Published On: Sun, Aug 27th, 2023

Minister Doran also under fire after Over the Bank court ruling

PHILIPSBURG — Former Minister of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and infrastructure (VROMI) Angel Meyers is not the only one to get criticized after the recent court ruling about rights of long lease in the Over the Bank area. MPs Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson (Party for Progress, PFP) and independent Mp Ludmila de Weever also point their fingers at the current VROMI Minister Egbert Doran.

The court ruled on August 22 that the country is not bound by promises of rights of long lease to parcels of land in Over the Bank former Minster Angel Meyers made to six citizens (the Over the Bank Group). In a press release, the government hailed the court ruling as a victory, but the three Mps shed a different light on the matter.

In 2021, Parliament supported a PFP-motion of disapproval against Minister Doran. That motion called, among other things, for the creation, implementation and publishing of a long-lease land policy by December 1, 2021. “We still await the Minister to come back and present an actual policy that takes into consideration all of the criteria the judge has anchored in the verdict,” stated MP Gumbs.

Related news: PFP, De Weever reaffirms motion of disapproval with Over-the-Bank verdict

The PFP-motion came about after Minister Doran issued rights of long lease to the over the Bank-parcels to 25 new candidates without applying the principles of good governance and while there was still no infrastructure in place. The lack of infrastructure was one of Doran’s arguments to deny the long lease rights to the Over the Bank Group in 2017.

“At no point did current Minister Doran do anything different than then-Minister Meyers,” MP Peterson states in his party’s press release. “‘He too did NOT make a public announcement to offer ALL the citizens of Sint Maarten interested in long lease land a fair chance to request to be part of the issuance in the Over the Bank area. I personally advised then-Minister Meyers when he first presented the case, that he should do a selection process through a notary, thus ensuring that the issuance is done objectively and fair. He immediately turned down my advice, and presented to me his list of applicants.”

The PFP notes that Minister Doran made two incorrect claims on social media. The first claim is that the way the minister issued rights of long lease to 25 applicants is based on considerations established in the recent court ruling. “Completely untrue,” the PFP press release states. The second claim is that he faced a motion of no confidence based on the Over the Bank case. This is either a mistake or an attempt to mislead. For his alleged mishandling of the Over the Bank case Doran faced a motion of disapproval. The motion of no confidence (voted down by 7 to 8) was about the way he dealt with garbage collection contracts.

The PFP is nevertheless happy with the court ruling, even though the original recipients of the rights of long lease lost their case. “We now have some actual criteria set forth by a judge that limits the Minister of VROMI in his authority to freely give land to whoever he wants,” MP Gumbs stated. “Even if the Minister successfully establishes a land policy, the selection procedure for specifically the Over the Bank area would still have to be done in a public and transparent manner, giving all citizens of Sint Maarten a fair chance to send in their request.”

Minister personally responsible for financial damages caused…

The party will keep an eye on the minister because the court ruling labels the actions of former Minister Meyers as departure policy “and because we are entering campaign season. The judge deemed the actions of then-Minister Meyers unlawful, and I believe he is personally responsible for the financial damages caused to the original recipients.”

Independent MP Ludmila de Weever supports the PFP-statement, stating that she is looking for “a commitment to processes and procedures that will lead to small wins that make public services better accessible for our people and helps prevent against the basic functions of a ministry being misused for personal favors.”