is to be expected in St. Maarten during the reconstruction.”

Lastly, Marlin dismisses the old bribery-case as irrelevant: “What Ballast Nedam did nearly 20 years ago does not interest the many people looking for and getting jobs during the construction phase. The fact is that the project and the company have been vetted by international standards much higher than MP Emmanuel’s.”

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