Published On: Wed, Mar 31st, 2021

PM Jacobs: “I never-ever flip-flopped”

PHILIPSBURG — MP Solange Ludmilla Duncan chairs the permanent parliamentary committee on Constitutional Affairs and Decolonization but during an interview on the USp-radio talk show The Review hosted by Khalil Revan it appeared that she was badly informed about the process surrounding the controversial petition the Choharis Law Group submitted to the United Nations on behalf of Parliament.

After much dillydallying, Duncan said that she had “received” the petition before it was submitted to the UN but it remains unclear whether she or any member of her committee had had the opportunity to review the document, or to suggest amendments. It took also a persistent effort from her interviewer before Duncan finally said “I believe it did” to the question whether the petition had been sent to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs. This suggests that Jacobs was aware of the petition, but whether she received it before or after submission still remains a mystery. In any event, as a coalition partner, she should have known about the petition and its content.

The UN-petition is currently at the heart of the dispute between St. Maarten and State Secretary Knops – and one of the reasons the Netherlands has put continued liquidity support on hold – but Jacobs offhandedly referred to it during an interview with Cedric Peterson on the Inside Government broadcast as “a petition from parliament.”

Related link: https://www.facebook.com/SXMGOV/videos/495128225190422

Jacobs clarified her position on the COHO-saga with firm statements. “I never-ever flip flopped. I have decided the fight the battle this way based on the fact that there were no finances available. None.”

The prime minister made clear that she opposed the COHO-draft when it was first presented to her in the summer of 2020. “When we saw the actual document we said: absolutely not,” adding that the government did not cut salaries, but that it cut vacation pay by 50 percent. In December the treasury had no more money to pay the January salaries, Jacobs pointed out.

“We do not agree with the COHO but we do agree to let the trajectory run its course.”

Because of the lack of funds, Jacobs decided to sign the mutual agreement with the Netherlands about the COHO-related country package, though she says now that “a lot of measures in the country package are based on assumptions.”

The prime minister is also of the opinion that “the conditions to move forward have been met. But the Kingdom Council of Ministers and State Secretary Knops are questioning a motion from parliament.”

Jacobs said that the parliament will get its opportunity to debate the draft COHO-law “down the road.” It will be a proposal that includes the amendments St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba have brought forward, she added: “We must have consensus moving forward.”

Jacobs seems confident that the final version of the draft will take away St. Maarten’s objections. “The advice from the Council of State falls directly in line with what we have been saying since November.”

But the prime minister is baffled by the Dutch demand for support from parliament. “Why ask parliament for support now while it is not their turn yet?”

Jacobs maintains that the original draft is “an indecent proposal” and that the criticism that is hitting her left, right and center does not bother her. “I have not heard one solution from all the loudmouths that are out there. I have the support of up to fourteen MPs who understand that staying within the trajectory gives us the opportunity to fight.”

The prime minister expects that St. Maarten will need liquidity support until at least mid-2022 and she intends to guide the country through this crisis. “I have to look at the bigger picture. Others are throwing rocks. That is all they’ve got.”

In the meantime, National Alliance MP George Pantophlet issued a press statement, emphasizing that the parliament has nothing to do with the mutual agreement the government signed for the country package. “Is the parliament of St. Maarten mentioned anywhere as signatories to this agreement?” Pantophlet describes it as an agreement between State Secretary Knops and Prime Minister Jacobs.

Related link: https://www.721news.com/2021/03/st-maarten-did-not-break-the-agreement

Pantophlet labels Knops intention “to use the (UN)-petition to punish the people” as “vindictive.” The MP considers the petition as “a plea from parliament to deal with the inequality that exists in the kingdom.”

Pantophlet furthermore states that the situation shows the need for a dispute regulation, controlled by an independent body that issues binding advice. But the MP goes off the tracks with his statement that Knops and the Dutch government are ignoring the advice from the Council of State and that they “insist that we continue with the COHO in its present form.”

Knops has said that he will stick to the core of the COHO-proposal but it is obvious that he will attempt to address the objections raised by the Council of State. The parliaments of the four kingdom countries also have a say in what the final version of the law will look like.

The lone MP that has been very vocal about his opposition to the COHO is independent MP Christophe Emmanuel. He questions in yet another press release why Prime Minister Jacobs refuses to give a clear answer to the question whether or not she supports the UN-petition.

Related link: https://www.facebook.com/StMaartenNewsOnline/posts/2677466602545525

“The only thing the prime minister has said is that she has not read the petition, just the conclusion,” Emmanuel writes in his statement.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister announced that she has left the island for family-related matters, which begs the question whether she has signed the implementation agreement (‘uitvoeringsagenda‘) which has a deadline of April 1, 2021.


Related article: St. Maarten and the Netherlands meet over liquidity support