Published On: Sat, Aug 4th, 2018

Johnson to MP Doran: “The people’s business is a fulltime job”

TEATT Minister Stuart Johnson

PHILIPSBURG — After one month in office, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT) Stuart Johnson says he remains focused on ensuring that St. Maarten’s Airport is restored to full function.

Johnson’s statement came on the heels of comments by opposition Member of Parliament for the National Alliance, MP Egbert Jurendy Doran, regarding a rescheduled Central Committee meeting in Parliament, to discuss the reconstruction of Princess Juliana International Airport PJIA.

That Central Committee meeting in Parliament to discuss PJIA was initially requested on November 24, 2017, when Melissa Arrindell-Doncher was Tourism Minister and shareholder representative of the PJIA. Former Minister Arrindell-Doncher did not appear in parliament. Since then the members of parliament have allowed more than eight months to pass before again calling this meeting. This is an unexplained lapse by opposition MP’s to wait almost one year after hurricane Irma devastated the island and left the airport in ruins, to react. The question must be asked, “where was the urgency to address the issue of the Airport during the months when nothing was being done at the airport and no answers on its future were given?”

In June 2018, my predecessor Minister Cornelius De Weever attended the first round of the Central Committee meeting on PJIA. Since then MP Doran took a lengthy parliament vacation, despite the challenges the airport faces, and has now returned well rested and seemingly ready to play politics by grandstanding about the airport. To be clear, several developments have taken place during the period I have been in office to safeguard the interest of the PJIA and prevent its bond holders from calling in those bonds.

Meanwhile the Government of St. Maarten, as the shareholder for the PJIA, is taking all necessary measures to address pressing issues affecting the rebuilding of the airport considering the critical role PJIA will play in the sustainable redevelopment of St. Maarten. It is “unfortunate” that MP Doran opted to begin grandstanding in the media just, days after parliament returned from recess.

“Considering the precarious situation at the Airport, and its importance to the destinations revitalization, which will lead to the return of jobs for our people, all efforts from the Legislative branch to support the Executive branch of Government, at this critical time in our recovery stage post Irma, should be forthcoming, in the interest of moving the country forward. Serving the people of St. Maarten is a fulltime job.” Johnson said.

Since coming into office on June 25th, Minister Johnson continues doing vital work to rebuild the tourism product, including addressing the current state of affairs at the PJIA. He has been in constant dialogue with the various stakeholders with the primary goal of finding amicable solutions to the pressing issues affecting St. Maarten’s economic recovery.

The meeting in Parliament initially set for Friday, August 3rd, was rescheduled because of conflicting bookings for meetings which Johnson must attend.

“I have nothing to hide and no reason to avoid going to Parliament. I did not go on recess for the past weeks. Instead, I have been meeting and continue to meet with key stakeholders and the community at large, to see this country restored to its full potential,” Johnson said.

Johnson added, “if the modus operandi of members of parliament is to grandstand, politic or try to belittle Ministers on the floor of parliament rather than comprehending the gravity of the situation St. Maarten is faced with, especially at PJIA, then our country is in serious trouble.”

Every member of Parliament can request information on government owned companies whether through the minister or by calling the Board and Management of those companies to parliament. During parliament’s month-long break, much work has been done where the PJIA is concerned, including the process to remove the members of the Supervisory Board of the PJIA Holding Company to protect the interest of the Airport and Country St. Maarten.

Members of parliament also have the responsibility to seek legislation that will propel St. Maarten into a prosperous future and curtail some of the legal challenges this country faces in its effort to provide real solutions.

Johnson said, “If the MP wanted a more daring headline then it ought to have been one stating that new legislation is being sought for approval in Parliament on any matter relating to providing job security for the people of this country or putting the roofs back over their heads and food on their table.”

As Minister with responsibility for the Airport I look forward to a fruitful discussion in Parliament on the subject of the airport considering its importance to future investments and the economic stability of St. Maarten as a tourism destination.

“I am available at anytime to meet with MP Doran or any other MP in the national interest of moving our country forward, including PJIA,” Johnson concluded.

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